There is an art and a science to good virtual meeting facilitation. Group cohesion and intimacy can decrease in virtual mode, making it harder to fully engage with each other. An experienced facilitator is key to an engaging and productive meeting. Here are nine ways to know if your facilitator is up for the task.
- Prepares and sends out pre-work ahead of the meeting. Gathers data that might be needed to prepare the agenda or to support items on the agenda.
- Creates a detailed agenda that includes well-defined meeting outcomes, person responsible for each activity, how participants will be actively participating, materials needed, online tools and timing for each activity. Agenda is sent out as pre-work to help set expectations and get feedback.
- Establishes ground rules at the beginning of the meeting to make the most productive use of time and to create a safe place to have necessary conversations. For instance, I like the group to create their own ground rules. If there is not time for this, the facilitator can suggest a short list and ask participants to add any guidelines they think are important to get their best work done.
- Spends time at the beginning of the meeting to build connections. Of the many available relationship building activities, I suggest you pick an activity based on the composition of group, expectations of group, nature of the meeting, length of the meeting, and culture of the organization. This is a critical success factor, so do not skip this step.
- Encourages engagement from all participants. The facilitator should frequently engage participants in meaningful ways. Pro tip: keep track of who is talking and participating by having a list of participants and putting a mark by their name. If there are too many participants to keep track, ask someone to help with this important task. There are many ways to get good engagement in virtual meetings such as techniques for virtual brainstorming, voting, feedback, and energizers.
- Keeps the pace moving and discussion on topic. It is easy to get distracted or let discussion drag on. I keep a “parking lot” that is visible as a central place to hold questions or comments that are not on track with the meeting agenda. I promise that the items going into the “parking lot” will not get lost and that we can decide what we need to do with each item as follow-up.
- Summarizes decisions, commitments, and next steps at the end of the meeting. Throughout the meeting, I keep track of key decisions and commitments, making it quick and easy to share. And, then I will ask the group if there is anything I have missed.
- Has a backup plan if the technology does not work. Expect technical problems and prepare ahead of time. If people are using a new tool, I suggest they test before the meeting starts. If slides are involved, I send copies to participants ahead of time and I have a copy ready so I can share my screen if necessary.
- Prepares and sends out follow-up notes, including details of the meeting, decisions made, action items, and any next meeting dates. I use the same format for my meeting notes so participants have an expectation about the type of content and where to find key items.
Good meetings don’t just happen. There is an art and science to achieving your desired results. The science of facilitation includes technical knowledge such as the tips shared in this blog post. The art comes with experience. Let the knowledge and experience of the Ertrachter Group help you make your virtual meetings engaging and productive.