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Tips for facilitating online meetings

We thought this might be useful...

Covid 19 has confined us to 2D virtual spaces. We are now spending hours on online meeting platforms and although in some ways it is convenient, it does provide a more difficult challenge in picking up social cues that come very naturally to us in physical spaces.

Students' Union staff recently went on facilitation training and we thought it would be useful to share some of what we learnt, especially considering the context we find ourselves in. Whether you are meeting with others for a reading group or organising collaboratively, good facilitation makes all the difference.

Facilitation is all about ensuring that meetings are efficient and inclusive.

It's about making sure everyone can be involved in discussions and making decisions and it combines a series of roles and tasks. 

Good facilitation should mean participants leave a meeting feeling positive like it's been productive and engaging.

 

Good facilitation includes

  • Planning the meeting ahead of time

  • Listening to the discussion

  • Regulating the flow of discussion

  • Ensuring that everyone has a chance to speak

  • Encouraging participation

  • Keeping the meeting to time

  • Checking in with people

  • Information sharing

  • Summarising and aiding resolution in-line with the agenda*

 

*If you're hosting an online workshop or casual event, there may not be a resolution as such or detailed agenda, but as a facilitator you can wrap up by asking how people feel, reflecting on what you've discussed, learned, achieved - perhaps it's to agree on a future meeting or say how good it felt and how much you appreciate one another!

 

What makes working together online easier?

  • Plan ahead (clarity is everything!)

  • Assign roles and responsibilities and set your agenda beforehand

  • In the meeting, introduce yourself and outline the agenda so everyone knows what to expect, how people should contribute and what time you're sticking to. Depending on the type of meeting, it's a good idea to have an informal ice breaker at the beginning or chance to check-in to see how everyone is doing.

  • On Zoom you can let people know they can privately message you if they have any specific needs.

  • Take breaks, online working can be draining.

  • If a conflict arises then acknowledge different viewpoints, remind people of the aims of the meeting and the agenda.

 

Valuing differences and diversity, people are likely to be from different backgrounds, have different needs and feelings on the day. Acknowledging difference and actively attending to needs aids inclusion.

Remember, you don't have to do it alone - you can always have a co-facilitator, simply work out your roles beforehand so you're clear on the day.