A really useful electronic meetings tool

How often do you go to a team meeting where you ‘time out’ and send everybody away frustrated simply because you could not get some of the participants to shut up? Or have you ever have meetings on ‘divergent topics’ where you feel you have opened Pandora’s Box so wide that there is little chance of getting back any consensus or convergence in the group? If either of these is your experience then you could really benefit from an innovative software/hardware/method combo called Zing.

The Zing Hardware and Software

The Zing facilitator arrives at your meeting armed with a clever black box which plugs in to a standard PC and allows it to support not one but a dozen or so keyboards.

The Zing software, which is loaded on the PC, splits the screen into a dozen or so mini windows - one for each keyboard - all visible at the same time.

Normally the PC is then projected on the wall so all participants can see it.

As each person (or pair for big meetings) types into their keyboard their input magically appears on the screen for all to see at the same time (but anonymously)

The Zing Facilitation Process

The Zing facilitator typically starts with a number of open questions such as “What are the top issues we are facing as a team”.

Everyone types in their answers and if more exploration is required the facilitator would identify the main themes then drill-down into each of them in turn with follow-up questions.

The only conversation permitted is to clarify what a question means and not to express views on the answer.

A typical Zing meeting should not last more than about an hour as it is actually quite exhausting for everybody.

The facilitator then takes the automated software log of everyones responses away and produces a concise edited summary.

The most useful summaries simply indicate where there is agreement (and no further discussion required) and where there are conflicting views which requires further exploration (usually in a second Zing session).

I have found Zing particularly useful in many of types of team discussions including:

  • Ground Rules

  • Expectations (Team Karma)

  • How are we doing as a team

My experience has been that in two well-run Zing sessions (of an hour each) aided by a competent Zing facilitator I can cover difficult divergent work with a group that would have taken me perhaps 4-6 full sessions as many weeks (and probably not have been so well resolved).

Also the team members seem to love Zing sessions - even if things don't go their way the fact that they had their say seems to be the main thing.

For more on Zing

For more on Zing check out wikipedia.

I believe there is also a web-based version of Zing which can be used for totally virtual sessions but I have not tried out.

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