Speaker and author Keith Ferrin explains two key words that help focus every group interaction (or speech planning) at the Dynamic Communicators blog.
By placing the purpose at inform, update, educate, etc., it not only leaves the meeting’s purpose one-sided, but also leaves it unable to be assessed — was the meeting necessary? did it succeed?
Having the answer to “so that…” can give the meeting planners the sharp focus, making better use of everyone’s time.
For a class activity, challenging students to add “so that…” to a specific-purpose writing exercise for a speech or an agenda-writing exercise for a group assignment would be an excellent extension of the activity.
During August 2015, Andrew Dlugan of the Six Minutes blog ran a series on group communication. Some public speaking textbooks are far too brief on this topic and in my state a group presentation was required for students in the basic course — so I was always looking for practical information to share.
I also found a link to an earlier post with advice about giving a group presentation. (My favorite advice here: control your introductions and transitions, they matter.)
One more from the Prezi.com blog…this one is written by Prezi’s CEO Peter Arvai. In this post, Arvai talks about “Shattering the Perfection Myth” in group leadership. He gives several examples of strong leaders who share struggles, talk about their failures, and highlight team members who tried something new, even if their plan did not succeed as hoped.
These examples give a depth to explaining leadership that is often missing from an overview textbook. There is a colorful Prezi attached to the article, though it may be difficult to use as a visual aid in class because the frames are a bit cluttered.
These are four brief sample conversations that I wrote based on student suggestions about the differences in how men and women communicate. I would use these examples on tests with a question like “Based on what we have learned about how men and women communicate, identify five differences in communication style that are contributing to a misunderstanding.” Find the in-class activity that I used to generate these conversations here: https://teachingpublicspeaking.wordpress.com/2012/05/24/in-class-activity-for-interpersonal-comm-gender-differences-2-2/
1. “What do you want for dinner?”
A couple are on a drive and the following conversation takes place:
Female: “Do you want to get something to eat?”
Male: “Sure. What kind of food do you want?”
Female: “I don’t care.”
Male: (pulls into a KFC)
Female: (sighs loudly)
Male: “What’s wrong?”
Female: “Nothing, it’s just that I thought you knew that I don’t like chicken.”
Male: “We can go somewhere else.”
Female: “No this is OK, I’ll just have a Pepsi.”
Male: “We can go get a pizza instead.”
Female: “This is fine. I haven’t had pizza in a long time though.”
Male: (Starts to leave parking lot)
Female: “What are you doing?”
Male: “Going to get pizza like you said.”
Female: “I didn’t say to get pizza. I said we can do whatever you want and you want fried chicken so this is fine.”
Male: “If changing your mind was an Olympic sport you would have a gold medal.” (laughs)
Female: “What? Why are you being a jerk?”
Male: (stops car) “Just make up your mind.”
Female: “Stop yelling at me!”
Ken Blanchard and Scott Blanchard at the FastCompany.com Leadership Now blog describe lessons taken from improv comedy that can be used to improve group communication and collaboration.
This could be developed into an in-class activity for students of group communication. You could have either one group or three different groups role-play a brainstorming business meeting under three conditions:
- First, each person responds to another’s idea with “No, because…”
- Second, each person must respond to another’s idea with “Yes, but…”
- Third, each person must respond to another’s idea with “Yes, and…”
“Yes, and…” is an improv rule because it leads to inclusion of all ideas and scenes that go in interesting directions. The students will likely see how the role-played business meetings turn out very differently by having different speaking guidelines creating a different atmosphere of collaboration.
The Teaching Professor Blog gives a nice overview of the advantages and disadvantages of forming class work groups in various ways.
I liked to use a variety of methods — student-selected groups for brief class activities (for convenience) mixed with random groups for longer class activities (to shake it up once in a while) and teacher-selected groups for projects that would take multiple weeks.
Hulu currently has all 97 episodes of the show NewsRadio available for free. I don’t have a complete list of the clips that I used, but I did use many from this show during a Business and Professional Communication class that I taught.
Hulu allows you to cut episodes to the part that you need and then embed them on a web site so you can use them in class or make them available for students.
The show does best with group communication issues. For example:
- In season 2 episode 5, Bill builds a cubicle for himself in the middle of the open office space and we see the reactions from the rest of the group.
- In season 4 episode 13, Lisa and Dave are in competition to be the boss and it is clear that neither of them wants the job because of the leadership responsibilities.
If you would like clips from a show other than “The Simpsons,” you could check out the episodes and try to find what you need. Note that the show has a fair amount of sexual content and it may be difficult to edit it all out of the scenes you want to show.
Link to show description: http://www.hulu.com/firefly
The short-lived TV show Firefly had a great segment that could be used in several ways to relate to group communication. Ten minutes into the final episode “Objects in Space,” the crew of the ship meets to discuss ongoing problems with one member, a 16-year-old girl named River. River was becoming increasingly more erratic and violent. Shortly before this meeting, she had held a loaded weapon on several members of the crew. The crew then meets to decide what do do about her.
I’m not able to link the video directly because hulu has recently moved it to “hulu plus” and youtube has removed it. But if you can find the video, the segment that I used was about 10 minutes into the episode starting with “What we’re here to determine is…” and ending with “She’s just a kid.” The clip is 2-3 minutes long.
What’s great about this meeting is how well they follow the first several steps of the group problem solving model. After showing the clip, I would have students describe which steps they had completed during the meeting.
The other way I used this clip was as an example of leadership.
Video for interpersonal comm, storytelling or persuasion
Everybody Loves Raymond: Season 4, episode 75
This clip from Everybody Loves Raymond does a great job of illustrating the idea of reframing. It relates to interpersonal communication, especially related to conflict, and to persuasion and storytelling in public speaking.
Married couple Ray and Debra share different perspectives on the same series of events after Debra replaces their old can opener with a new one that claims to have more features. Although the basic facts are the same, their versions are very different.
In interpersonal communication, speakers often reframe or change punctuation in stories to favor themselves. In public speaking, speakers often tell stories to emphasize particular points they want to make, especially when seeking persuasive goals.
Notes: This (admittedly grainy) video of the 6-minute segment is currently available for free at YouTube — there may be other versions online as well. There is potentially offensive language at the end of the clip, but the clip can be stopped beforehand without losing any of the example.
Can think of other examples of movies or TV shows that feature this reframing technique?
Some textbooks contain little, if any, information about group communication. I provided these online resources to supplement the students’ reading assignments:
This site is directed at teachers and helping them interact with the classroom as a group. I pulled out the part on group characteristics for my students.
This site is an excellent overview of the group decision-making process. It has a list of pros and cons for each option and a strong example showing how the process can work.
This is a nice overview of conflict styles with references. It does not have the animal comparisons but those can be added in class.
To be safe, I like to copy the information into a document to provide online for students (fully credited and with a link, of course). This is just because in the past articles have been taken down when I’ve linked directly to them and it can be a scramble to replace one in the middle of a semester.
Do you know any other good online resources for teaching group communication? Leave a comment and I’ll add it to the list.