Simple Yet Brilliant Facilitation Technique You Should Be Using

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If you’ve ever wished for a way to handle rapid fire questions during a public meeting Q&A, this one’s for you. At a recent storm preparedness workshop in Manhattan, partnering a facilitator with a speaker during the all-important Q&A session made sure even the most agitated questioner felt included, the process was smooth, and the speaker had ample time to prepare answers.

Here’s how it worked: Once the speaker finished, the facilitator opened a 20-minute Q&A by collecting three questions from the audience and writing them on a flip chart. He then restated the questions for the speaker to answer one at a time. After the first three had been answered, the facilitator collected three more, and on until 20 minutes had ended.

Here’s why this approach worked so well:

The facilitator managed audience expectations about the length and process of the Q&A

No individual could dominate the Q&A

The speaker had plenty of time to frame each response

Questioners—and the audience—saw and heard the questions

The Q&A was controlled from start to finish

We’ve all seen meetings where the Q&A devolved into something less than productive—a good facilitator anticipates the unexpected with a toolbox of options that can turn the most contentious meeting into a positive experience. What are some successful facilitation techniques you’ve seen or used?

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Ready to Roll: 5 Tips to Prepare for Bike to Work Day

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Friday, May 20, is Bike to Work Day. It is a chance to showcase the many benefits of cycling—and encourage more folks to give biking a try. The annual event, celebrated coast to coast, has become a soapbox for increased interest in cycling. In the metropolitan Washington region, participation in Bike to Work Day has increased every year since its inception, beginning with only a few hundred registrants and swelling to more than 17,500 in 2015.

Celebrated in May each year, the event supports cycling as a healthy commuting option that saves money, reduces traffic congestion and improves air quality. Here are tips to help you prepare and make the most of Bike to Work Day in your area:

1) Get involved.

More than half of the largest US cities host Bike to Work Day events. It’s a once-a-year opportunity to measure the level of ridership in the region, data that can be used throughout the year to advocate for better bicycling and bicycling infrastructure. So make sure you’re counted by registering for your local event. If there are no events in your community, promote your support for bike commuting by posting on social media using #BikeToWorkDay2016.

2) Plan your route.

Make sure you know the best way to get to work and how long it will take to get there. Google Maps‘ handy bicycling directions tool allows you to plug in your beginning and ending locations as well as any pit stops you might want to hit up on the way to work.

3) Check your bike.

Get your bike in tip-top shape before you take to the streets. Check air pressure, brakes, chains and cranks. An easy way to make sure your bike is in good working order is to do an ABC Quick Check.

4) Dress for success.

Wear what makes you comfortable and visible to traffic. If that’s not your business clothes, fold them into your backpack or bike rack and change before going to your desk. If rain’s in the forecast protect yourself with a rain jacket or poncho and clear-lens glasses to shield your eyes from heavy rain and help with visibility.

5) Ride with a buddy or join a convoy.

Biking to work can be intimidating for a novice. Ask a friend, neighbor or co-worker to ride together, or consider joining a convoy to ride in a larger group. That way you have someone to help navigate and enjoy the journey.

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Microgrids Are the New Kale

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By the time we left New York Energy Week 2015, we’d heard nearly every angle of the business case for microgrids—the “smart food” of the energy world—and how smart grid data sources and new ways to use data, will be a vital part of the changing landscape of energy generation and distribution in New York and beyond.

We also left more certain than ever that public outreach, customer engagement, and informed communication will be pivot points for successful implementation of this sea change in how we approach energy here in New York.

Every year since 2012, energy-sector luminaries gather in New York to talk about the future of energy.  Established by Enerknol, the energy policy data and analytics innovator, and enthusiastically endorsed by Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio, the annual four-day event hits the notes on the most innovative thinking in the energy sector, and this year was no disappointment. The pervasive theme was microgrids—and the subtext was data—how data will be collected, shared, and protected, to feed data-driven technologies to make energy more available, affordable, and accessible in New York.

Heady stuff for sure and more than a little geeky, but from our public outreach perch, the communications challenge to energy agencies, utilities, and companies is daunting. To move these new ideas into use, the energy community will need to understand what business, residential, and municipal customers can and will afford, and it will need to advance engaging, plain-language outreach to help customers understand why and how they should buy in on these new concepts, and move them to act.

The faster communities embrace and invest in microgrids, the quicker they will start to realize the benefits. Turns out Hoboken, NJ, has become a go-to model for urban resource resilience with their waterfront community’s commitment to smart grid technology—Mayor Dawn Zimmer explained how microgrids are adding protections from outages such as those experienced in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

But it’s not just about system reliability during power outages.

Utilities are being asked to provide benefits that go far beyond their original compacts, benefits that include not just delivery of kWhs of electricity but services that are enabled by the sale of kWhs (e.g., efficiency audits, renewable options, storage, and innovation investment). In the new world of increasing demand, aging infrastructures, and expanding smart grids, microgrids, and residential renewables, resilience itself may become valued itself as a service on its own, like insurance.

With stakes this high, leaders are making energy-efficiency initiatives a priority. Ozgem Ornektekin, Deputy Commissioner of Energy Management, NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services, announced that the Big Apple has set a goal of reducing GHG emissions 80% by 2050. This is a big stretch—and a laudable one. It also represents a big opportunity for anyone who can help the City get there.

There’s no way to capture four days of new ideas, but one of our favorite soundbites was from Micah Kotch, director for the NY Prize microgrid competition managed by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), who called microgrids the new kale. Good for you, but you need a recipe everyone will dig into.

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