Guest Post by Natalie Nixon

Originally posted by Natalie on LinkedIn Plus.

Awkwardness easily ensues when we conduct our meetings online through digital platforms. Those pre-COVID water cooler moments and friendly chatter during breaks are really hard to spark when you’re staring at a screen.

Now that we are confined to Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangout, or Skype for meetings, it is even more important to intentionally instigate interaction.

Good questions prompt exploration, discovery, and collaborative interaction.

I am always looking for ways to exercise my curiosity. Getting better at asking new and different questions is a skill we can all hone.

The next time you need to facilitate a virtual meeting, try leading with questions. Warren Berger, author of A More Beautiful Question, identified that inquiry-based leadership is the chief characteristic of the most innovative companies.

I asked some colleagues who are professional facilitators to share their favorite questions for running dynamic meetings and here are some of the questions they recommended.

1. What’s something we should remember as we work together?

This is a great starter question that, Robin Rifkin, president of Meeting Intentions, likes to ask. It requires everyone involved to co-create boundaries and goals.

2. Why did we just do that? 

Douglas Ferguson, president of Voltage Control, asks this question as a check-in. He reminded me that tone of voice is super important in this one. Make sure that you use your FM -radio-DJ-quietstorm voice. You don’t want to antagonize anyone.

3. Say more…? 

I learned this by listening to many a podcast from the brilliant psychotherapist, Esther Perel. Her gentle prompt (again, tone of voice is important in this one) leads to major watershed moments.

4. Who haven’t we heard from? 

This is a great way to ensure that the more reflective and introverted among us have an opportunity to share their thoughts. This one comes from Douglas Ferguson of Voltage Control.

5. If you were going to make this problem worse, how would you do it?

Here is a wonderful gotcha! question. It comes from Sunni Brown, author of Doodle Revolution. This question is delightfully mischievous. It requires us to invert our thinking and look at a situation from a completely new angle. The insights from this question reveal to us what we should do.

6. What would we try if failure were not an option?

This question leads to illumination and is quite liberating. It has a similar effect as Sunni Brown’s question and comes from Warren Berger’s The Book of Beautiful Questions.

7. Who can summarize what’s being said here?

Just because you are the facilitator does not mean you need to do the cognitive lift. Engage your colleagues by asking them to synthesize key points. Robin Rifkin recommends this question to ensure that the facilitator is not constantly doing all of the summation work.

8. What did you mean by that?

This is a helpful way to ask a clarifying question and comes from Douglas Ferguson. Once again, tone of voice and facial expression (smile!) matters in this one.

9. I wonder…?  

This one comes from me, yours truly. There is literally nothing bad that follows the murmuring of these two words. You can also use this as a great brainstorming prompt – ask people to write a stream of consciousness list, filling in the blanks.

10.What should be our first next step?

I love this closer and pose it regularly at the end of a meeting. It comes from ToP, Technology of Participation, and ToP’s amazing list of cognitively progressive questions in their facilitation training.

So now you’re equipped with dynamo questions to start, sustain and conclude any meeting- have fun!

Please go to the original post in the comments section the favorite questions you love to ask to spark engagement during meetings.


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