Media for Meetings LO2664
Mon, 4 Sep 1995 13:10:12 -0700 (PDT)

Replying to LO2648 -- was Anonymity in Meetings

In message LO2648 John Warfield writes in response to my observation
about the influence of using a projected computer like a whiteboard:

>The reciprocal view is that once your span of vision is fixed by whatever
>a company sells, as soon as that space is filled up the inquiry will stop.
>I don't have a lot of data to support this, but I distinctly remember
>being at a meeting where a relatively inexperienced facilitator was
>soliciting group ideas about a certain subject and writing the results on
>a whiteboard that was about 3 feet by 5 feet. I nudged the fellow next to
>me and said: "You watch. As soon as he filled up the board, he will stop
>getting ideas." My friend was amazed to see this prediction work out
>exactly. (Of course it was true that there were no other boards available
>in the room.)

Though this is no longer directly relevant to the topic of Anonymity in
Meetings, I would like to initiate a dialog about the influences (real and
potential) of "meeting media" on the conduct and products of meetings. I
would like to share techniques, observations, and other amusing meeting
media musings.

For openers, here are a few techniques I developed in my practice as a
"technographer" (a term I unfortunately coined to describe the unique
function I was able to fulfill as a computer-using facilitator) and
describe in my book CONNECTED EXECUTIVES.

Our meeting media: a projected computer, Microsoft Word, and the local

Wordsmithing: Normally, it's very difficult to get people to agree on the
exact wording of anything. As important as a statement of vision might be,
getting there can be a nightmare. Well, you know how easy it is to make
and edit copies of something on a computer. So you can imagine how
enabling it can be for people to realize that they can make as may
different versions as they want. That if they want, they can make a new
version every time a single word is changed. Instantly. Instead of
spending their time arguing over different understandings until they're
ready to commit their words to flipchart, they spend their time creating
as many different understandings as they want.

Disagreeing: when two sides emerge, dialog gets polarized and productivity
paralyzed. You can't even use a flipchart or whiteboard because every word
is being interpreted into two different belief systems. But you can use a
computer. You can use a two-column table to keep track of both sides. The
electronic ease of shifting things from side to side, place to place makes
it interpersonally easy for people to work together to describe the
argument. It gives them a metaposition to take, a larger shared reality to

Agenda-making: there are many good reasons people don't like or use
agendas. But with the computer as a tool for developing and communicating
the agenda, especially if it's written using an outliner or some other
information management software, not only do people use agendas, but they
also redefine the entire function of agendas. The paper agenda or
whiteboard agenda is difficult to manage, let alone manage with, The
electronic agenda can get added on to and rearranged for almost ever. New
items can be added anywhere, from meeting to meeting. The agenda can
become a central tool for coordination and continuity. Meetings can take
their place as episodes in a string of business communication events.

Bernie DeKoven