A video meeting feels like the default to me. We have the tooling and many of the habits we need to just keep moving forward with our daily business: good internet connection, headset with a good microphone, everyone on a camera, use of chat function, and other real-time collaboration tools. But now I’m actually excited by the prospect of translating my in-person facilitation skills to the virtual world. This will require instilling a bit more discipline so that our good work in this area becomes excellence and our ability to collaborate actually amplifies.
It’s one thing to be productive on your own or in pairs in remote and distributed working environments, but that isn’t the same as collaborating in groups. The difference boils down to having the discipline to follow some important principles and use some new techniques. Like any new learning, these may feel awkward at first, but once they become second nature, you will find the flow of virtual collaboration will be entirely worth it.
Be clear on the purpose of the meeting. Everyone should know the goal – people are more comfortable when they know what to expect.
- Are you just there to discuss a topic?
- Do you need to make or come to agreements? Have a plan for decision making. (E.g. state the decision and have a visual thumbs up or down.)
- Do you need to generate idaes? Use a tool where people can add their thoughts. There are a lot of free boards like Fun Retro, paid tools like Mural, or even Google sheets
- Have an agenda and make sure everyone knows who is facilitating and how
- Have everyone on their own video
- Greet people when they enter the “room” (it’s nice and has the side benefit of testing out their audio)
- Start the meeting having each person say their name and where they are physically. This breaks the seal on everyone contributing and brings in their attention
- Do round robins to get everyone’s thoughts on a specific topic (put a list of the names in chat and go in order, see “time box” below)
- Mix in popcorn style where people jump in with their thoughts. I say "mix in" because this tends to be the norm and it isn’t a bad way to go, it just shouldn’t be the only way
- Give people time limits for getting points across; it's amazing what people can say in one or two minutes or even 30 seconds
- Use an audible timer so it is fair. No need to be overly intense about it: it's just when people hear the timer go off, they know to wrap it up
- Plan larger time boxes for everything you need to get through and be realistic. It could turn out you need more time; ask the group and pivot if you need to
- For the “hear, hear”
- For small add-ons and re-phrasings
- Funny jokes and puns (it can still be fun)
- It’s okay if there is a pause between one person speaking and another, in fact, great ideas happen in the space between
- Plan or schedule in reflection moments, if helpful
- Have a clear purpose and agenda
- Listen to others - you'd like them to listen to you, and they may inspire you
- Build in breaks if it’s a long meeting