Are Your Monthly Updates Stale?

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.

Presentation Problems?

A Forum in Cleveland was having problems with their monthly presentations.  The topics weren’t deep and meaningful and they were having trouble finding presenters to step up and present.  To address this, the Forum decided to hold a mini-retreat where they met for an entire day (9am-6pm).  Everyone in the Forum gave a presentation, approximately one hour per person.  At the end of the day, the spouses joined them for dinner.  People said they were exhausted but it was a huge value and well worth the effort.  It got them back on track again with their presentations, everyone got value out of the day and their parking lot for future presentations was quickly filled again.


Has your Forum done anything unique or creative to get back on track?  Leave a comment below and tell us what you did!

Forum Derailed by Hurricane!

I received a message from a moderator in the New York/New Jersey area, recently hit hard by Hurricane Sandy.  Several of his Forum mates had lost their homes or their businesses and everyone was struggling with the aftermath of the storm.  Amidst the devastation and the chaos, however, his Forum had decided that they still wanted to hold their Forum meeting.  What a beautiful testament to the importance of Forum and the support we give and receive during difficult times! Continue reading Forum Derailed by Hurricane!

Should We Socialize with the Spouses?

As the holiday season approaches, so does the time for holiday parties, dinners, and get-togethers.  The question always arises – is it a good idea to have social events that include spouses?  Will the spouses be comfortable?  Will it be difficult for the Forum members?  What’s the precedent?

Most Forums face this conundrum at some point.  Let’s look at the pros and cons, followed by a few examples.


  • The Forum members become an important part of your life.  It’s nice to meet each other’s family and friends in order to have a better understanding of each other.
  • The spouses enjoy meeting the people who have become an important part of your life.
  • The spouses typically feel more comfortable attending chapter and international events because they know more people.
  • It’s fun!  Forum meetings are so structured that it’s nice to kick back and relax together with families.


  • Some Forum members are apprehensive that they might “slip” and say something to a spouse that is confidential.
  • Some spouses might be uncomfortable meeting the Forum, since they may assume that the Forum knows confidential things about their relationship.
  • A nosy or snoopy spouse might attempt to pry information out of a Form member.
  • Some Forum members worry that they won’t remember what is confidential and what isn’t.

Here are a few examples on both sides of this issue.  Several years ago, I worked with a Forum that NEVER socialized outside the Forum meeting – with or without spouses.  They were a very strong Forum of 11 members, together for 12 years.  Nobody had missed a meeting in almost three years and they all attended their retreat diligently every year.  They made a conscious decision not to mix Forum with person life, and they all agreed to keep it that way.  Their Forum meeting was a safe haven – like stepping onto an island where they felt they could be completely open and authentic.

In another example, a female Forum member was unhappy in her marriage, embarrassed about her husband’s drinking problem and she absolutely refused to engage in social activities that included spouses.  The Forum respected and supported her feelings, so they didn’t hold planned events with spouses.  However, individual members were free to gather informally in smaller groups with their spouses.

On the flip side, many Forums plan a holiday dinner with spouses.  It’s an annual event, formally planned.  It may include a gift exchange, dancing, and an after-hours party.  One Forum has regular dinners with their spouses throughout the year and a picnic with the kids in the summer.  In another Forum, the spouses join the Forum members at the end of their annual Forum retreat for a few extra days of vacation.  This Forum says the spouses are much more supportive of exotic retreat locations because they are able to participate in the experience!

Note that if your Forum decides to include spouses in social events, it’s wise to remind everyone in advance to be extremely alert and cautious about what they say.  Discuss confidentiality in detail in advance and review the current status on what is confidential.  Let each Forum member express any special concerns they may have.  A heightened awareness can help prevent an inadvertent confidentiality breach.

The vast majority of Forums do have periodic social activities that include spouses.  But as with all aspect of Forum, every group must find their own way.  Discuss it as a group and decide what is best for everyone.  In case of disagreement, refer back to the Forum mission statement and determine how to best fulfill the purpose of the Forum.