Opinion

you’re on mute…again.

Meeting facilitation is a skill… and if we’ve all learned something in the workplace over the past year, it’s that virtual meeting facilitation is a rare and underdeveloped skill set for many of us. With offices talking about return-to-work plans, hybrid work arrangements may make working together while apart even more complex.

Now’s the time to refine those virtual meeting facilitation skills! Here’s what I wish everyone know about running online meetings. Drop a comment below and let me know what you’d add to this list.

A quick note: My key working assumption is that you know a video meeting is the right communication approach to meet your participant’s needs. Not sure? Check out this short article from Duke University. Video should not be a default.

  • Practice the platform. Know your virtual platform’s functionality and practice in advance. Basics include screen sharing, muting/unmuting participants and using non-verbal reactions. Test the virtual experience as much as possible by asking friends to join a practice meeting and walkthrough.
  • Have a low-tech back up plan. If your WiFi goes down 20 minutes before your meeting, know how to dial in on audio only or create a hotspot with your smartphone.
  • Dial up your energy. Show up with game day energy! Your audience will be following your lead on energy, enthusiasm, and tone. You must come in at about 20% higher than you want to get back from your attendees. It feels weird and makes a huge difference. Nick Morgan’s Can You Hear Me Now? is a great resource on WHY virtual communication is a new skill set.
  • Engage your learners in the first 3 minutes. Set the participation expectations from the start. Low-barrier-to-entry ideas to consider:
    -Drop a note in the chat box to tell me one thing you want to learn today.
    -Raise your hand if you’ve attended a session on our topic in the past.
    -Tell me how’re you feeling about our session today in 5 words or less.
  • Divide your agenda into 15-minute blocks. Adult learners focus for about 12 – 18 minutes before the brain is overloaded with information and the mind starts to wander. Keep your participant’s attention by having a change in activity/presenter/content every 15 minutes. Level up your learner’s experience by having some sort of check-in, question, or opportunity for engagement every 5 – 7 minutes.
  • Let people talk to each other. If you have more than 20 attendees and your meeting is longer than an hour, use breakout rooms to allow smaller group discussions. Imagine if you were running this session in person – you’d allow people to have smaller conversations at their tables.
  • Practice meeting room management. Set the tone early by talking to your participants directly. “Devin, so glad you could make it today!” “Jonah, it looks like you’re having great weather.” You’re signaling to your participants that you are paying attention and using their names means they need to be ready to be pulled into the conversation.
  • Mute people liberally. As the meeting host, you control everything. Make joining on mute the default setting for your meetings. “Mute all” as needed. Hearing “you’re on mute!” is better than hearing everything else. Bonus: Know how to turn OFF someone’s camera for them to avoid embarrassing situations.
  • Get a producer. Consider having someone behind the scenes to keep an eye on the chat box, manage muting/unmuting participants, running the slides, taking attendance… all of the administrative effort needed for a virtual meeting. This allows you to focus on content delivery.
  • Give people a break! Sessions longer than 90-minutes need a 5-minute stretch break at the hour mark.

Want more?
Check out How’s Your Virtual Facilitation Going Now? via The Big Bang Partnership blog.

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