In many Forums, questions aren’t allowed during or after monthly updates so that the Forum can stay within time limits. But what if a member has a question or wants clarification on something?
Adding Q&A to the monthly updates can be an enriching addition to the Forum meeting. It enables people to delve a bit more into areas of interest and concern. Like all aspects of the Forum, a deliberate approach to the structure and process should be discussed and determined. Without it, the Forum can veer off track and waste valuable time.
There are two different methods of implementing Q&A into monthly updates. One is that the Forum allots one minute for Q&A at the end of each person’s update. The time keeper needs to time the update itself and the Q&A – two separate times. The other method is to have people jot down their questions throughout the updates, then have an open Q&A at the end of all the updates. Again, the open Q&A is timed – probably something like five or ten minutes. The exact timing will depend on the size of your Forum and how tight the agenda is that day.
A couple of questions usually come up here, so let me address them preemptively.
- Is there any structure to asking the questions?
You don’t really have time to go around the table in one minute, so the people with the most compelling questions tend to speak right up. The moderator should control the Q&A. Someone needs to be sure that one person isn’t asking all the questions and dominating the conversation. Remind everyone that this is for Q&A, not feedback. Comments and advice should NOT be included. Be aware that it can be a let down to the person giving their update if NOBODY asks them a question at the end. They might feel like nobody was listening, or nobody cared about their update. The Moderator should make a point of listening intently and jotting down a few questions to ask, in case of a lackluster Q&A.
- Should we follow Gestalt Language Protocol (no direct advice) during the Q&A?
The answer is that some Forums do and some Forums don’t. It’s a decision the Forum should make together. Have a discussion about it and take a vote. You’ve already assigned the process observer, so it’s easy for them to police the questions. Always keep in mind that we’re trying to create a “safe zone” in Forum and if someone is making judgmental comments or giving advice, it can be counter-productive to the entire process.
Note that it will take one or two meetings for the Forum to get into a rhythm of asking questions during the monthly updates. You might want to try one method for a couple of meetings, and then have a discussion with the Forum about the process. Do they like it? Is it adding value? Is everyone comfortable with the structure? Then, make adjustments and try again. Eventually, you’ll find a comfortable rhythm for your Forum.