Meeting Support Services

We are keenly aware of how important it is that you get your meetings right and we have years of experience in helping to make that happen.

To meet this need we provide a full suite of Meeting Support Services. In addition to your staff and governance team, Meeting Supportive Services can be leveraged strategically to forge stronger connections with your key partners.

Meeting Formats include:

Meetings, presentations, discussions, meetings that occur mostly “in the room” (think Board Meetings), interviews, readings, concerts, large conferences including multi-day events, meetings with international connections, keynote speeches, meetings in which participants share and collaborate on documents such as working groups

The Tools we deploy include:

Meeting Solutions and Initiatives that we provide include:

  • Cross Organization Conversations
  • Interviews with candidates and/or search committee members joining from around the world
  • Developing Meeting Ready Offices & Staff
  • Conference room design and upgrades
  • Insuring that you have affordable, appropriate, effective gear

Facilitating effective remote connections to meeting is, of course, a hot topic these days and is transforming the way we all work. We have extensive experience with making these connections successful, whether across  town or across time zones.

We understand the importance of finding the sweet spot for virtual connections within the culture of how you and your staff work, meet and share. There is still a place for being in the room, to sharing full days and meals. And there is a tremendous value in having your country rep in Nigeria join the meeting of your leadership team; and skip the flight, the hotels and the unplanned and unscheduled disruption of their work.

We will also work with you to ensure that the suite of applications and technologies you deploy are the right fit for your organizational culture and needs.

We can work with you to identify the right balance between virtual and in person meetings, and to integrate virtual connections where they make sense.

LTA has an office in Vienna, offering time zone friendly training and support for your staff in the field in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and six hours closer to Asia.

We have been immersed in this craft at the American Friends Service Committee for the past 9 years and in 2012 we were asked to formally created the Meeting Support Services (MSS) project at the AFSC. Our team has taken on 90% of the work related to meeting support. In doing this we have allowed the Program staff to stay focused on their work in the field, and have shifted the burden of meeting support away from the core IT team.

We work closely with the entire AFSC Staff, Board, and key Committees to sharpen their vision, develop necessary skills, and prepare for and deliver successful meetings.

Cross Organization Conversations

Issues involving the direction and strategy of your entire organization have a level of importance and complexity where they are often both of timely interest to all staff members, and require the input of diverse voices. Cross Organization Conversations are designed to address these kinds of topics in a way that is effective, inclusive and economical – delivering sharp, clear key strategies and messages and ensuring buy-in from your stakeholders.

Using the successful method we have developed for holding this kind of Conversation, we have worked with our clients to:

  • Identify key strategic goals to guide program planning and the direction of new initiatives
  • Reveal linkages between existing program work and opportunities for fruitful collaboration
  • Hone in on key messages and themes for outreach and fundraising and/ or to structure major events

LTA can work with you to envision the dynamics then hammer out the logistics.

Through this work, we have found that Cross Organization Conversations provide an invaluable source of information to inform strategic decisions in way that reflects and embodies work being done on the ground, the direction in which staff members and other key stakeholders wish to move, and develop effective messaging to engage with partners and stakeholders.

Participating in the small-group sessions that make up the Conversation enables staff members to have real input in decisions that affect their work and in doing so, creates a sense of buy-in and esprit. At the same time,  they provide  a valuable way to develop and hone your organizational brand.

Through our experience we have developed a set of best practices that ensure your Conversation is both effective and enjoyable for all involved.

We can guide you throughout all aspects of this process. As well as providing technical and logistical support we bring a team with insight into facets of what can be a complex undertaking, including:

  • Recruiting and scheduling participants into session
  • Training and orienting effective facilitators in this specific process
  • Extracting and analyzing themes that emerge and their relevance for your work

For an example see Projects: Building a Framework for a Lasting Peace

International Communications and Collaboration

Organizations that span countries, continents and time zones face a particular set of challenges; technical, cultural, and temporal.

International Connections

Lighthouse technology Associates is experienced in facilitating international communications and collaboration and we can offer support in implementing effective strategies including:

  • Offering routine testing and troubleshooting for staff who might have tenuous connections, including determining and testing alternatives ahead of scheduled conferences or meetings
  • Offering solutions that make it possible to dial participants into a meeting via their land-line or mobile phone. Training staff to use these features, for example to connect participants with a weak internet connection but relatively reliable local phone service. Note this can also be used to shift the cost of a call from the caller to your central office.
  • Helping Staff stay on top of timezone changes
    • We provide our clients with twice a year alerts about changes in daylight savings around the world
    • Note that Europe switches over one week ahead of the US, Arizona and Hawaii don’t change, and that all around the world you will find anomalies
  • Training staff to use Skype effectively as a supplemental technology

International Inclusion

In addition to technological solutions we can advise you in implementing practices which promote full inclusion of international staff.

It is easy for an organization with headquarters in the US or Europe to become “centric” around your location, your time of day, your holidays.

We’ve developed effective ways to integrate staff around the world and create an environment and organizational culture that is conducive to collaboration across the entire organization – especially techniques for holding meetings that deploy technology and extend over time zones.

For example we’ve developed a successful protocol for holding essential meetings in two sessions, providing participants access to a convenient session, including live Q & A,  no matter where they are around the world.

In addition LTA enhances the standard documentation and training suite by offering plain-language documents and a glossary of common technical terms for ESL staff.

These efforts send a clear message to international staff that they are valued members of your organization. Effectively including international staff in your work creates possibilities to forge strong working relationships across regions and opens doors to more organization-wide programmatic work.

Managing virtual connections to streamline the Interview Process

Introducing audio and video conferencing to the interview process can help streamline the logistics and lead to significant savings, while still providing the ‘in the room’ feel and giving your search committee solid ground to make their selection. Candidates, committee members, or a mix of both can join an interview remotely.

Still, no matter how you choose to conduct the interview process, confidentiality for the candidates, secure and timed access to each session, and providing a level playing field all remain key considerations. We bring knowledge and experience in both the sensitivities around holding interviews, and the techniques required to make the process go smoothly.

For example, we can work with you during the interview process to:

Control timing and access: If your Audio Conference application provides a Dial Out option that allows you to dial a participant into a call yourself, this can allow you to be in control of exactly when a remote participant joins their interview call. This prevents candidates from accidentally interrupting other sessions and allows you to control the flow during a day of interviews. If you do not have this technology in place we can work with your to introduce it and use it effectively.

Add a personal component to remote interviews:  If the candidate is in a room with members of the committee and other committee members join via video conference, it is standard practice the use a ‘room camera’ that allows the virtual participants to see the room, the candidate, and their colleagues in the room. In this case we have found that it can be very helpful to add an additional ‘candidate cam’, providing a close-up view of the candidate. This set-up allows committee members attending remotely to experience the candidates’ reactions in much the same way as their colleagues in the room.

Data Analytics: Getting to Effective

In his NY Times article on the way the Nature Conservancy and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology teamed up to create “pop up” wetlands for the millions of migratory birds who use California’s Central Valley as a flyway, Jim Robbins includes this quote from Eric Hallstein, an economist with the Nature Conservancy; “It’s a new ‘Moneyball,’  We’re disrupting the conservation industry by taking a new kind of data, crunching it differently and contracting differently.”

Moneyball, of course refers to Michael Lewis’ book about the Oakland Athletics’ data-driven approach to baseball.

We have entered into a new era where Data Analytics is helping us all home in on what it means for us, and our work to be effective.

Andrew Means, founder of the Impact Lab cuts to the quick, “Simply put, we help you ask and answer questions.”

Through our partnership with Andrew and the Impact Lab we are able to help you get to effective.

“Telepresence” Skills for Key Staff

While being Meeting Ready is important for all staff, projecting knowledge, expertise  and charisma over a variety of meeting platforms is an especially valuable skill for key staff members.

Telepresence coaching prepares key staff to present at a conference, participate in a panel, even deliver a keynote address right from their desk or home office.

Lighthouse Technology Associates can work with your staff to develop the foundation for telepresence skills, including building and using the infrastructure for effective communication at a distance. For key staff members,  we partner with Community Media Workshop to offer advanced coaching.

Telepresence can help your organization expand your reach, and thus your impact, by increasing the opportunities for key staff to deliver your message personally. Strong telepresence skills create an ‘in the room’ feel, even in meetings held at a distance and make it easier for potential partners, clients, and funders to get to know your organization. Enabling key staff members to participate remotely can help reduce both the costs and wear and tear of travel on your staff, allowing you to reserve  time and travel costs for only the most impactful events.

The Meeting Support Calendar at the AFSC

The LTA Team designed and developed the Meeting Support Calendar at the AFSC. This brought all of the details related to each significant meeting into a single calendar and provides a Calendar View and an InfoPath Form that allows our team and AFSC staff to enter and track their meetings.

The MS Calendar has brought clarity to a process that had been difficult to manage. Meeting details tend to come in via email, Skype IMs, in the elevator and over the cubical wall …. Having a central place to record and track that stream has been helped to tame this process.

This platform has laid the foundation for other projects.

Building the Star Cafe – A SharePoint Project

Building the Star Cafe – A SharePoint Project

Star Cafe is the intranet for the American Friends Service Committee. Since 2007, members of the LTA team have worked side by side with the AFSC’s in-house team and have played key roles in design, implementation, roll out and support for the Star Cafe.

Follow this link for more about this project.

The Star Cafe is a SharePoint implementation.


Building a Compliance List in SharePoint

This is a project in continuous development and will carry on well into 2014. We are working closely with the International Programs (IP) leadership team at the AFSC to create the IP Compliance List in the Star Cafe.

This will allow involved staff to track, be alerted to, and manage compliance issues related to the AFSC’s work around the world. Compliance issues are numerous and include Country Registration and keeping staff visas up to date.

LTA has worked with that team to develop the details of the full set of compliance issues and Peter is working to develop the business processes and workflows that will record and track the steps, and send alerts to the appropriate staff when any compliance issue hits the radar.

IP views this as a pilot project that will be expanded to cover compliance issues across the AFSC.