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Strategy and Transformation

Designing the Conversation: Successful Facilitation Techniques

Designing the ConversationTypical office scenario: It’s a Tuesday and you’re in a meeting. There’s a lot being said, people are talking, conversations are being had, plans are seemingly being made. Now an hour has passed, and you come to the realization that you and your fellow meeting goers have little value to draw from it. Be it a lack of planning or lack of leadership, we’ve all experienced the dreaded meeting that seems to go nowhere.
Like many of us, Brad Nunnally, a lead user experience consultant at Perficient, grew tired of not utilizing time to its fullest and put his experience to good use by authoring the book, Designing the Conversation: Techniques for Successful Facilitation.
The book, co-authored by Russ Unger and Dan Willis, focuses on the facilitation skills needed to communicate effectively, especially in a design scenario. It’s a complete guide on how-to extract information from various types of people in a number of different situations, and oh by the way, helps you address any problems that you encounter along the way.
I asked Brad to share with me some insights about his book and the process it took to complete it:

1.  What inspired you to write this book?
Brad: It was a combination of several things really. I was tired of being part of meetings or workshops that were poorly planned or resulted in little value to either myself or the others involved. This wasn’t necessary done on purpose, rather it was due to the facilitator having poor facilitation skills. When I shared these experiences with the other co-authors, Russ Unger and Dan Willis, we knew we could use our own knowledge and experience to educate others. 

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2.  Who should read Designing the Conversation: Techniques for Successful Facilitation?
Brad: The three of us set out to write this book for anyone who has to, be it at work or in their personal life, work with others or communicate some idea to a group of people. The first six chapters were written to teach anyone the basics to facilitation and the concepts the lead to successfully facilitating any type of session. The rest of the book is meant to be a field guide for different types of sessions. While the context of the book is in a business or client setting, people from all walks of life can use the concepts presented in the book. 

3.  How did your experience as a lead user experience consultant at Perficient help you write this book?
Brad: Being a user experience consultant at Perficient these past 6 years, I’ve had many opportunities to work with a diverse group of clients, users, and co-workers. I’ve always strived to be as collaborative as possible with the people I work either, regardless of the content. This desire to be collaborative drove me to learn new skills and activities that could be performed, which in turn helped me refine my facilitation skills. 

4.  What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Brad: The hardest part for me was taking what I’ve been doing either naturally or out of habit and distilling it into some kind of written form. I’ve always been better at presenting my ideas and knowledge verbally, so sitting down and writing about facilitation was a real challenge. Next to this was coming up with a proper description for the illustrations found in the book to give guidance to Dan Willis. The artwork found in the book really is amazing, and Dan did an amazing job with my, sometimes pretty vague, requests.

5.  What do you hope readers will gain from your book?
Brad: That having a conversation with another person, or a group of people, isn’t some mystery that only a few people are good at. There are a few core skills that anyone can pick up, though admittedly some skill come easier to some than others, that will lead to being better at their job and at presenting themselves in a public forum. Russ, Dan, and I wrote this book so that anyone with any level of facilitation skill can learn something new or better hone a skill they already have. 

You can follow Brad on Twitter @bnunnally.

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Callie Jones

My name is Callie and I'm the digital marketing manager at Perficient. I spend most of my days managing Perficient's online and social media presence, which includes Perficient's IBM, Microsoft and Oracle practices. I came to Perficient through the acquisition of PointBridge in February 2012, where I was the content marketing specialist. Prior to that, I spent three years at Hubbard One, a Thomson Reuters business, marketing software and services to law firms. I grew up in Minnesota and graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a degree in journalism and mass communications. Like most Minnesotans, I have an affinity for the state and it’s summers.

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