5 tips for leading great live exchanges

There’s a moment of vulnerability when you launch a live exchange at an event and a large group begins sharing thoughts.

You’ve asked an important question. And, as you look out on a room where everyone is staring intently at their devices, you can’t help but think: “Are they checking Facebook? Scanning email? Or are they engaged? Should I have made this a pair-and-share activity so the room would at least be noisy?” That would be great… for the extroverts.  

And then the thoughts start pouring in.

Given proper framing and space for silent effort, a group will inevitably share thoughts and rate those shared by others. And while that silence can be deafening, you can almost feel people empathizing, disagreeing and learning from each other as the “thoughts rated” number goes up and up.

Soon you see insights arising. Then you give the group three more minutes to finish rating. And instead of relief, you see people double down their efforts to weigh in on the opinions of others before time runs out.

Then you close the exchange and the group instantly realizes they have accomplished something pretty awesome together.

Excitement meets results

As someone who’s done this many times, the results still impress me every time. In a room of 100 people, with ThoughtExchange you can get more than 100 thoughts shared and rated more than 1,000 times in just a few minutes.

By comparison, if you gave each person in the room five minutes to share their thoughts out loud, the activity would take more than eight hours. And you still wouldn’t know what matters to the group in the end.

In an exchange, everyone’s thoughts can be considered by more than 20 people in less than 10 minutes. That lets everyone learn what really matters. It’s a simple thing, but the power of it is always exciting.

I love hearing stories from other people who have led exchanges at events and a moment of vulnerability is something I often hear about in those stories.

So, I thought I would share a few tips I’ve gathered from using ThoughtExchange at events in hopes of helping you overcome the fear of trying out technology in front of a group. Or FOTOT. Kind of like FOMO, but more public.

5 best practices for overcoming the FOTOT

1.) Provide focused time

Frame your exchange as an opportunity for everyone to learn from each other and let people know it will require a few minutes of silent work. Too often we de-prioritize introverted activities by running them in parallel with extroverted ones, or even as “follow-ups.” A successful live exchange that delivers an actionable outcome needs at least 10 minutes of dedicated time to ensure people feel heard and learn.

2.) Make it easy to participate

People can participate in an exchange by either clicking a link or entering a nine-digit code at thoughtexchange.com/join. I’ve found using both works best. Send the link to everyone in an app or by email, and put the address to join a projector or piece of paper with the correct nine-digit code as a backup. This makes sure people can access the exchange in whatever way works best for them. Different strokes for different folks.

3.) Extroverts: Suffer the silence!

Most facilitators and conveners (including yours truly) have an extroversion bias. And the idea of working together in silence for five minutes can be overwhelming: “They’re participating. Should I put on music? Sing a song? Provide running commentary?” I learned the hard way that the answer is NO! Giving people the time to work together in silence makes sure everyone can think. If they’re desperate, tell the extroverts to play Coffitivity in their earphones while they participate and the introverts will (quietly) thank you.

4.) Personal then group reflection

After an exchange closes, people want to know what came out on top first and then they want to talk about it—in that order. So, it’s a best practice to first say: “Please take a minute to review the top thoughts by yourself.” Then (a minute later), ask them to have a two-minute conversation with a small group or partner about this question: What’s interesting or important about the top-rated thoughts?.

5.) Commit to closure

After 10 minutes for participation and three to five for reflection, you can quickly move on by committing to reviewing the findings and sending a report to everyone involved. Without proper closure, the process will feel incomplete for many. 

Share your live exchange story

I hope these are helpful. And I love hearing stories of how our customers are using ThoughtExchange out there in the world. Please send your stories to stories@thoughtexchange.com or reach out to me directly via LinkedIn.

Keep doing excellent work out there bringing people together.

About the Author

Dave MacLeod

As the CEO of ThoughtExchange, Dave provides product vision, team leadership and well-timed jokes. He has been focused on supporting his team as they continue to grow the company to help more and more organizations around the world bring people together by leading challenging conversations about things that matter.

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