Sunday, November 25, 2007

Want to Learn More? Take this Quiz...

Imagine that you need to inform people in a workshop setting about your organization (or another topic for that matter.) Option A: You can make a PowerPoint presentation for 20 minutes and have a Q&A discussion after it for another 10 minutes. But how much will people learn about your subject and how much will stick with this "information push" approach? Here is an Option B for this more traditional method.

Last week we ran a workshop with our organization and an external partner which had as one of its aims getting to know better the two organizations and the people working there. We had our slot in the opening session to introduce the partners and we considered Option A for a moment and decided that it did not really optimise our time, nor give the sense of interactivity and co-learning that we wanted to be representative of the partnership. So instead, we decided to take the same amount of time (perhaps add 10 minutes) and run a quiz.

We asked both partners to come up with a set of questions that made the points that they wanted to come across in their introduction. From our side, we wanted to share our special network structure, our decision-making process, the global nature of our staff and partners, how many of our resolutions deal with the particular sector that this partner belonged to, etc. From their side they wanted to share some key points of their mandate, their sustainability goals, the number of years that our organization had collaborated with them on smaller activities, and more. We structured a quiz of 18 questions (multiple choice, simple fill in and Yes/No) that only a mixed team from both organizations could possibly complete. So five tables of evenly mixed teams each took the quiz.

What happened was a wonderful peer-learning exchange table by table that transferred much more information between participants than we could have ever hoped to give in a centrally run PPT presentation. And people wanted the information, they discussed it, colleagues from the same organization debated the answers, added anecdotes, and shared their insight about the two organizations. That took 20 minutes, the same amount of time as our Option A input. And it was a lot easier for us to present (we literally just handed it out and the participants did all the work.)

The most entertainment came with the "scoring" of the quiz - we went through each question at a good pace (we had the answers in advance) and for each one asked the tables or specific people for their answers. Then we had some open debate, complete with shouting from across the room and good-humoured disagreement. We had prepped one person (the key organizer) from each team to be the final authority - they could point to location of the answers (website, by-laws, mandate, etc.) Bonus points were given for extra information, more detail was added for some questions, and at the end, points were tallied (very loosely) and the winning table got the prize. Well, every table got a prize (a bag of chocolates to share) as it was hard to be very accurate with the final scores, and that was not really the point. Total time for Option B - about 40 min. Every table got almost every question correct so they learned our key points, people got to know each other much better, and to have a real experience (in a compressesd time) working together to accomplish something that neither group could do entirely alone. In this activity, everyone was the "expert" not just the presenter, and it set a great atmosphere of informality and sharing for the rest of our workshop. For the extra 10 minutes between Option A and B the return was worth it.