I’m doing a free introductory webinar today, 2 – 3 pm Eastern, and a deeper dive next Thursday, April 2, 2 – 5 pm Eastern. Virtual seats are limited to 50, so don’t wait!
CLICK: The Virtual Meetings Book by Michael Wilkinson [Amazon affiliate link] was my bible when I was first learning to transfer my facilitation skills to online meetings. If you’re a beginning to intermediate online facilitator, this book can teach you a lot.
OK, there are some pretty obvious differences between in-person and online meetings. The most relevant is that you can’t catch COVID-19 over the internet!
Another is that the facilitator may have to master a new tech platform. (Today’s webinar covers which platforms are good for what purposes.)
What’s less obvious — until you start leading an online meeting the way you usually lead an in-person meeting — is how different both the content and process must be.
The key differences between in-person and virtual meetings come down to three:
I hope you notice the common denominator! As facilitator, you are the key to your meeting’s success.
Especially now, when people are working from their kitchen tables with their kids doing schoolwork (they hope) in the next room and the dog underfoot, things can and will go wrong. You just have to accept that someone will burst out, “Not now!” or “Drop it!” at some point during the meeting. Be prepared to take a couple of minutes to get everyone back together.
And remember, everything takes longer online than in person. Plan accordingly.
In addition to the usual roles of an in-person meeting, you also have to set “working agreements” on things like who gets to speak when and how.
Partly this role is a function of the fact that you’re controlling the tech platform, so that you decide things like when to mute participants and when to share your screen.
Partly, though, it’s a function of a meatier truth: You’re responsible for enabling everyone to collaborate.
In all collaborative meetings, working agreements govern how the group works together.
In virtual collaboration, working agreements extend to how the facilitator works with the group. You need to voice up front some virtual-specific rules, for example:
These working agreements enable you to manage the group so that all participants can voice their great ideas.
Good online facilitation is more directive than good in-person facilitation.
I almost hesitate to put this out there, because many leaders who haven’t been trained in meeting facilitation are already too directive to get the best out of their teams.
So hear this: Good facilitators, in person or online, are content-neutral. They don’t impose their ideas on the group.
However, good online facilitators do impose process rules, like the one above about calling on everyone in turn. They may also:
This post has barely scratched the surface! Learn more by joining our free webinar on facilitating virtual meetings this afternoon, March 25 at 2:00 Eastern.
What differences have you experienced, as facilitator or as participant, between in-person and virtual meetings?
What do you feel you’ve “nailed” when it comes to facilitating online meetings?
What are your challenges?