The sharing of knowledge with clients and conference attendees is an activity that I find very fulfilling, mainly because it is a two-way activity. Be it facilitating a professional development course, speaking at a conference or dinner event, or facilitating a private learning workshop, the opportunity to both share knowledge with and learn from attendees is one to be taken seriously.
On several occasions recently, I have had the privilege of seeing this operate at yet another level: a team-based delivery model whereby two presenters work together to share insights, answer to questions and learn from the assembled group. The positive response from attendees to a team-based model was a sight to behold. The levels of engagement; esprit de corps; and, quality of learning amongst the assembled group (not to mention the banter between the presenters) really lifted the learning experience. The following examples provide windows into two of my recent experiences, and then the learnings to emerge follow.
Rural Governance Development Programme
Earlier this year, Peter Allen of Business Torque Systems invited me to join a team to refine the five-day Governance Development Programme (a popular course previously run by DairyNZ for dairy businesses) to suit all of rural businesses. In updating the course, a decision was made to use a team-based delivery model, with two presenters working together with attendees. The hope was that this would provide better coverage of the material, as well as enabling attendees (directors, shareholders and chief executives of rural businesses) to a hear different perspectives as the course progressed. And so we jumped in...
We resolved to work from the front of the room together, sharing the speaking and listening roles...
We stepped aside, to check in and make adjustments... This picture, taken on the third day (of five—the course days are spread over a ten-month period so delegates can apply their learning in practice and bring questions and experiences back to the next session), captured us discussing a couple of 'in-flight' adjustments while participants worked on an exercise to improve their strategic decision-making skills in a boardroom setting.
Health sector board member development workshop
The second example relates to the delivery of a professional development session for the board members and executives of three primary health organisations (PHOs). They wanted a refresher on board effectiveness and strategy in the boardroom—topics dear to me. The organiser was keen on a two-person delivery model as well, which created another opportunity to explore and experience the effectiveness of the team-based model.
I organised to work with a trusted colleague, Murray. We know each other well and share a commitment to excellence but have slightly different styles. After introductions and scene-setting, we asked the group to tell us what they wanted to get from the session and to mention specific areas of interest. Then it fell on me to lead the first session (board effectiveness) with Murray chipping in regularly to help answer questions and share examples from his experience. The roles were reversed for the second (strategy) session later in the afternoon. Finally, we jointly ran an free-flowing plenary session to check all of the areas of interest had been addressed and answer any remaining questions.
Feedback from the attendees (informal plus evaluation sheets) from both the rural course and the health sector learning session indicated that the double-teaming model works. Attendees said they got more from the session than they thought they might have gained had there been one presenter. They could listen to and tell stories to connect ideas with practice; ask similar questions and get a different (!) responses; and, they said they benefitted from tapping into a broader pool of knowledge and experience than what would otherwise have been possible.
One board member went as far as saying that the session was "the best learning session ever organised by <PHO-name omitted>", gratifying feedback indeed. The levels of trust and interaction in the room in both the rural course and the health sector session were also noticeably high. (Whether this is a reflection of what is being modelled from the front of the room or it is simply an expression of the delegates' innate character and desire to learn is open for debate!)
Where to from here? Though not without its challenges (working so closely together requires considerable planning and trust, for example), the early experiences have been positive. There is also a 'cost' of putting two people in the room. However, the benefits in terms of enhanced learning outcomes tip the balance in favour of the team-based model—especially for advanced topics and multi-day courses. The learning theorists are probably all across this, so I'll need to play catch-up.
If you have any experiences to share—positive or negative—I'd be keen to hear from you. Please respond by posting a reply or send me an email.
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and the craft of board work; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.