Effectiveness of Six Meeting Venues to Solve Problems and Generate Unique Ideas

Effectiveness of Six Meeting Venues to Solve Problems and Generate Unique Ideas

in Facilitator Resources, Facilitation Tips
Effectiveness of Six Meeting Venues to Solve Problems and Generate Unique Ideas-2

An Empirical Comparison
Dr. Donna L. McAlister Kizzier
Morehead State University
[email protected]


If solving problems or generating high quality ideas are among your primary meeting goals, which of the many meeting modes available in today’s technological world should you choose to achieve optimal success? Face to face? Teleconference? Audio and video conference? Text messaging? Asynchronous or synchronous? With or without collaborative systems? This research brief addresses these questions.

My previous research briefs addressed the effectiveness of six meeting modes toward selected validated effectiveness factors. The comprehensive, long-term study uses mixed research methods to address the effectiveness of six different meeting venues to (1) solve problems, (2) attend to group processes, (3) address leadership factors, and (4) achieve bottom line and organizational goals. Previous research briefs (1) summarized pertinent literature, objectives and methods used in the comprehensive, long-term research study (McAlister-Kizzier November, 2009), (2) provided results of the quantitative research that addressed bottom line and organization factors (October, 2009), and (3) summarized the qualitative analysis of all major factors.

Study subjects include facilitators, participants and observers of the meetings, providing readers a 3-D perspective of the effectiveness of each meeting mode. In additional the mixed research methods enhance the insight derived from the results. The ultimate purpose of this work is to design useful models to help meeting facilitators conduct the most effective meetings based on their meeting goals. As the study progresses, additional venues and data will be reported in refereed scholarly outlets as well as in this research brief. All results shared in these research briefs have been previously published in a blind peer refereed scholarly journal or proceeding. Readers who desire to read more detail can review my work listed in the references. As in past research briefs, a brief summary of this research is linked to a longer summary that displays detailed research results. Comments from practitioners and researchers on the Facilitate Proceedings blog, is, as always, encouraged and appreciated. All comments will be responded to and taken into consideration to refine this continuing research stream. The current research brief discusses quantitative analysis of the problem solving construct.

The problem solving construct addressed how effectively each meeting mode enabled facilitators to (1) structure and solve problems and (2) to produce unique ideas of higher quality. The construct (both factors combined) and each of the two problem solving factors were analyzed independently. Perspectives from facilitators and participants are summarized.

The following six facilitation modes are addressed:
1 = Face to Face without CS (Collaborative systems)
2 = Face to Face with CS
3 = Audio only (speaker phone) with CS
4 = Audio and video (web cam) with CS
5 = Synchronous text web with CS
6 = Asynchronous text web with CS

Overall Problem Solving

First, combined data from 609 participants and facilitators related to the problem solving construct were consolidated for statistical analysis. The problem solving construct combined perceptions of facilitators and participants toward two variables: (1) to what extent they felt the meeting venue was structured and focused on problem solving and (2) to what extent they felt the meeting venue produced unique ideas of high quality.

Table 1 shows descriptive statistics by meeting mode for the problem solving construct and the two problem solving factors. As summarized in Table 1, for the problem solving construct, participants and facilitators identified face to face with CS as the most effective mode (4.3824) to achieve overall problem solving. The next most effective mode to achieve the goal of problem solving was audio and video with CS (web cam) (3.9063). The next most effective mode was face to face without CS (3.8014), followed by asynchronous text messaging with CS (3.587) and audio (speakerphone) with CS (3.4737). The least effective mode to achieve problem solving was synchronous text messaging with CS (3.4154).

To further understand the significance of these results, ANOVA was conducted. ANOVA found significant differences at .05 (.000) among facilitation modes based on the problem solving construct, prompting post hoc tests. Tukey HSD and Bonferroni post hoc tests (see Table 2) pinpointed where significant differences in effectiveness among the six facilitation modes were discovered. Post hoc analyses found significant differences in effectiveness for the problem solving construct between face to face without CS and both face to face with CS and synchronous text messaging with CS. These results suggest that facilitators and participants perceived face to face with CS to be significantly more effective than face to face without CS for problem solving (-.581, .000). However, facilitators and participants reported face to face without CS to be more effective for problem solving than synchronous web with CS (.385, .015/.018). In addition to finding face to face with CS more effective for problem solving than face to face without CS, significant differences were reported between face to face using CS and each of the other modes studied.

In each case, as illustrated in Table 2, face to face with CS was found significantly more effective than the other modes for problem solving. Significance was reported for audio only speakerphone with CS at .20333, .000, audio and video web cam with CS at .12444, .002, synchronous text messaging with CS at .96697, .000, and asynchronous text messaging with CS at .79540, .000. A significant difference (.49087, .012/.014) was found between audio and video web cam with CS and synchronous text messaging with CS. That is, problem solving was more effective in meetings conducted with the web cam enabled by CS  than with synchronous text messaging using CS.

Table 1
Problem Solving Construct and Factors 
Participant and facilitator factors mean comparison by facilitation mode (N=609)

Highly effective = 5 
Least effective = 1

Effectiveness of Six Meeting Venues to Solve Problems and Generate Unique Ideas

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FacilitatePro is a pleasure to work with. I have another event tomorrow. Being able to work up ideas in parallel is going to shorten the event by 2 or 3 hours. Also, virtually everyone in the event is a strong introvert. Letting them write anonymously in their own little world should be a great help. And, being able to make real-time changes in a conference as the session evolves helps keep the team on track
-Charles V. Dunton, Senior Facilitator, NASA Lean Six Sigma Black Belt
NASA Langley Research Center