Planned versus Winging It

Okay, I’m back from the ASAE & The Center Annual Meeting in Boston. I did not have the time or energy to post while I was there, and I really only went to one baseball game, I swear.

I was pleased with the conflict session that I did, although I discovered that the Saturday afternoon time slot is not ideal. Still, the session went well, and the people who were there seemed to enjoy it. Interestingly, the next day ASAE staff asked if I would fill in for another speaker who was unable to make it to the meeting. The session was on "interpersonal effectiveness," so my background was relevant. I had no materials to guide me, no powerpoint slides. All I had was my knowledge of the topic area.

The room was full, and I confessed up front that I was not the person on the program and that we would be doing the session with more spontaneity than is the norm at these meetings. Most agreed to stay (maybe 70 people?). I had them talk at their tables about what issues they wanted to cover under the broad topic of "interpersonal effectiveness," and they called out their list. It was a bit all over the map, but someone (fortunately!) mentioned conflict, and they also asked about giving feedback to others who are being annoying, emotional intelligence, and generational differences.

I took it on one topic at a time, letting the conversation be driven primarily by people’s questions and reactions. At one point I hooked up the computer to show a diagram from a book about teams that I like, but no "slides." We ended up talking about very interesting things, including how to be aware when your emotional "hot buttons" get pressed, and how to deal with it. If I had planned this session, I don’t know that I would have included that piece, but I’m really glad we got to it.

There is nothing wrong with planned sessions, of course, but I want to make sure I do audience-driven sessions like this on a regular basis. It was fun, and the feedback I got from a few participants was very positive.


  1. 26.08.2006 at 11:10 am

    Wow, Jamie! It sounds to me like you made some lemonade out of lemons! Kudos on your success in what has to be a challenging situation for any presenter. Those topics are so broad, and having no slides, step-by-step approaches on handouts, etc., makes it difficult to give very tangible advice. Asking them what they wanted to get out of the session (while qualifying the situation to temper their expectations) was a great idea. Isn’t it interesting, though, that almost any interpersonal interaction gone awry gets you smack into conflict? Therefore, your expertise served you well!

  2. 26.08.2006 at 11:21 am

    Yes, although clearly I planted the seed of the conflict topic by revealing my background ahead of time. I also think it’s interesting that the emotional intelligence piece came up. People don’t always want to go there, but if you end up in conflict, then managing your own emotional reaction is a big piece.

  3. 27.08.2006 at 12:34 pm

    Well I heard you were fantastic during that improvised session…oh wait, maybe that was you who told me that??? Either way, good work and a pleasure finally meeting you.

  4. 27.08.2006 at 8:10 pm

    Great meeting you Zach. Great to put a face with a blog. Or is that a blog with a name? Whatever. Nice to see you at the bloggercon, which I assume will be an annual occurence. See you in Chicago!