On 28th March 2020 Jay Tompt led us through a great zoom workshop on Facilitating Great Online Meetings, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Trying to work out how to face our face-to-face meetings online filled me with anxiety. How do you make sure there isn’t a room of people stuck listening to one person speak? How to enable interaction between participants? Sense the energy in the room? Get a feeling for needs etc when you can’t as easily read faces?

I got loads of questions answered. Here were some of my key takeaways:

PREPARATION

  • You can design the flow of an online meeting basically the same as a face to face meeting. Introductions, break-out groups, presentations, feedback, ideas sharing, everything is possible and online does not limit this!
  • Set up: great to have more than 1 person involved. E.g. One to facilitate the conversation and one to do the technical side – set up break-outs rooms, execute polls, configure shared docs etc, timekeeping, keep an eye on energy. Much like you would at a normal event.
  • Do your prep before a zoom meeting to ensure that you have the right settings, e.g.:
    • Enable break-out groups
    • Set participants as mute on entry
    • If you enable waiting rooms you can put a whiteboard or a jamboard there to help people to get involved before starting, much like the pre-event start networking
  • Before hosting a meeting, get your audio/video set up. Lighting in front and not behind you. Set up the laptop so it’s at a good angle for your face (e.g. not pointed up at your chin). Ensure the microphone works well and the lighting is clear.
  • Set up your documents, polls, links to share in chat, and settings in advance so that it’s all ready to go (see tools below!)

COOL TOOLS

  • In the chat people can post to the whole group or to individual people which enables conversation without interrupting the main flow. Super helpful to enable interaction.
  • In the ‘participants’ view there are buttons to raise your hand, thumbs up and thumbs down, clap, click yes and no, show that you are taking a break, and other functions during the meeting that are great ways to facilitate interaction
  • Setting up a shared GDoc and enabling editing to people with the link, and then posting the link in the chat so that everyone can work on this document together (for whatever purpose – e.g. a shared agenda/ meeting minutes / recording notes from breakout sessions)
  • The whiteboard option in zoom is a great way to collaborate on a blank screen as if it were a flipchart or a whiteboard in a meeting. Click on annotate to add notes etc.
  • Google’s Jamboard is also a way to do this, and people can add images, post-its etc to the shared screen, which is great (see an image of our shared jamboard that we used to experiment during the session below!). Just share the link in the chat and off you go.

 

  • Polls – you can set up polls for the meeting in advance and then launch them at any point (and share the results to the participants) without interrupting the flow of the session, which is great! Really good for capturing feedback at the end of a session without much disruption.
  • Break-Out Rooms. These are awesome. Separates the group into small groups that have breakout conversations and then return to the group together. You can select the number of rooms and length of time for the room. Participants can then be allocated automatically (let’s zoom split up the group evenly across rooms) or manually. The Host can join any room, broadcast messages to the room and can move people around rooms.

 

DURING THE MEETING

Make it as natural and as human as possible. Plan the structure much as you would a normal meeting/event. Which may include:

  • Orientate people on key features before getting going. Basically housekeeping without the fire escapes, e.g. show how to:
    • Mute yourself when not talking
    • Click on participants to see the buttons to raise your hand, thumbs up and thumbs down, clap, click yes and no, show that you are taking a break, and other functions during the meeting
    • Click on chat function – here you can send messages to the group and individuals throughout
    • Gallery vs speaker view allows you to see the group in different ways
    • Set any ground-rules like: please enable your camera if you can, so that this feels human. Please don’t multitask during the meeting so that we all have our shared attention.
    • Let people know when breaks will be (and make them frequent)! This apparently is quite important to minimise agitation during the meeting. Add in some yoga or stretches if it’s that kind of vibe.
  • Check-Ins. You can, e.g. ask people one by one to unmute, introduce themselves and then nominate the next person and mute themselves again.
  • Warm-ups and energisers. Loads of ideas for these online. E.g. This blog seems to have some good links and ideas.
  • Giving host control to others. Throughout the meeting you can hand over the ability to host or co-host the meeting to other participants by going to the participants window, hover over their name, click more and then ‘Make Host’ or ‘Make Co-Host’. They can then share their screen to do a presentation or use the other key functions.
  • Share info at the end of the meeting. If you have recorded the meeting (enable via the zoom settings) then this can be shared. You can also save the chat at the end and circulate, and you can download jamboards and other shared working documents.
  • Polls are great to gather some feedback at the end. For qualitative feedback you could – for example – ask a question like ‘what was the best thing you learned from this?’ Ask everyone to put their feedback in the chat box but not press chat until everyone is ready and then do it the same time. Creates a buzz in the chat and adds a bit of fun.
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