My last several blogs have described techniques to define and control meeting behavior and keep your meetings on track. My next three blogs will describe techniques to improve the clarity of communication. Today I’ll describe Technique #12: Charting.
“Even though I think my instructions are clear, participants frequently ask me to repeat what I say. Also, points that are made in the meeting are often repeated later on. This is frustrating and always seems to slow us down. Can you suggest a technique that will eliminate these problems?”
What Is CHARTING?
CHARTING is a productivity technique for increasing the effectiveness of communication in your meetings by using visual aids to support your efforts.
Because many studies demonstrate the low accuracy of communication, it is important to use meeting facilitation techniques that sustain and reinforce the accuracy of memory. Many people are visual learners, and they will concentrate better and remember much more when you use visual aids.
CHARTING significantly improves the accuracy of your communication, whether it is instructions, agendas, questions, data collection, discussions, or presentations. Charting responses to conversations also shows participants that their comments are being captured accurately.
When to Use CHARTING
- When you want to improve the accuracy of communication in your meetings
- When giving instructions/directions
- When you want to accurately document the points made during a discussion, either to use in the future or to confirm that you have heard each individual’s comments and opinions correctly
How to Use CHARTING
Five types of information benefit from CHARTING in meetings. These include: agendas and ground rules, discussion questions, small group and individual exercise instructions, discussion points, and decisions and actions.
Agendas and Ground Rules
Chart and post your agenda and ground rules where they can be seen throughout the meeting.
NOTE: As you proceed through your agenda, check off where you are on the chart. This helps people know where they are and where they’re going. It gives them a sense of accomplishment. Refer back to your charted agenda from time to time, summarizing what has happened and what will happen.
Post discussion questions on either an overhead or chart to help keep your group on track. See SHREDDED QUESTIONS, Technique 9, for specific ideas.
Small Group and Individual Exercise Instructions
During small group and individual exercises, chart and post all instructions and time frames.
NOTE: You should prepare these instructions before the meeting on either charts or overheads. Overheads usually work better with larger groups because people can read them more easily at a distance and from different positions in the room. Charts are better for smaller groups and/or when the information needs to be seen throughout the meeting. If small groups will meet in different rooms, prepare instruction charts for each room.
- Break instructions down into logical steps
- Write legibly and as large as possible to ensure that everyone can read what you write
- Use dark colors (so the chart can be read from longer distances)
- State time frames (i.e., ten minutes) and finishing times (i.e., 9:25) for each step
Use chart paper to record discussions from all agenda items. This keeps conversations from going around in circles, avoids repetition of the same points, and provides excellent data from which to prepare the minutes of your meeting. It also ensures that participants know they are being heard correctly.
NOTE: Have small groups record their discussions on chart paper for their report back to the rest of the groups.
NOTE: If you plan to use your charts for a different purpose later in the meeting, such as voting on priorities, set your chart up for this purpose from the start. Leave room on the chart so your next exercise, that is, the voting, can be done without messiness or confusion.
Decisions and Actions
Record all group decisions and actions or next steps on charts for inclusion in the minutes of the meeting.
CHARTING is a productivity technique for improving retention and understanding through the use of visual aids.
Clearly chart and post your agenda, ground rules, discussion questions, small group and individual instructions, discussion points, and decisions and actions.
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