How Can Elmo Make Your Nonprofit's Meetings More Effective? | Beth's Blog

How Can Elmo Make Your Nonprofit’s Meetings More Effective?

Instructional Design, Meeting Design

No, I’m not talking about the cute red Muppet. ELMO stands for “Enough! Let’s Move On.”  It is a ritual or organizational norm that can used during meetings to avoid unnecessary discussions that don’t support the meeting objectives.  It’s a fun way to avoid one of the most common meeting productivity killers: Rabbit Holes.

How does it work?

  • Introduce the concept at the beginning of the meeting.
  • If the discussion during the meeting has jumped down a rabbit and become a time waster, anyone can raise their hand and be silent.
  • As soon as you notice someone with their hand up and not talking, you raise your hand.
  • It should spread through the participants in the meeting.

Another way to accomplish this is to assign the role of “Rabbit Hole Monitor” (in addition to scribe and time keeper). The rabbit hole monitor is someone who is tasked with making sure discussions on one topic do not drag the whole meeting down a rabbit hole. If people are digressing or spending too much time on a topic which doesn’t merit the discussion, the rabbit hole monitor stops the discussion and brings the meeting back on track. (They can use the ELMO technique!)

Virtual meetings are also prone to non-productive discussions. Collaboration Superpowers has a set of cards that you provide for participants that includes an ELMO card. The cards allow meeting participants to communicate visually while others are talking on a video conference call. There are also  cards for other common online meeting hazards – like “You are on mute.”  The benefit of visual communication does not interrupt the meeting flow.

You can purchase the pre-made cards or print your own set. There is also a set you can download on your phone.

What techniques, rituals, or meeting norms does your nonprofit have to make meetings more productive?

2 Responses

  1. Can you tell us more about this? I’d care to find out more details.

  2. Sara says:

    We have used an effective tool called a “Sandbox”. It is introduced at the start of the meeting, we post up the agenda (or have it printed for everyone to follow). If we get on a tangent, or start down a Rabbit Hole (a term we also use!) A Sandbox guardian will stand and say, great topic – I’m going to put it in the Sandbox to work on another time (or they just stand and start writing and the team is like, ahhh Rabbit Hole)…then a quick ask if there are any other items related that are on people’s minds? Jot them down and then move back to the agenda item. It’s a pretty effective tool and doesn’t feel abrupt, condescending or like someone is getting shut down. Because lets face it, sometimes we just need to SHUT IT DOWN. Haha (that’s my favorite quote from SMILF).

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