It’s very hard to get 6-10 people to carve out 3-4 hours each month to fully unplug to support, learn, and grow with each other. By hard, I mean it’s nearly impossible. That’s why the time in Forum is special and should be treated as such. Here are four ways to create hyper-focus within our Forum meeting:
1) Turn Off All Devices – Make sure anything that buzzes, beeps, or rings is turned off. Some groups who meet in-person don’t allow any digital devices into the meeting and even collect all the cell phones prior to the start of the meeting. For virtual Forums, the key is to close down every window except the video chat being used for the meeting, while also making sure every member has their cell phone turned off. Not only are side notifications distracting for the individual person, but any digital noise can become very disruptive to the flow of the meeting, especially if it’s a really intense topic. No one wants to have their issue of going bankrupt get interrupted by your “Oops, I Did It Again” ringtone.
2) Opening Meditation – To set the right tone of focus for the Forum from the very beginning of the meeting, I suggest every Forum starts off with 3-5 minutes of guided meditation. There are plenty of apps that you can use. Just make sure to keep it to under five minutes and if possible, find something simple like a body scan. For virtual Forums, I suggest running audio through the computer versus trying to run the sound through an app on the phone and into the computer’s microphone. Sound through your computer is much better and makes for a much more enjoyable meditation experience.
3) Away From Everyone – In-person Forums should use a space that won’t have anyone coming in and out of the room throughout the meeting. The space also shouldn’t have high foot traffic going past the room that distracts the members, or allow for non-members to be able to hear the Forum conversations. For virtual Forums, the same concept applies to finding a place away from everyone else that won’t have any distractions or eavesdroppers.
4) Take Breaks – Even the most seasoned Forum members need a break. One can only hold their attention for so long before their mind starts to wander…or their bladder fills up. In a 3-4 hour Forum, it’s common for groups to take two breaks that last 5-10 minutes each. During the break, it’s important that each member physically stands up and moves away from the meeting. The kinetic moment will help their focus after the break.
5) Take It Offline – It’s easy for side chatter to pop up during a Forum meeting. Someone will say something and someone else will want to respond. The challenge with side chatter is that each time it happens, the meeting time gets extended. The solution is to suggest that any side chatter be taken offline and talked about later. I remind groups that the Forum meeting is kind of like a Board of Directors meeting, where the goal is to crank through high results quickly. Then, after the meeting, let the fun begin.
Follow these five tactics to create a highly focused Forum meeting. The result will be a maximization of the time, so everyone gains as much value as possible.