Virtual Facilitation 202: Intermediate Techniques | Monica Thakrar | Skillshare

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Virtual Facilitation 202: Intermediate Techniques

teacher avatar Monica Thakrar, Organizational Consultant and Coach

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

5 Lessons (21m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Tools and Objectives

    • 3. Engagement

    • 4. Facilitating for Different Purposes

    • 5. Conclusion

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About This Class

Are you leading more and more virtual meetings? Do you want to get better at running them. After taking our Virtual Meeting Facilitation 101 course come back and take this one to build on the fundamentals.

Meet Your Teacher

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Monica Thakrar

Organizational Consultant and Coach


Hello, I'm Monica. I am an organizational consultant and coach based in Washington DC. I have 18 years of experience working with medium and large scale corporate and government clients leading large scale change, teaching leadership classes focused on soft skills such as  emotional intelligence, conflict resolution, presentation skills, and mindfulness. I also am an executive coach helping leaders gain skills and grow in their leadership journey.  I am most passionate about helping leaders and organizations grow into their fullest potential. Sample clients include Marriott, NASA, MedStar, National Science Foundation, and Columbia University.

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1. Introduction: Hi, my name is Monica Tucker. I'm a leadership trainer and executive coach and I've been facilitating, engaging, and results oriented meetings for over 20 years in R10, one course on the fundamentals of virtual facilitation, we covered the essential responsibilities of a facilitator and helping to set up the agenda, defining and carrying out and engaging process for the meeting, keeping time and documenting meeting notes in virtual facilitation 20 two, we will be taking these roles and responsibilities to the next level. We're going to take you through how to prepare for and facilitate more substantial virtual meetings, such as a half-day team retreat, planning meeting or Stakeholder Forum. In this course, we'll focus on two objectives, utilizing more advanced techniques, such as breakout rooms, collaborative documentation and polls. That'll help you make these longer meetings more engaging and will give you some ideas on how to facilitate virtual meetings for different purposes, such as relationship building, information sharing, brainstorming, and decision-making. 2. Tools and Objectives: Before we get started with your role and responsibilities as facilitator, let's talk about upgrading your tools and equipment. First, consider an upgrade to your lighting and inexpensive light can go a long way to ensuring that you show up really well no matter what the time of day or night, you can get a desktop stand or a fully acceptable tripod if you'd like to stand while facilitating. Speaking of which, if you haven't already, it's time for you to go ahead and invest in a standing desk. You can raise and lower your entire desktop at the touch of a button. It's fantastic. Not only does it give you more options as a facilitator, but it's far better for your overall health and well-being. It's incredibly helpful to be able to stand up whenever you'd like and continue to engage and then lower it back down and sit when you prefer. Another upgrade you might consider would be either a wall mounted whiteboard or a movable tripod that you can place behind you so that it's clearly visible on camera. This will give you another option for capturing notes, creating visuals, or just posting a welcome sign at the beginning of the meeting. They are links on page 15 of the workbook for some of the various equipment you might want to invest in so that you can be at your best. When do you facilitate and speaking of being as your best? There's a self-assessment on page three to help you consider what strengths you bring to the role of facilitator. Or you naturally good at connecting with people and helping them connect with each other? Are you a good listener? Are you a detailed oriented type or someone who can easily synthesized points into coherent themes. Do the self-assessment and consider what additional strengths you bring to the table. Remember, strengths first. Start by being aware of and maximizing your strengths. Then you can also address weaker areas. Don't try to be someone else when you facilitate, be yourself with more skill. Alright, ready to facilitate. Let's get started. 3. Engagement: In order to keep the participants engaged in a longer type of meeting, like a half-day planning session, town hall or full day meeting. Make sure to vary up how you interact with a team is important. It's like a hit workout. When you're exercising, you want to vary up the speed, intensity, and how you interact with others in order to make the session interesting and productive. The first rule of engagement is not to focus on any one content area in terms of sharing information or lecturing for more than 10 to 15 minutes. Once you've shared information or facilitated a dialogue on one particular topic for that amount of time is good then to vary up how you engage with your audience. One way to engage the group is by using the chat function or having people write input or feedback into the chat, as discussed in the one hundred, one hundred segment, outside of using the chat function and people raising hands are coming off of mute. There are other features in most technical platforms like breakout rooms, poles, and sharing videos or other online content that can be used to vary up the interactions and allow for more audience participation in these longer meetings. Let's start with the breakout rooms. Breakout rooms, our way to put people into small groups for discussions or brainstorming sessions. It is a way to have small group interactions outside of the large group discussions. Most platforms have a way to put some members of a group into these small breakout rooms, either assigning them automatically by the system doing it for you, or manually where you're able to put people into specific rooms based upon who you want to be together. Three to four people in a breakout room, or pairs are usually a good number for small discussions. Once you decide how many breakout rooms you want, the number of people in each one, and whether you want to assign them automatically or manually, you can then put them into breakout rooms. Once the groups or pairs are in a breakout room, they are able to have small group discussions in private. Before putting them in the room. You can let them know verbally what they should be speaking about are doing. You can also write the instructions in the chat function before they go into the room. As they can then read the instructions in the chat while they're there. Finally, you can typically make what is called broadcast messages to the group to give them any further instructions or let them know how much time is left in the session. Some platforms have whiteboards in the breakout rooms, so groups can take notes. In this case, when you bring them back to the main room, you can bring their whiteboard with them so you can report out on what they discussed. Some platforms do not have whiteboard functions, so they can take notes manually and then report out. As discussed in the segment on collaborative note-taking. Finally, when you're done with the breakout session, you can end the breakout room and bring everyone back to the main group. Another fantastic tool for keeping participants engaged is collaborative documentation. Whether you use a shared Google Doc or a shared team's document. This is a great way to have multiple people access and input into the document all at the same time. You'll need to distribute the link ahead of time and ensure that everyone has access to the document you're going to use. Do a dry run before you start the meeting to make sure everything's working properly, but it is worth the effort. Using collaborative documentation gives you all kinds of different options. It's a great tool for brainstorming ideas, gathering comments or feedback from everyone, Capturing references and resources that participants can share with their colleagues. It's also an incredibly useful approach for capturing input from breakout group discussions. There's something energizing about seeing everyone's ideas materialize on the screen. Another way to engage with participants in a meeting is to use the poll function. A poll is a way to ask multiple choice questions or open-ended questions, depending on the capability and the technology platform you're using as a facilitator. This is a way to ask questions like true or false. Two-thirds of change efforts fail. By doing this, facilitators can get an answer from the audience and make them think through something about the content you're presenting. Holes are a great way for the facilitator to have the participants engage in a different way with the content and with the facilitator to be engaged. Another option for engaging participants during a longer meeting is to use videos. Video clips are a great way to bring in humor, drive home a point or tell a story. Ted Talks can be a great source of thought-provoking presentations or use a clip from a movie that brings the point to life. Using video changes the way participants interact. Make sure your settings are optimized for sharing video and sound and dry run the clip before the meeting to make sure everything's working properly. You can distribute the link to the clip as a backup in case anyone has trouble viewing it when you share your screen after the clip, facilitate a debrief discussion if applicable, and capture reactions and ideas. On page 5 is a list of the various engagement techniques prioritize those techniques according to which ones you most want to learn more about. On page 14, you'll find links to a variety of how to articles and videos that will walk you through the step-by-step instructions for each technique on that particular platform. If you don't see your platform on the list, Look for the instructions online. Take some time right now to learn how to implement the technique that will have the most value for you as a facilitator. After this course, continue to pick up new techniques and add them to your skill set. Engagement is key when conducting longer durations of meetings, you don't want to put people asleep or drag things out for too long in any one way. Remember the hit analogy and varying things up every ten to 15 minutes, if that means just asking a question out to the group so they can answer it via chat or putting them in a breakout room. Remember, engagement is key in any meeting, but even more so in a virtual setting. 4. Facilitating for Different Purposes: In this module, we're going to discuss how to use the engagement methods presented in the prior section for various meeting purposes. When it comes to a two-hour or half-day meeting or even longer, you're likely going to be covering several different objectives. You might have some time for members to connect with one another to catch up, and then move into a presentation on a particular idea or proposal. Then do some brainstorming to collect ideas followed by decision-making and defining a path forward. It's important to have a variety of tools in your toolkit to facilitate these different types of interactions and keep them engaging and productive. Once you get the meeting started, it is absolutely your responsibility as a facilitator to keep things running on time for longer meetings, consider using a time clock or cue cards to indicate the time remaining are simply chime in with five minutes remaining, and time's up. Critical to keep each piece running on time. In many meetings, there'll be time allocated for sharing information. As the facilitator, you can make recommendations that will help present or show up well, adjust their technique to the virtual setting and keep the overall meeting engaging and on track. Make sure presenters will use a variety of different presentation styles. Do not, I repeat, do not allow a presenter to drone on and on and on until the participants checkout and start doing other things, make a strong recommendation that presenters use a combination of visuals, questions, and interactive styles in a virtual setting. A longer timeframe may afford you an opportunity to invest more in building relationships among the meeting participants. Hopefully, you can go beyond a one word check-in or quick tag up. You will still need to carefully manage the time so that things don't get carried away. But facilitating an effective team building discussion or activity can be a great way to start off things. From the beginning. You might choose a topic that's light and fun, like my next vacation or my favorite hobby. Everyone can share stories, pictures, or even do a show and tell of an object in their home, of their hobby. To up the fun factor, makeup, a theme for your whole meeting, or include a virtual background contest. If you want to go a bit deeper into building trust and relationships, you might choose to connect around a more substantial topic. You may take advantage of the fact that many folks are working from home and ask participants to share a picture of a relative or family member who means a lot to them and tell us how they impacted your life. Or show us an item that relates to some aspect of your cultural heritage and teach us something about your cultural backgrounds. Remember, you don't have to go through all of these team-building options all at once. You can intersperse these throughout the session. Be careful to keep track of time and keep people to the allocated time limit. Another common purpose for a meeting. To gather input and ideas from the participants. Otherwise known as brainstorming, is not feasible or recommended to have participants began shouting out ideas. But there are a number of engaging, fun, and effective virtual brainstorming techniques. One technique is to add participants, fill out virtual post-it notes and then post them in a shared document where everyone can see. This gives participants the opportunity to think about the topic by themselves first and then share it with the larger group. Another way to brainstorm is to have people annotate their thoughts on a virtual whiteboard. With this option, participant's ideas are kept anonymous and everyone can still contribute is also a way to see all of the ideas listed in one place. A third option is to provide a collaborative note-taking options such as a Google Docs or a team's document for everyone to contribute their ideas at the same time or fill it out beforehand so that ideas are populated before even coming into the session. Finally, you can put people in small groups and breakouts and have them discuss ideas there and then report out to the larger group. All of these options provide ways to get people's voices heard and allow for more options to be shared. Another common purpose for meetings is decision-making. I'm not going to review all of the specific techniques for facilitating decision making as such. Rather, I'm going to emphasize how you can use the virtual tools to make the process of making decisions efficient and engaging for distributed teams. As always, keep in mind that the decision-making process begins before the meeting starts. The basic rule is this, don't use the virtual meeting time for anything that could have been done in advance. Make it clear that preparation is expected. Post relevant documents in a shared folder and ensure everyone can access those and be sure that they come to the meeting ready to make decisions. You can use a collaborative document in Google Docs or Teams, or whichever platform you use to collect input and ideas from your participants in advance of the decision-making meeting. You can use survey monkey or Google Forms to have participants rank various options prior to coming together for the decision meeting. It's a great way to gather and process input before the meeting itself. By using these different techniques, you'll ensure that the valuable virtual meeting time is used to do what is best done in an interactive face-to-face setting. When it comes time for the meeting, ensure that proposals and alternatives are clearly defined and visibly documented. They should be hammered out ahead of time and presented in clear, concise fashion. Next, allocate some time to clarify understanding. Consider the techniques we discussed earlier such as breakout rooms and collaborative documentation to give participants the opportunity to ask questions and clarify proposals. As a facilitator, your role is to keep the discussion focused on what's most valuable to the majority of participants. Don't let the discussion go off on a tangent that's only relevant to a few, put that topic in the parking lot to be addressed later by those concerned. Now, assess the pros and cons of each alternative. This is a great time to use a shared document where everyone can see each other's input on the various proposals. You can keep it simple and compare the pros and cons, or go further and consider the level of risk, the resource demands, the timeline for action and other factors. Finally, it's time to make the decision, define in advance how the decision will be made. The team lead make the decision after considering input? Or will you decide by consensus or by majority? Again, there's a variety of approaches. The point to emphasize here is that you need to adjust the approach to the virtual setting. If everyone's on video, you can simply ask for a show of hands or a thumbs up or down or sideways. But obviously that's not going to work. If you can't see everyone, you can do a roll call which gives every participant a chance to speak up, but that can be tedious. Personally, I prefer a shared document where all participants can see each other's input. This allows you to use various weighted voting techniques and allows team members to capture the rationale behind their vote. Remember, in a virtual setting, it may take more time for team members to truly feel heard, especially if they have concerns about the decision. It's very tempting for team members to just sign off and dissipate rather than speak up in a virtual meeting. Don't cram participants through a process that produces a superficial decision. The goal is to make a decision that has sufficient buy-in and will actually be implemented. On page 9, there are links to resources that will help you expand your toolkit for facilitating different types of meetings. We've discussed. Whether is information sharing, relationship building, brainstorming, or decision-making. There's also a link to resources regarding virtual focus groups. And another one with tips for virtual Strategic Planning. Choose the topic that's the top priority for you. And take some time to open that resource and expand your toolkit in that area. After this course, continue to build your facilitation toolkit for the various types of meetings that you will be facilitating. Then on page ten, take some time to consider how you will utilize that topic you chose in the toolkit. And apply the tools and techniques to a specific meeting that you will be facilitating. Consider the purpose of the meeting, the total time and number of participants, and then draft a plan as to how you will use the various tools and techniques during the course of that meeting. There's an example at the top of the page to get you started. 5. Conclusion: As you can see, virtual meetings do have certain major advantages and can be very effective. Remember to have the proper technology, vary the ways they interact with your group using the technology and leverage the platform to help in facilitating different types of meetings. We have provided lots of different tools and tips in the workbook, as well as additional resources for you to go even deeper. There are several suggestions on page 12 that will help you take your skills to the next level. Observing a skilled facilitator is a great way to pick up ideas and see how various techniques are used in actual practice. And at a higher level of engagement, you should practice new techniques before you try them out on a group. Play with the technology and get some friends or colleagues to join in with you to try things out. That way you can make mistakes, experiment, and really learn the ins and outs of the various technology and techniques. And then volunteer offer to facilitate for community groups or non-profits. Or if you're ready, offered to assist colleagues who would benefit from your facilitation of their meetings. Don't jump in over your head, but do push yourself past your comfort zone. This will accelerate your learning and experience tremendously while bringing value to others. There are additional resources and tech tips on page 13 and 14 and some links for suggested equipment on page 15. If you want to further develop and practice your skills or develop a cadre of capable facilitators across your organization who can run effective virtual meetings, reach out to us and we can support you in developing those skill sets.