Monday, November 28, 2016

Effective Facilitating and Blogging

This past week, I had four separate meetings to attend, half of those as the person partly responsible for running them. I've been thinking a lot about facilitating because of the Teach Ontario course I'm running online about graphic novels, and because, for two days (today and tomorrow, November 28-29, 2016) I will participate in ETFO's "Presenter's Palette" course. The aim of the course suits my needs to a T:
This program is designed to promote the ongoing continued development of members’ presentation and facilitation skills. It has been developed to meet the needs of experienced presenters who are looking for ways to re-energize and improve their presentations.
There are three modules in this course, focused on:
  1. Strategies to grow as a curriculum workshop leader
  2. Ways to develop effective voice and facilitation styles
  3. Strategies to develop a high level of audience engagement and understanding
I thought it might be useful to reflect on my most recent meetings as a way to prepare for the Presenter's Palette class. I'll use the Stars and a Wish format to examine the strengths and areas for improvement for the recent area teacher-librarian meetings.

⭐👍 Stars / Strengths

  • Being flexible with the agenda and pace
  • Moving on when the technology wasn't working
  • Ensuring all attendees had a chance to speak and ensuring their needs were met
  • Reflecting feelings of the participants
I checked in with teacher-librarians after the Tuesday and Thursday sessions and everyone I spoke to indicated that they got something out of the meeting.

🌈👎 Wishes / Areas for Improvement

  • Arriving late and not starting on time
  • Missing the timing on shared speaking with co-facilitators 
  • Pointing out the time mid-way through
  • Having a "wishy-washy" ending as people filtered out in on their own
My co-presenter spent a ton of time preparing this beautiful Google Slides presentation but the Google Form messed up. We felt the time pressure (as the meeting was only 90 minutes long, after school) and unfortunately that leaked into the presentation.

Doug Peterson got this reflection thing rolling earlier with his post on blogging reflections. Blogging and facilitating have things in common. Instead of stars and wishes, Doug used five tips as his springboard for analysis and added five more. I'll follow suit and see how this blog measures up.

1) Having a plan is essential for making your blog a success.

My plan has evolved since I first began blogging in 2009. Now, my plan involves personal reflection on the past week's events and tying them in with my professional practice. Often, it's personal reflection ON my professional practice. I didn't research competitors. I started on the Library Network Group because they wanted people to blog, so there weren't many examples at all there. I migrated to Blogger and do it once a week, like clockwork. I didn't really consider about evaluating its success. 

2) Your blog is more likely to succeed if it's social.

That's true. Nowadays, I always post a link to my blog post for that week on Twitter, and I'll mention the people who are included in the reflection. What I could be doing but haven't yet is cross-posting my blog link on Facebook or other sites. I did that when I wrote about the death of my friend Jeff, because I knew his mother was on Facebook but not Twitter and would like to read what I wrote. I discovered that Facebook, despite reports to the contrary, is still a popular place to post - I received many more hits for that particular week than I did when just sharing via the blog and Twitter.

3) Content is king.

The funny thing about this point is that content that I think is huge isn't what draws in readers. Sometimes a "fluff piece" hits a chord with some people in ways I didn't imagine. 

4) You may have to learn basic Search Engine Optimization

I'm worse than Doug at this. At least he knew what it was. I don't tag my posts. I don't name my posts in ways that grab search engine bots. I skipped reading the multi-chapter guide that was linked to the original LifeHack article. 

5) Relationships matter

This is important to me in my blogging, my facilitation, my teaching ... probably my life! I started my blog with the intent of writing for myself. I was shocked to learn that people read it or cared what I wrote. Blogging helps develop other relationships too, not just online. I just shared my blog post about learning how to sew with a Grade 7-8 class as a way to promote the Library MakerSpace with them and connect on a personal level on learning new skills (and mothers who sometimes foil plans). 

6) Commit to posting regularly

I'm really proud of this, and it was key advice that my husband gave me when I first started out. I post every Monday (ergo the title of the blog, Monday Molly Musings), even when I think the stuff that I've written isn't so stellar. This is part of the "planning" portion that was the first tip.

7) It doesn't have to be in print

I'm still a traditionalist - I write. Sometimes a blog post is a series of photos, yet I don't have Snapchat and rarely use Instagram or Pinterest.

8) Take risks

I'm doing it here. I admit when a lesson tanks, or when I did less than a bang-up job with running a meeting. It's scary for me to talk about equity issues because I worry I'll do it wrong, or offend people, but if we don't talk about these things, how can we learn?

9) Reciprocate

I won't post replies to blog posts unless I feel like I have something valuable to contribute. I should change that policy, because even just a "good post" comment shows that I found it worth the effort to answer. I know I like seeing when readers post even a single sentence comment to one of my blog posts.

10) Look for a niche not already done

I can't say that I do this. I started writing for me, as a way to preserve what was happening in my school life. Others write about what it's like to be a teacher-librarian. The only unique part is that they aren't living my life, so my experiences might be common, but they're mine. 

Doug, you analyzed your blogging habits and evaluated them accurately. I'll share what I learn at my ETFO course - I've even booked time with my pal Denise Colby to report on the course at her house Tuesday evening!

1 comment:

  1. Good post. I read that somewhere ;) I agree with Facebook and tagging if you want exposure. I think you deserve exposure because you have interesting and usable ideas. Thanks