What You Need To Know About Remote Facilitation
You know the meme: “Who led the digital transformation of your company? a) The CEO b) The CTO c) COVID-19” Does this sound familiar? Before the pandemic hit, it seemed very unlikely that big organisations would turn digital from one day to the other. Now the thought of coming back to the office and meeting colleagues physically, might feel strange to many of us.
Let me introduce myself. I’m Linnéa, Communications Manager & Facilitator at Stockholm based futures agency Another Tomorrow. Like many of you, we shifted to being fully distributed back in March and have since then been working on new ideas on how to improve our remote sessions. We’re offering fully remote workshops, to both existing and new clients, in order to energise teams and make remote collaboration fruitful and fun.
What seemed to be temporary back in Spring, has now become the new normal: working remotely full-time. Another Tomorrow’s Creative Director Joe Coppard put it this way: Before summer we were in phase 1 of turning everything digital, it was all about surviving and being productive — a digital transformation overnight. Now that we’ve become used to it, we’ve entered phase 2, where making remote work good is what we’re striving for. There’s a need to thrive remotely and be creative even without physical contact.
So, how can we avoid Zoom-fatigue, passive workshop participants and low-energy meetings? Look no further! We’ve put together a guide with valuable tips and tricks for you to ace remote facilitation.
Be prepared and confident
There’s nothing more stressful than having to on-board participants during a session with a tight schedule. The solution? Sending out an ‘Explainer’ before-hand. This typically contains information about date and time, useful tips such as having water and a snack nearby, being in a front-lit room, and the tools that will be used. As some participants might not be familiar with them yet, we usually send them a test link so they can try out the tools prior to the workshop.
Best case, all participants will have tested their microphone and camera before entering the room. Worst case, they haven’t… So, what do you do if someone’s having trouble connecting, doesn’t know how to use Miro, or is just generally lost? Be confident. If possible, let another facilitator take over for a few minutes so you can help the person who’s in trouble. Try and understand where they’re at, ask questions such as “do you see icon xyz”, “have you tried reconnecting to your headphones”, but as long as they feel guided and supported, it’ll be fine.
Our learnings so far
Remote sessions are more time consuming than physical ones. In order to avoid early drop-outs due to bad time planning, make sure you’ve got a buffer of about five minutes, ideally more. But who am I kidding, no one ever has more than five minutes to spare during a workshop.
At the beginning of the session, set an ambition. Another Tomorrow usually likes to give participants an idea of what they should feel, know and be able to do when the session’s over. Here’s an example: “Our ambition is for all of you to leave this meeting with the ability to use Miro, feel energised and inspired, and know of some new tools that you can use going forward.”
One thing we’ve learned is how important it is to have exercises and ideas on how to engage your group. Asking direct questions and voting are easy ways to involve everyone and making sure people know that their opinions are of value. When entering a digital room, it doesn’t come natural to everyone to just start talking. Therefore, keep encouraging your group, give feedback and involve everyone in the discussion. If there’s some waiting time or silent ideating, play some music. It will help to make everyone feel at ease.
“But who am I kidding, no one ever has more than five minutes to spare during a workshop.”
Also, why not try out a different and more creative introduction? Instead of everyone saying who they are and what they do, ask the participants to present themselves as their favourite superhero (including their superpowers) or animal. Maybe even ask them to draw their impersonation of a superhero or animal. Creating a safe space and considering the importance of play, will help to get the creativity flowing.
All hands on deck. Having enough facilitators on board is priceless. If splitting participants into groups and being able to have one facilitator in each breakout room, you won’t feel the stress of having to jump in-between them all the time as you have someone in there who can also answer questions, is aware of the time and can help with the discussions.
The main take-aways in short
We believe confidence and creating good vibes are very important to run a smooth workshop. Add good timing, fun exercises and well facilitated conversations to that and you got yourself a successful session. If you want to exchange thoughts, have any questions or need help facilitating an upcoming remote session, I’d love to hear from you.
Find out more about Another Tomorrow