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Question Balloons

Object of Play
Planning to accept and respond to questions is one of the most difficult parts of running a meeting, a workshop, or a presentation. Will there be enough time for Q&A? Is the audience willing to ask questions? How many questions will they ask? Do I take questions at the end or throughout? How do I know if questions were answered in a useful way?

To address this challenge, the Question Balloons game allows attendees to ‘float’ their questions throughout a meeting or presentation; providing a visual status that helps manage group energy.

Number of Players
4 to 40

Duration of Play
Any length

How to Play

  1. Start by providing a marker and one or two helium-filled balloons to each attendee. The balloons must have strings that will allow the attendees to float the balloons and then retrieve them (from the ceiling, if necessary) when needed.
  2. Ask each attendee to write their questions about the scheduled topic on a balloon and then float the balloon. Only write one question per balloon. It’s okay to save balloons for later. Question Balloons can be floated at any time during the presentation or meeting.
  3. During any free time (pre-meeting, breaks, or lunch), the speaker or leader should walk around and read the Question Balloons, getting a feel for the questions that will arise.
  4. Inform all attendees that they should pop their Question Balloons – loudly – whenever one of their questions is answered sufficiently. This answer might come from meeting materials, slides, a speaker, or a casual conversation. It doesn’t matter. At the end of the session, any remaining Question Balloons will be addressed.
  5. When a question is answered, the corresponding balloon will pop. Some people will jump. That’s okay. The leader/facilitator should acknowledge that we have answered a question and lead applause. Some participants will float new Question Balloons throughout the session. That’s good.
  6. When the content or topic is completed, there will usually be two types of Question Balloons remaining. The first type is informational (When is the product being released? Who wants to share a ride home? How much is that service?). Answer these first. If there is no answer available, assign the question to the responsible party. The second type of question you’ll see is opinion (What is the best approach? How should I handle my customer?). These should be posed to the room. Instruct the person who floated the question to pop their balloon when they received information, from anyone, that will help them move forward.

Strategy
Question Balloons are very effective for meetings loaded with content, like reviews and status meetings. For organizations that might be too conservative for balloon popping, sticky notes on a wall will also work. We recommend using balloons for special events, not for a weekly status meeting.

Key Points
The Question Balloons game gives power to meeting attendees, control to the facilitator, and feedback to both. It leverages visual and kinesthetic information through balloon floating and popping. It uses the mechanism of elimination to score how many questions get answered. Attendees can see that their questions will be answered. Play Question Balloons when you want to better manage group energy.

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Communicate This & Stick it here

Stickit

Communicate This & Stick it here

Complex simulation illustrating communication by people listening and sharing information in a manner that other people can understand the message being received as well as sent.

Creates environment to transfer, strengthen and re-work systems of communication with intra as well as inter departmental systems.

Can also be used to highlight different idioms and references that are used internally, this can be confusing to other departments and cultures (for global organizations and teams).

Materials:

  • Laminated Puzzle (supplied below)
  • Blank Puzzle Board (supplied below)
  • 18 envelopes – 1 for each puzzle piece
  • Countdown Timer
  • Stop Watch

Group Size:

  • For this variation 18 people is ideal
  • For smaller groups you can supply people with more than one puzzle piece or create a puzzle and puzzle grid with less pieces
  • For larger groups you can ask people to break into 18 teams i.e. partner, triad. Or create a puzzle and puzzle grid with more pieces

Objective:

The objective is for the group to assemble themselves according to the directives and place the Communicate This puzzle pieces into their proper order.

Secondary objective is for the group to explore a complex process that requires mapping, planning, strategy, and situational leadership of each team member.

Concluding in the group exploring and developing improved use of communication systems, process mapping and listening plus speaking for understanding.

Preparation:

Prior to beginning this activity with 18 people (see group size above for different group sizes) laminate and cut out each of the square Communicate This puzzle pieces. Place each piece into its own separate envelope, you will need and use 18 envelopes.

The Communicate This grid should be on a table somewhere on the opposite side of the room of where you will have the group gather.

Split about ¼ of the room and place on a table the Communicate This blank grid. In the other ¾ of the room will be the working area for the team. It helps to lay a rope or use masking tape to mark the “Grid Area” and “Planning Area”

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Have the guidelines written on flip chart paper

Instructions and Facilitator Script:

Hand out the puzzle pieces in a random order to the people; ask them NOT to open the envelopes until the activity begins.

Below is how I generally explain the initiative

“Each of you contain within your envelope specific pieces of information that is needed for your personal advancement and the teams overall success. Please keep the envelopes sealed until the countdown timer begins.

The objective of this simulation is to place each of the puzzle pieces in the correct order in less than 60 minutes, and then place the puzzle pieces into the Communicate This grid in under 30 seconds. Here are the guidelines;

  • One person per puzzle piece.
  • Only you can see, touch, and move your puzzle piece once the envelope in opened.
  • NO ONE besides the person assigned the puzzle piece can see, touch and move that puzzle piece at any time in the “Planning Area” and the “Grid Area”.
  • Pieces may NOT be exchanged –You must keep your piece at all times.
  • Pieces will be assembled properly (letters, symbols, numbers are the right way up)
  • Symbols match so that any two adjacent piece edges match the same symbol
  • The color symbols mark the edges of the puzzle (sometimes I leave this guideline out)
  • All planning and systemizing will be completed in the Planning Area
  • The group will have 60 minutes to plan, prepare, and develop a process for placing the Communicate This puzzle into the grid
  • Once 1 person steps into the “Grid Area” the 30 seconds for placing all the pieces properly in the grid starts.
  • For any violation of the guidelines the ethics board requires a penalty of 2 minutes removed from the planning time. You can choose to be a strict or forgiving of the rules as you choose. Observe how the teams and people choose to interpret the rules and use these observations for the processing and reflection.

Any questions? Your time starts NOW.”

Connections and Concepts:

Communicate this is a challenging activity. Expect yelling, confusion, and some chaos in the beginning.

For the team to complete the task a shared use of language for the symbols will be either formally or informally created. Some of the names of the symbols are not commonly known, for example ampersand. Additionally global team members may not know and have the same symbol and description; this creates a great discussion for the processing. This may / will create confusion and frustration for people who are working to solve the puzzle.

Pay attention to the group dynamics; are they all working together? Are they splitting into smaller teams? Are the smaller teams sharing information with the larger group? Who is keeping track of the time?

Once the team is all in place and they are ready to transfer the pieces to the grid, did they remember that once the 1st person crosses the line the 30 seconds for completion starts. Teams need to also plan for how they are going to move everybody in a sequence from the Planning Zone to the Grid Zone and place each piece correctly in the Puzzle Grid.

As you can see this is a multi process, situational leadership simulation.

Processing & Reflection:

Here are some ideas;

Show or list Great Team Dynamics Include;

Ask the people to break into groups of 4 to discuss and find areas in the initiative that match the Great Team Dynamics.

Following about 10-15 minutes of small group discussion ask the groups to share what they discussed.

Ask the group to split into 2 groups of 6 and to come up with an example from their work lives that is similar to Communicate This.

Allow each group to share the example, and then ask each group to create a solution based idea that can change and improve the example either team explained.

Possible questions for the group;

  • What was your initial reaction to the challenge?
  • On a scale of 0-5 0 being horrible and 5 being excellent where would you place the teams planning?
  • For the planning to be 1 to 2 numbers higher what would be different? How would you know? What would you notice in other people? What would they notice in you?
  • Did any leaders emerge?
  • How where disagreement dealt with?
  • In what ways is this like work, home, community, etc..?
  • How?
  • What can we learn from this?
  • How can these ideas be brought to the office, home, community, classroom?

Reference:

First saw a version when working at a Corporate Conference Center in Buffalo, NY. While co-facilitating a Global Corporate Team with Dave Davenport of DxM

Communicate This Puzzle;

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Communicate This Puzzle Grid;

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Michael Cardus is the founder of Create-Learning an experiential based consulting, facilitation, training and coaching organization. Leading to successful results in retention of staff talent, increased satisfaction with work, increased collaboration and information sharing within and between departments, increased accountability of success and failures, increased knowledge transfer, increased trust as well as speed of project completion and decision making of Leaders, Teams and Organizations.