With global eyes watching COVID-19 and limitations on travel, companies need effective and engaging ways to collaborate in the absence of face-to-face meetings. In-person gatherings have unique benefits, but by combining new technology with appropriate facilitation, your company can conduct dynamic virtual meetings. Collective Next has been working in the virtual meeting space for the past decade. Below are ten strategies for upping your virtual facilitation game:

  1. Get the technology right: Identify and test your technology to determine the best options available to you. Video conferencing supports a more human connection than phone alone and limits multi-tasking. Leveraging platforms with shared whiteboard space (e.g. Mural) and the capacity to setup virtual breakout rooms (e.g. Zoom) enables deeper engagement.
  2. Engage participants from the start: Provide a warm welcome to participants as they join the virtual space. Use the presentation window to display a landing page that is visually engaging and/or carries key messaging about the meeting.
  3. Provide clear guidance: When delivering instructions to a virtual group, your words need to land crisply, so consider writing instructions out or showing them on screen while speaking them simultaneously.
  4. Create a shared visual record: During full-group and breakout discussions, utilize digital whiteboards to document key ideas in the form of words and pictures. At Collective Next, we use digital graphic recording as part of our virtual capture.
  5. Make sure everyone is involved: Keep tabs on silent participants, and be intentional about engaging and drawing them into the work.
  6. Deadlines matter: Timeboxing– an important practice in live sessions—is even more critical in virtual sessions where participants can be easily distracted by incoming alerts or the temptation to multi-task. Break bigger activities into smaller assignments and leverage “micro-timeboxing” to keep things moving quickly and ensure focus.
  7. Utilize breakouts: Divide larger groups into virtual breakouts to benefit from parallel processing, higher levels of active engagement and deeper personal connection. Cross-pollinate teams between breakout rounds to allow for rapid idea sharing.
  8. Assign roles: In addition to identifying the overall meeting facilitator and scribe/documenter, ask participants to step into these roles within their breakouts, and invite individuals to participate and report back to the larger group.
  9. Don’t be afraid of individual reflection: Consider giving participants time to work individually to think through something on their own. This may seem counter to the notion of collaborative, group work, but we find that it helps different personality types feel empowered in a virtual environment.
  10. Circulate a timely deliverable: In order to build on the momentum from your meeting and ensure an accurate record of decisions, quickly circulate a comprehensive overview of the meeting and its outcomes. Invite participant feedback and edits for accuracy to increase their sense of ownership over the output.

Bonus Tip: Manage energy. Virtual meetings require managing energy differently than live events. Build in enough breaks for participants to recharge throughout the session.

Albert Einstein said: “The human spirit must prevail over technology.” The more we test and iterate our technology and facilitation techniques, the better able we’ll be able to fluidly use the virtual world to connect and collaborate with one another and move forward together.