Resources for HBS clubs and other peer groups

When a Forum works (and doesn't)

Lessons from Seth Godin on what makes a forum work.

When a Forum works (and doesn't)

Lessons from Seth Godin on what makes a forum work.

Seth Godin recently blogged about when a conference works (and doesn’t).  With apologies to Seth, it struck me that with a few changes, his words also apply to our Forum meetings.

When we get together with others at a Forum meeting, it either works, or it doesn’t. For me, it works:

…If everything is on the line, if in any given moment, someone is going to say or do something that might just change everything. Something that happens in the moment and can’t possibly be the same if you hear about it later. It might even be you who speaks up, stands up and makes a difference. (At most other meetings and events, you can predict precisely what’s going to be said, and by whom). In the digital age, if I can get the notes or the video later, I will.

…If there’s vulnerability and openness and connection. If it’s likely you’ll connect with someone (or many someones) that will stick with you for years to come, who will share their dreams and their fears while they listen to and understand yours. (At most other meetings, people are on high alert, clenched and protective. Like a cocktail party where no one is drinking.)

…If there’s support. If the people you meet have high expectations for you and your work and your mission, but even better, if they give you a foundation and support to go even further. (At most other events and meetings, competitiveness born from insecurity trumps mutual support.)

…If it’s part of a movement. If every Forum meeting is a building block on the way to something important, and if the members are part of a tribe that goes beyond demographics or professional affiliation. (At most events, it’s just the next event).

The first law of screenwriting is that the hero of a great movie is transformed during the arc of the story. That’s the goal of a great Forum meeting, as well. But it’s difficult indeed, because there are so many heroes, all thinking they have too much to lose.

Bob Halperin

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Seth Godin recently blogged about when a conference works (and doesn’t).  With apologies to Seth, it struck me that with a few changes, his words also apply to our Forum meetings.

When we get together with others at a Forum meeting, it either works, or it doesn’t. For me, it works:

…If everything is on the line, if in any given moment, someone is going to say or do something that might just change everything. Something that happens in the moment and can’t possibly be the same if you hear about it later. It might even be you who speaks up, stands up and makes a difference. (At most other meetings and events, you can predict precisely what’s going to be said, and by whom). In the digital age, if I can get the notes or the video later, I will.

…If there’s vulnerability and openness and connection. If it’s likely you’ll connect with someone (or many someones) that will stick with you for years to come, who will share their dreams and their fears while they listen to and understand yours. (At most other meetings, people are on high alert, clenched and protective. Like a cocktail party where no one is drinking.)

…If there’s support. If the people you meet have high expectations for you and your work and your mission, but even better, if they give you a foundation and support to go even further. (At most other events and meetings, competitiveness born from insecurity trumps mutual support.)

…If it’s part of a movement. If every Forum meeting is a building block on the way to something important, and if the members are part of a tribe that goes beyond demographics or professional affiliation. (At most events, it’s just the next event).

The first law of screenwriting is that the hero of a great movie is transformed during the arc of the story. That’s the goal of a great Forum meeting, as well. But it’s difficult indeed, because there are so many heroes, all thinking they have too much to lose.

Bob Halperin

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Best practices for virtual forum meetings in the age of coronavirus
Virtual meeting norms plus icebreakers, exploration topics, and sample agendas
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Wartime meeting agenda
An alternative agenda with shorter updates and rapid sharing of support and help for all members
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New Forum Agendas for a Time of Crisis
"Wartime" agendas with new icebreaker, update and presentation options
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AFS forum presentation wheel
After updates, consider these options in place of a traditional presentation
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AFS forum presentation wheel - explanation
Explanations of possible choices instead of a traditional presentation
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Beyond Forum Presentations
Exploring options beyond a traditional presentation after forum updates
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Icebreaker questions - sorted by emotion
Icebreakers and communication starters related to joy, gratitude, sadness, fear, anger and other emotions
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From Life's Tornado to Presence in Forum
Tips and techniques to be fully present in forum including how you prep, shift your attitude, participate, and share an awesome update
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Making the most of your forum updates
How to prepare your update, listen effectively for potential presentations, and select presentations for today and future meetings.
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Retreat! Your Forum Needs to Work and Play
How to make the case for the value of a forum retreat
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Creating your own icebreakers
Ice breaker ideas -- and encouragement to create your own!
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Forum Tools at Work – The Value of a Single Word
One valuable tool used in Forum is the One word open/close. Did you ever consider its value at work?
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The Power of Vulnerability
Brene Brown's TED Talk can be a great conversation starter in forum.
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Selecting your forum's next moderator
Considering the different ways to select your forum’s next moderator
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Jazz up your monthly updates with family photos
Consider sharing a photo or two of important family members during your update.
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Taking Your Forum From Good to Great
Powerful questions that can help a forum think about its desired future state.
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Your Forum: Moving from Head to Heart
Lessons from the Godfather: With many business ("head" centered) issues, there is also a personal ("heart" centered) dimension.
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Clearing the Air
How your forum can practice clearing the air.
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"if you really knew me"
A classic icebreaker to deepen connections, build trust, and get to know each other better.
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Bragging about Forum participation to your boss
Making the case for forum to your boss or HR department.
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What if a member says "Just tell me what to do!"
Why it's better to share experience, instead of rushing to give advice.
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Questions to ask when you are coaching a Forum presenter
The job of the coach is not to answer the presenter’s question but to help the presenter ask the right questions.
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The least likely, but most valuable, source of experience
Stories that illustrate why sharing experience can be more valuable than giving advice
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The Forum Value Chain
Great presentations and member explorations are built on a multi-layered foundation.
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Forum Exercise: What Motivates Us
An exercise to explore the motivations and constraints that drive us.
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Moral Humility and Your Forum
HBS Dean Nitin Noria on "moral humility," and how your forum can help
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When a Forum works (and doesn't)
Lessons from Seth Godin on what makes a forum work.
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Parting the Curtain
The writer Eudora Welty's insights on the power of forum.
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Updates – one more round
To help foster good and trusting relationships in your Forum, consider doing one more round after your Forum’s regular monthly updates.
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How Far Will You Go? Questions to Test Your Limits
A great collection of icebreakers to use at your next meeting, retreat or forum dinner.
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I'm really, really busy. Is now the right time to join a Forum?
Ironically, if you are so busy you don’t see how you can take on another obligation; this may be exactly the right time to commit to a monthly Forum meeting.
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The challenge (and opportunity) of members with previous Forum experience
What never and more experienced forum members can learn from each other.
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The value of advance, in-person presentation coaching
Take the time to coach in advance and the presenter and all members will benefit.
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Once a year try ANNUAL, instead of monthly updates
Updates that focus on the full year, past or upcoming, are a creative way to reframe your monthly updates.
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Attending your Forum meeting virtually – the right way to do it
Best practices when one are more members are joining your forum meeting remotely.
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Icebreaker ideas and conversation starters
More icebreaker ideas for your next forum meeting
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An evergreen forum topic: Dealing with aging parents
An exercise to help your forum address a topic that almost everyone has dealt with or will deal with
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What I'm most ashamed about myself
Shame: Are we ready to discuss this in our forum?
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Best practices when a new member joins your forum
Consider these ideas to smoothly add a new member to your forum
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Refreshing your monthly updates
Moving your updates from travelogues to emotional impact and significance
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How healthy is your forum? How would you rate it?
Assess your forum on these six dimensions and then discuss what you might want to do differently
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What's on Your Moral Bucket List?
How are you cultivating your "resume" virtues vs. your "eulogy" virtues?
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Forum Commitments: Two Questions Every Member Should Answer
Discussing your forum's goals and setting its norms
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The Final Frontier: Starting a Conversation in Your Forum about Money
Exercises and icebreakers related to money and personal finances
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If I was 10 times bolder
Challenge yourself in life and as you prepare your forum update
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Moving from "I" to "We"
HBS Prof. Bill George on how a new framing opens up new possibilities
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Business topics for your forum
Business and leadership issues to explore in forum
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The top five regrets of the dying
Exploring regrets as a powerful catalyst for forum conversation
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How to live wisely: Some questions for your forum
A forum exercise focused on reflecting on your life
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Dilbert (and his boss) on the perils of giving advice
Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, on why telling people what to do (giving advice) is fraught with peril
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So Your Values Live On: Sharing Your Leadership Legacy
Forum exercises to discuss your legacy and "ethical will"
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Confirming and Committing to Your Forum's Operating Principles
Reviewing forum principles and commitments and identifying possible ways you can do better
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Updates that Lead to Great Presentations
Alternative approaches to updates that get to the deepest issues
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Bill George on the Power of Forum
Bill George, the former CEO of Medtronic and current HBS professor, has offered a wealth of wisdom to forums over the years.
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Paying it backward: An exercise in self-reflection and gratitude
Helping members identify sources of gratitude and then taking action
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Tackling life's hardest challenges: Have you articulated your forum's purpose?
Learning from the example of one forum's beautiful summary of goals, expectations, and responsibilities
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Putting a bow on it: How (and how not) to conclude a forum meeting
Options and possibilities to end your forum meeting in the best possible way
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Updates focused on business and leadership
An alternative update form to ensure business value from your forum
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Should a member take a sabbatical from their forum?
Factors in deciding whether a member should leave the forum temporarily
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What Google learned from its quest to build the perfect team
Google’s efforts to enhance the efficiency and productivity of its teams offer useful lessons for our forums
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Five Essential Questions in Life and in Forum
Five key questions to ask ourselves regularly in life and in forum
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Safe and known, known and safe
A beautiful poem can inspire our forums
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The value of forum explained in two cartoons
Gary Larson's cartoons explain the benefits of forum
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Forum leadership: The role of the moderator
Guidelines for selecting and serving as your forum's moderator
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When two forum members begin dating
How to respond when two members of your forum begin dating.
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On the virtues of joining a "younger" forum
How older forum members can think about the value of younger members
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Should our forum add new members?
Factors to consider in deciding whether to add new members or not
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Forum updates: Two powerful questions
Instead of a formal update forms, simply ask members to complete one or both of these sentences
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The right way to add new members to your forum
A thoughtful process for adding new members and ensuring successful integration
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Financial planning: A great forum topic
Talking about money and finances can be great vehicle for forums to go deeper, leading to greater levels of vulnerability, trust, and insight.
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Great questions that lead to deep updates
An update alternative: Ask members to answer one or more of these questions
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Would you steal your forum mate's computer or car?
Weighing the cost to the forum of arriving late, and how to avoid it
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The "ABC" shared model of forum leadership
An alternative model of shared forum leadership where everyone contributes and benefits
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Who is presenting at your forum meeting today?
Alternative methods to decide who is presenting at your forum meeting
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It's the hard days who determine who you are
Sheryl Sandberg, FaceBook's COO, talks not of what she has learned in life, but of what she has learned in death
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Possible conflicts: Can I be in forum with this person?
Addressing potential conflicts with a candidate you are considering adding to your forum
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The power of pairs: A new approach to your presentation parking lot
Pairing up to generate a rich parking lot of possible presentation topics
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The many alternatives to a standard four-hour meeting
Consider these options to accommodate individual scheduling needs, and to build richer connections between members
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Exploring spirituality and religion in forum
Our religious and spiritual beliefs and practices can be a powerful theme to explore in forum.
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A forum #METOO exercise
It is sometimes said that sex and intimacy are the final frontiers of forum.
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Can we ever be fully free of judgment?
Thinking deeply about our own judgments and those of others
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"ERMIA" Updates
An update variation: What do you Eliminate, Reduce, Maintain, Increase, or Add since our last meeting?
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Holding each other accountable in forum
A powerful use of forum: Serving as accountability "witnesses" for each other
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"Tweeting" your update
Shakespeare opined that “brevity is the soul of wit." What's your 140-character update this month?
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Needs and leads
How to help forum mates in concrete and specific ways
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Mixing up your updates: High, Low, Medium, Rocky
Inspired by a grade school jump-rope game, “High, Low, Medium, Rocky,” try mixing up your updates with this approach.
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Forum exercise: Hiring in a tight labor market
If forum members are struggling to hire great new employees, consider doing this exercise at your meeting.
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Forum sparks: Watch a TED talk!
Watching an inspiring, provocative TED talk can be the beginning of a great forum conversation.
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Where would you "seat" yourself today?
A New Yorker cartoon as an ice breaker or update spark
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Exploring strengths and weaknesses
Can a forum conversation help you see your strengths and weaknesses more clearly?
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Meeting with a potential new forum member: What do we discuss?
A suggested agenda when members meet a potential candidate
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Michelle Obama's Becoming as a forum exercise: Becoming me. Becoming more. Becoming us.
How can our forum support each of us in becoming more of who we want to be?
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Reviewing the Past Decade, and Visioning for the Next Decade
An update alternative: Zooming out to review the past decade and envision the next decade
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Top Tips for Moderators
Take to heart these tips and you can be a successful moderator
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An invitation to "brave space"
May our forums be brave spaces that we create and nourish together
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Forum in the age of coronavirus
Valuing forum while staying flexible in difficult times
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Ten tips for awesome virtual forum meetings
Best practices when your forum must meet virtually
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For the unprecedented times in which we now live: Forum update questions
How does the situation or challenge make you feel? How can the forum help?
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Moving to a "wartime" forum footing
Extraordinary times call for new modes of engagement, including more focused, rapid response to member challenges
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Who do I choose to be during the COVID-19 crisis?
A forum exercise: Moving from fear to learning to growth
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Meeting in pairs to build deeper forum connections
A structured way for forum members to connect between regular meetings.
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Reacting, Adapting and Growing in the Time of COVID-19
Forum is the ideal place to talk through how we are responding to unprecedented challenges
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What should I share during my forum update?
Are we supposed to just pick one thing or several or one from each category (business, family, personal)? Can you provide any guidance for how to choose?
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Masked and unmasked updates
In forum we take off both our physical and our “psychological” masks and discuss what really matters
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