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NAVIGATING THE VIRTUAL WORLD 

 The field of innovation consulting and design thinking has always been flexible, with service delivery possible across the globe at any time.

Now, with everyone interacting online, meetings and workshops all being delivered virtually, we put together some helpful tips to make this process easier.

NAVIGATING ONLINE MEETINGS &WORKSHOPS

facilitators

FACILITATORS 

Creating, designing and developing a framework for online meetings, workshops is not easy. Here are some practical pointers. Here we are talking about groups of a dozen or less, where audience participation is required. Not those that have hundreds logging into the session and listening.We are talking about smaller groups of 12 or less. Not those huge sessions with hundreds)

AS A FACILITATOR BE WELL VERSED IN YOUR COMM TOOL.

There is only so many times people can listen to the whole 'hang on, let me fiddle with this', or make weak jokes  'it was there just this morning, guess it's feeling <day of the week> fatigue too' or worse, 'guess Friday started early for someone'.

Updates keep happening so make sure you know how everything works.

But don't forget you are there for a reason. Set ground rules, tell participants what is expected of them. Be clear of that, make a slide if you like. (We do it and are often thanked for it!)

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FOR GROUP SESSIONS

The content of your work is the focus, but getting participants comfortable and communicative is just as important, especially when you want their input!

Here are some tips:

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ONE WORD CARDS

Ask everyone to write down their names and one word that says how they are feeling. Ask them to put it up to the camera and take a screenshot of that! Send it to everyone later...doesn't take much effort and makes it more personal.

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STRETCH + DECOMPRESS

If you feel people are losing focus or just plain bored (that happens, not everything can me made fun!), take five. Literally. Ask them to stretch, decompress, turn off camera if they want, but not log off. This isn't an actual break! You can even try easy yoga moves once can do sitting down. You keep the camera on, so they can follow you but give them the option of turning theirs off.

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TAKE A BREAK

If your sessions is 60 minutes or longer, take a break in between. At least 10 minutes. This means you'll have to be careful of your content management. Prep ahead. 

Give participants the option to turn off their cameras and decompress (See above). You can put interesting quotes or a short story, or even images on screen.

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SHARE PHOTOS

Ask people to send one image of something interesting they did that weekend or doing the coming weekend. Alternately, ask for images from their travels/ vacations and quickly describe it in ONE WORD! Something fun and won't take long. (This only works when the group is more playful or know each other). 

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USE POLLS

You can use tools like Mentimeter and ask up to 3 questions for free. If you are using Zoom or Skype, you can use their built-in poll option. (This is why we said get familiar with the interface beforehand!!)

This could be anything from a new movie to sports...really anything that is trending and non controversial. Pro Tip: Stay away from religion and politics.

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FOR CLOSING / EXITING  SESSIONS

Keep time for this, at least 10 minutes.

Close with kind words, and end with what happens next.

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ONE WORD CARDS AGAIN

Ask participants to write one word on how the meeting was on a piece of paper and hold it up to the camera; take a screenshot, you can review it later.

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ASK A QUESTION

Instead of asking how the session was (they may only say neutral or nice things, which is not really helpful), ask a pointed question:

- what went well

-what could have been better

-what was one takeout from the session

-something specific about the topic...

Ask them to write no more than one sentence, take a screenshot to analyze later.

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THE WAVE

Nothing beats an old fashioned waving goodbye. Do it before signing off, others will follow suit! Take a screenshot and send it all participants.

Or ask them to say goodbye in different languages...or you say it. They'll surely remember that!

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GO CRAZY

If you have a group that is playful or fun, ask them to do something funky- a weird dance move or a funny face to say good bye. Everyone does it at once and take a screen shot! 

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USE POLLS FOR FEEDBACK

See no.5 on the left.

OTHER TIPS

USE A TELEPROMPTER APP

It can be a lifesaver if you have to do longer and more intense bits, with lots of facts. They are easy to use and very professional. You write the script, upload it to the app and use it when recording or live chatting. You can find some options here.

INCLUSION

Make everyone feel included, even if they are not responsive. Many are conscious how they look or sound. Some might not have anything to say, or how to communicate. Make everyone as comfortable as you can, help out where you can. But also remember, as facilitator, your time is finite and you have a job to do. Know when to draw the line.

LANGUAGE & REFERENCES

Remember that not everyone has the same exposure to things are you do. Their life experiences and interests might be very different. Age, geography, ethnic background- all makes a difference. This does not mean you change everything about your pre

BREAKOUT GROUPS

These are fun for larger groups, more intimate and less on-the-spot feeling for participants.

VISUALIZATION

This is entirely dependent on your participants. Act accordingly. It is one thing to push people out of their comfort zone, it is whole other thing to make them uncomfortable. Also, bear in mind, many might have no clue what you're saying, and not get your references...keep it basic, at least till you get to know your audience. That said, here are some ideas....

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HAVE A FUNKY SCREEN

You're all in different places but also in the same 'space'! Have a common theme, a landscape or a fantasy landscape... upload an image and share screen and invite others to mess with it! Ask them where they see themselves in this scape. And monitor it. If you find people are being naughty (and there will be such instances), disable immediately

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WHITEBOARDS

 Use built-in virtual whiteboards or get an external one like the one by Miro. 

Other options for virtual whiteboards are: Mural, Stormboard, Microsoft Whiteboard (this is free if you have Microsoft 365 or a free Microsoft account) or Canva. You know what, just  search for "virtual whiteboard" and play around till you like one. Try it out a few times before using it on a session. If your company uses a specific software, again, familiarize yourself with it before going live on a session. Nothing says unprepared than a facilitator who doesn't know their way around the software they are using!

Please note: Quiet Value Consulting has NOT been paid by any of the companies mentioned above. We have used these before and find the interface easy. 

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FUN ICE BREAKERS

-- Draw together. Pick a topic or sub topic related to your meeting or workshop and get everyone drawing on the whiteboard. 

--Tell a story. But.....each one says one sentence only and there is no topic or guidelines (except asking to keep it professional and not use foul language).

-- Mirroring. The facilitator makes a move and everyone copies / follows... move hands, wave, say something but do it differently with your hands (say lift your right hand, but lift your left...)! all depends on how playful the group is and how the facilitator feels about it.

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BUILD TRUST... VISUALLY!

Celebrate curiosity: Each person picks something they see in another person's space and ask them to talk about it. It might be a mundane description or they may say something meaningful. Either way, sparks conversation.

Conversely, ask people to pick one object in the space they are sitting in, (including what they are wearing) and talk about it.  This allows them to talk about something they are familiar with and are no longer hesitant. This also tells you something personal about them. 

Above all, meeting facilitators, bosses and owners MUST be comfortable sharing something themselves. You CANNOT ask others to do something you are not willing to do yourself. 

Visualization
Participants

AND FOR PARTICIPANTS

Be alert

We all have stuff to do and virtual meetings and workshops are tiring. Maybe more tiring than in-person dos. But remember, this gives everyone (including you) a great degree of flexibility. 

IF YOU GET JADED TRY ONE OF THESE:   Ask for a comfort break if it is getting too long and intense. Stretch off-camera (or on, if you are comfortable). At a point where you don't have to speak, turn off camera, mute the mike, step away, make a cup of tea, splash some cold water on your face and come back. No one will miss you, we promise!

Get comfortable

Even though you are not presenting, know where everything is. Especially mute and camera off! Virtual meetings are a part of work life now and it is not that hard to find out some basics about the interface, esp. ones we use the most- the mic, the mute button, how to message one person, group messaging, virtual raising a hand. Also learn how to blur background and / or add a virtual background.

Sit in a comfortable chair!

Do not be self-conscious, participate

This might not be your thing, might make you self conscious, but remember, you are there for a reason. You have skills and a role in the team that has put you in that meeting. Participate, bring your skills into play. 

Make the odd joke but don't be self-deprecating. No one's perfect, you know that by now!

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