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Our Tips for Remote Facilitation

Posted by Steve Krysak
Steve Krysak

With more organizations and individuals working from home, teams are turning to remote methods to have discussions and come to a consensus. At Overlap, we’ve been running facilitations with clients both in-person and online for years, and have a few ideas you can implement in your next meeting to help you ensure success. 

Preparation is important

Planning how to accommodate the different needs of your participants while ensuring your goals are being met will help set you up for a successful remote facilitation. A few things to consider: 

  • Timing: Do you want to run this as one meeting, or multiple shorter meetings spread over a few days or weeks? We’ve had success in breaking up what would have been a one-day in-person session into multiple weekly remote sessions, each building on the last. 
  • Technology: What do you need to be comfortable and successful? Maybe this means testing out your system ahead of time (which we highly recommend!) or setting up your workspace specifically for a multi-hour video conference. Get the set-up you need to ensure your success. 
  • Pre-Work: What can your participants do ahead of time to feel well-equipped to participate in your session? This could mean installing the conferencing software and reviewing the agenda, or inviting participants to work ahead on “start solo” activities for the first few prompts.

Not sure where to start? Download our 5 Steps to Intentional Impact Worksheet to use to plan your next remote meeting or facilitation. 

Change your style to match the format

Running a meeting online is going to feel different than in person, and your facilitation style is going to have to accommodate that. A few guidelines we try to follow in our remote sessions: 

  • Don’t expect it to be seamless. We plan our content to start 5 or 10 minutes into the hour, so participants have enough time to get online and familiar with the tool we’re using. 
  • Repeat yourself often and use on-screen prompts as well as discussing them with the group. A simple slide deck of your prompts will help guide the conversation visually. 
  • Check-in with participants and embrace the awkward silences. Giving participants enough time to formulate a response, un-mute themselves, and weigh in may feel awkward, but you’re creating the space for everyone to participate. Embrace it and call it out!  

Use features in your conferencing tool to facilitate collaboration

There are countless tools you can use for your remote facilitation. Each offers different capabilities and trade-offs. Here are some of our favourite features to look for: 

  • Breakout rooms: Segmenting large groups into smaller rooms can help facilitate smaller group activities and consensus-building. 
  • Call recording and transcription: Having a record of the call and a transcription can save hours of work. Ahead of the call, be sure to inform participants the call will be recorded and explain how the data will be used.
  • Audience participation: Allowing participants to virtually raise their hand or thumbs up/thumbs down is a quick way to get them involved and ensure active participation.
  • Video participation: This might feel obvious, but video can really enhance people’s feeling of connection and investment in the session. Depending on the context, people may default to keeping their camera off, so you may want to encourage people to turn their camera on at the beginning of the session.

Give time and space to reflect

At the end of your session, or after it’s completed, make sure you’re following up with participants on their experience. If you’re wondering how to ask people for feedback, use our favourite feedback tool, the Feedback Grid. You can even integrate tools to poll and survey your participants live in that format. 

Can we help?

If this is new for you, don’t worry. It takes time to get comfortable using a new approach and learning how to adapt your facilitation methods to a new format. We’d love to chat with you about your ideas, thoughts, and concerns around remote facilitation. We’re always excited to help our clients discover new ways to collaborate and engage with their teams. 

Looking for more? We hosted a webinar on this topic, which you can view on our website.

Tags: Facilitation, Collaboration, Productive Meetings, Remote Working