Use Six Thinking Hats for Success in Facilitating Virtual Meetings

More and more organizations are turning to virtual meetings to save time and money. In fact, recent research by CWT Travel Management Institute shows that of meeting and event planners surveyed—

  • 96% work with or for organizations that conduct virtual meetings
  • 80% have seen growth in this area in the past three years
  • 70% expect moderate to high growth in the next three years

(© 2010, CWT Travel Management Institute)

Yet just over half of those polled feel that virtual meetings cannot match the quality of face-to-face meetings in terms of attention and interaction between participants. Using Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats® to facilitate meetings offers improvement in both of these areas. Here’s how.

Six Thinking Hats is a framework designed to sharpen virtual meeting effectiveness by methodically channeling group attention in six key directions.

Blue Hat: Thinking About the Thinking
What is our focus, what is our agenda, who needs to be at the meeting, what roles will people play, how long will the meeting last, how much time will we spend on each part of the agenda, how can we make sure everyone participates, how can we summarize the results, who will take what action after the meeting?

White Hat: Facts, Information, Data
What do we know, what do we need to find out, how will we get the missing information?

Green Hat: Idea Generation
What are ideas for addressing the issue(s) raised, what are alternatives to the more obvious or typical solutions, what can we do to innovate?

Yellow Hat: Benefits
What value does each idea offer, why do we think it might work?

Black Hat: Risks and Cautions
What are the problems, what might go wrong, why do we think it might fail?

Red Hat: Feelings, Intuition, Emotion
How does each participant feel about the agenda, the focus, particular ideas, decisions, next steps?

Multitasking is a prime enemy of successful virtual meetings. As one middle manager observed: “I can read my email, make to-do lists, send instant messages, even sneak in a quick phone call if it’s urgent, all while following the moderator and discussion!” Six Thinking Hats relieves the temptation to multitask in several ways.

First, the focus is reviewed at the beginning of each Six Hats virtual meeting and each attendee signs off on it. The facilitator then monitors the conversation to interrupt off-focus comments made by those not paying close attention.

Second, in virtual Six Hats meetings there are frequent requests for each member of the group to contribute under each hat. This can be done by having each individual enter comments on-screen, calling on each for verbal input, administering quick online voting or surveys, and other means. Participants must track the discussion closely to remain on target.

Third, the hats themselves are visual cues that focus and sustain attention. A simple graphic of the hat in use reminds participants of their responsibility to contribute and keeps everyone in synch.

Research shows that it’s a fact—the use of virtual meetings is on the rise. In order to capitalize on the cost savings of meeting this way, we must become experts in conducting productive virtual meetings. Six Thinking Hats is a flexible and effective way to address two main concerns about the efficacy of virtual meetings: holding the attention of the group and providing for group interaction.

Please call 1.800.278.1292 for more information or email