How to facilitate like the All In pod - the Jason Calacanis way
8 tips, tricks and things to take to your next large meeting
Lately, we have been getting into the All-in podcast. It is a great source to hear about what is going on in the tech space, economy, and politics and get an insider's point of view. The panel has diverse expertise from investing, working in start-ups as early employees, and starting and selling start-ups. The interesting aspect of this podcast is how the four members very different opinions at all times. Most episodes involve heated discussions on a topic. The four members are Chamath Palihapitiya, David O. Sacks, David Friedberg, and Jason Calacanis (JCal).
Jason Calacanis was interviewed by Tim Ferriss and revealed his thoughts and process behind the podcast. He talks about how he facilitates conversation with such differing personalities. He calls it moderation but this facilitation skill can be used in various workplace meetings, especially when there is a HIPPO in the room.
These approaches he talked about can be used immediately in your work. Use it when thinking about planning and running a meeting with senior leadership / strong personalities.
1. Each person has a clear role
In a meeting, everyone knows what they are bringing or offering to that meeting. In the All in podcast case, they each have a different political position and/or expertise. For meetings at work it should be clear why you are gathering these particular people. Is it for a decision to be made, discussion or idea iteration.
Calacanis talks about understanding what the boundaries are of each member of the group. As the facilitator and organiser of the meeting, you should have a good sense of what people are and are not willing to discuss. Keeping in mind what their goals are. If you do not, an individual stakeholder interview would give you the opportunity to get to know the person better.
2. Agreed upon signals
Calacanis interestingly talks about signals to move the conversation along. For them, it can be challenging as they are all dialling in, and the podcast is recorded remotely. He has experimented with different ways and does not rely on tooling/technology like Zoom hand raise. This is worth keeping in mind if you bring in external people to a meeting who may be unfamiliar with the tool, and tooling “norms”. Inside your organisation, it is standard to use Zoom hand raise, but your guests may not know about it. Calacanis uses subtle signals that the group understand and are all on the same page about moving the conversation forward.
3. Notes/agenda beforehand
The All in podcast members are all-time poor. As the organiser of the session, Calacanis ensures to share a group-accessible document before their session. The document ensures they are on the same page about what is to be discussed. Members are encouraged to add to the agenda. If the agenda is light Calacanis tags people in to add something or make sure members will need to prepare for a topic. There are clear action items to be done beforehand. This can be replicated easily. Use a meeting agenda, pre-reads with deadlines. With an expectation preparation before a meeting needs to be done to make the meeting as effective as possible. No one should be attending a meeting underprepared if there are decisions to be made if that is the purpose of the meeting.
4. Feedback is given after
One behind the scenes that was shared by Calacanis is he shares feedback to the other members. It includes notes about what they could be doing more or less. He is trying to bring the best of each personality forward, and as the more experienced podcaster, he knows what works, and what does not. He takes notes and shares those notes with people in a timely manner, so each episode has a round of feedback.
This one is not as easy to replicate depending on the culture of your organisation. Keep in mind who is open to feedback. It helps to ask people if they would be open to feedback. If they opt in, then share it with them. The recipients are ready for it and more willing to listen.
5. Agreed upon cadence and format, and channel of communication
The All in group has an agreed-upon way they communicate between episodes, and in their case it is Signal. If you have regular meetings with a specific group of attendees it is good practice to have a clear channel. Everyone is aligned on where to get updates. The working group is consistently checking it, whether it be a specific Slack group or channel, email, or some other tool.
Running the session itself - Calanacis knows each person’s strengths and interests. He uses that to lob questions or gives people an opportunity to shine. If you had a meeting with for example with a UX Researcher, a Product Manager and a Software Engineer. You would be amiss not to ask the Engineer to talk about technical feasibility.
6. Observe and take inspiration from other formats or people
Even though Calacanis has been doing his own podcast for some time, he still takes a growth mindset approach. He learns from other podcasts, hosts and media. You can do that too by observing and emulating how others do things if it resonates with you. He takes notes and applies certain things.
7. Review your own skills
Not only does Calacanis give notes he also takes the time to take on some feedback and review his own style. It is a bit more organic for the All in podcast because people leave comments on YouTube, twitter and send it in. When people are anonymous they can be more direct, or even harsh. Nonetheless has taken on some of that feedback. In an organisation setting you may have to solicit feedback as it may not come through organically.
8. Parking lot - a chance to circle back to interesting points or topics
Calacanis talks about using a technique where if a speaker goes off topic he will try to redirect back to the original topic. He makes a note of it to come back to it later if time permits. Using an ideas or topic “parking lot” that is very visible to attendees is always helpful with a large group. They do not need to feel like they have to say everything all at once and not give the others an opportunity to speak.
Often at work, the purpose of a meeting is to make sure everyone is on the same page. Some form of agreement needs to happen to move things forward. Calacanis’ goal for the podcast is debate and interest. It is always good to take inspiration from others but also remain true to yourself and your own style if it works for you.
Additional articles that are relevant:
Notable timestamps if you want to hear the discussion in Calacanis’ own words:
[1:27:38] KeepingAll-In running smoothly with four very different personalities.
[1:34:53] Talent-wrangling techniques.
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