Last month we had the privilege to host Becky Hirst, community engagement expert, in one of our Better Together Lunch and Learn events.

The insights Becky gave us on online facilitation were invaluable, and we are sharing them with you.

There are 7 steps to joining what Becky calls the ‘Mile High Facilitating Online Conversations Club'.

1. Pre-flight check - Plan, plan, plan

  • Don’t attempt to start a meeting or workshop without a running sheet where all the times have been considered
  • Think about technology availability and have a backup plan if all else fails
  • Consider having some background music to be played as you welcome people to the meeting
  • Are you recording the meeting or taking notes?
  • Think about potential interruptions and minimise them
  • Test your devices, connection and microphone!

2. Boarding - Here is when your guests start arriving

  • Welcome people, use their names as you see them joining. This will make them feel included
  • Keep repeating the key messages as people join, e.g. remind them to put themselves on mute, when the session will start, etc.
  • OWN the space, avoid the awkward silence, you are the host!
  • Know your role as facilitator
    • Help people feel comfortable
    • Set ground rules
    • Make sure everyone feels heard
    • Keep things on track
    • Monitor the energy levels and jazz things up a bit!
    • You want people to leave your meeting satisfied

3.  Equipment and safety briefing - Digital housekeeping

  • Explain how you will be running the session and stick to it!
  • Videos on or off? (Encourage on!)
  • Questions throughout or at the end?
  • Any break times?
  • Any break-out rooms or other tools for participation?
  • Recording the video or not?
  • Set boundaries around respect and privacy

4. Take off

  • Set the scene
  • Present the issue
  • Provide information (don’t allow for Q&A just yet! Reassure people it will be a guided process)
  • Explain why people are there

5. Flying high - Remember that to have a good conversation you need to:

  • stay on topic
  • have clear direction about where you are going and how to get there
  • ask questions and keep people engaged
  • allow for time to really ‘listen with interest’ to people’s input
  • recap as you go to make sure your understanding is correct
  • be aware of your body language at all times (and check your participants’ too!)
  • be a friend not a foe, your role is to help people feel heard and included
  • let people voice their frustration or concern and acknowledge it
  • be authentic!

6. Prepare for cabin landing - reaching your goal, the 5 steps to remember are:

  • inclusion
  • participation
  • cooperation
  • egalitarianism
  • solution-mindedness.

7. Arrivals hall - You got there!

  • No sticky notes collection!
  • Follow up with a ‘thank you’ email as soon as you can

Those tips above will be a game changer for your next online meetings! Make sure you apply them and see the results.

If you want to know more about Becky, head to her website or check her Linkedin to find some interesting insights about her experience in this area.