How many ways are there to deliver a course like Better Conversations? (Part 2)

5 minute read

Broadly, the experiment worked out; we delivered a quality experience with a diverse group of facilitators. We did however learn stuff we weren’t expecting to learn…

What we were testing

This was our original plan:

Can we:

  • Run on a weekend day?
  • Bring together a diverse group of facilitators?
    • They’ll have different levels of Clean experience - some are our friends from Systemic Modelling, some from other branches of the Clean world, and for some this is their only Clean experience.
    • They’ll be from different 7 different countries and cultures. To control the complexity, we’ll stick to just doing this in English although people can turn on translated captions if they want.
  • Mix up the delivery teams for each session?
    • Each session will be staffed with between 2 and 4 people from a bank of 10 faculty members.
    • We will team up a more experienced lead facilitator to work with someone new.
  • Introduce a billing system for attendees?

What we learned

Running on a weekend

Running on a weekend went down well. We filled the course with ease, with people who were unable to attend during the week. We also had a few people who were able to attend during the week but preferred the weekend. We’ll definitely be doing more weekend courses in the future.

Diverse group of facilitators

In terms of a diverse group of facilitators:

  • People who weren’t native English speakers appreciated that there were facilitators who weren’t native English speakers themselves.
  • Each facilitator brought their own style and experience to the course, which was appreciated by the attendees. People appreciate diversity.
  • We were worried that people would find different styles of facilitation confusing, but this didn’t seem to be the case.
  • Some of our faculty didn’t have a Systemic Modelling background, and this didn’t seem to be a problem.
  • Some didn’t have any Clean Language experience at all, and this didn’t seem to be a problem either.

That we were able to bring together such a diverse group of people to deliver the course validates the idea that an standardised approach to Clean Language training is possible.

Mix up the delivery teams for each session

  • As we’ve found before, people appreciate having two facilitators; the change of voice and style helps keep things fresh.
  • We were worried that different facilitators each time would be disruptive to the experience, but that didn’t seem to be the case.
  • Again, having a mix of nationalities seemed to work really well.

Introduce a billing system for attendees

The accounting stuff should be boring, and clearly it was because it never came up. We did a lot of the back end stuff manually in April, now we know what works we’ll automate it.

The Surprises (and things we should have known)

Delivery Team

We ran with two facilitators plus a backup. With a producer that’s 4 people on the delivery team. That’s expensive and we can’t afford to do that for every course but this was running without Chandima and with a cohort of new facilitators so we needed the backup.

We used the backup facilitator once. Everything worked as planned and I am not sure anyone noticed.

Going forward, we’ll run with two facilitators and a producer. Our faculty are more experienced and we have a better idea of what can go wrong and how to mitigate it.

We do have a sense that with an experienced team, we won’t need both a second facilitator and a producer. For a future experiment.

Remember that we’re creating and testing patterns for others to follow, so being thoughtful and transparent about delivery teams is important as that impacts profitability.

Audio, audio, and audio

As we grow, some things are gently changing:

  • We’re getting more and more people who are not native English speakers.
  • We are also welcoming people who rely on Zoom captions either because they need the translation, or they have hearing issues, or just because they like to read.

We are also noticing that as Zoom gets more sophisticated in its audio processing there are subtle but important changes in the way it handles audio. In particular there’s a real difference/improvement for people who have headphones and a microphone Vs just using their computer speaker and built-in microphone.

You need decent audio for the Zoom captions to work well. Whilst we respect the choices of our participants, we are going to be more assertive about our audio requirements for facilitators.

Audio quality really does matter. Yelling at your laptop in a room with hard surfaces is no longer a professional option.

We confused people

Better Conversations is 1h sessions. The delivery team meet 15-30 minutes before the session starts, and we plan to stay on for 15-30 minutes after the session. 15 minutes for discussion of the content, and then 15 minutes for the delivery team to discuss how it went and what we can do better next time.

For the “Experience Course” we thought we’d invite people to all of that, but we weren’t always clear about what was happening when. This caused a lot of stress particularly for people who were new to the course for the simple reason they didn’t know when it started, when it ended, and what was happening when.

We were also unclear about roles. Especially if you turned up before the course, we never introduced people properly because we were focused on getting ready to delivery the module, not on introducing people. So it was quite disorientating.

Going forward, for your first time on the course, we’ll invite you to the session itself and the 15 minutes of discussion after. This preserves the “normal experience” of the course.

Once you’ve completed the course once, we’ll invite you to the whole 2h with a “Backstage Pass” to the 30 minutes ahead of time and the full 30 minutes after.

We don’t have time in the session itself to fully introduce people but we are going to make sure we introduce the delivery team via email before the course.

Conclusion

We’re really pleased with how the experiment went. We learned a lot, and we think we’ve got a good model for the future.

We’ve also now got an awesome team of facilitators. Thank you all!

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