Advanced Facilitation tips for virtual workshops
Advanced Facilitation tips for virtual workshops

Advanced Facilitation tips for virtual workshops

Description
Level-up your facilitation skills with some expert tips
Reading Time
15 mins

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What is this for? These are a few tips to help your virtual workshop run even more smoothly. Note: This is not a guide on how to facilitate a virtual workshop. If you're looking for that please read

Mindset and core principles - See beyond our preconceptions and see patterns of behavior in a real world context—both rationally and intuitively. - Have a curious and empathetic mindset.

Time-box all activities

Keeping a group of people on-time is hard, even if you've planned a clear agenda. People love to talk, it's human nature! And it can feel awkward to ask them to stop.

If you are in charge of the meeting or workshop you need to make sure you don't run out of time at the end, and if the session runs into overtime it's can feel disrespectful of everyone else's time.

A "time-box" helps take the pressure off you. When the group can see how much time is allocated for an activity they take on some of the responsibility to stay on time.

  • Use a timer and make sure it's visible to everyone (e.g. the in-built timer in Mural)
  • Make sure you leave some buffer time in-between each activity
  • Announce reminders when the time is close to running out

Mural (digital whiteboard tool) has a built in timer
Mural (digital whiteboard tool) has a built in timer

Tell people where to look

In a live workshop everyone is in the same room and it's easy to see what you are pointing at or writing. When workshops are conducted virtually you can't tell what other participants are looking at.

It can be hard for someone to speak up and say "I'm not sure where I'm supposed to be looking".

If you tell people (specifically) where they should be looking, you help everyone feel at ease and more confident in you as a facilitator.

Examples:

  • "Now we'll all work together in a Mural board. Could everyone please click this link and open the board?"
  • "If you scroll to the right side of this section you'll see the next step..."
  • "Could everyone please go back into the Meeting in Teams now"

A facilitator's trick to control input from participants

This is a mysterious yet simple word trick that might just change the way to communicate in life as well as workshops.

The challenge:

  • Sometimes you want the group to give more input, but they are silent.
  • And sometimes you have enough input and want to wrap up the activity, but they won't stop talking

The secret: People find it easier to say "yes" than "no", and you can use this to your advantage!

When you want more input, say "is there anything else?"

→ People are likely to respond with "yes" and give you more input

When you want to wrap up the activity, say: "does that seem like enough..."

→ People are likely to think "yes, that's enough"

Prepare the work area

  • Put a handful of blank stickies in the area.
  • People won't need to drag or create their own new stickies
  • It will save you time in the exercise, and also make everything feel smoother and easier for your group (which adds to their confidence in you as a Guide!)
  • Put an amount that might be enough, but leave room for a few more.

Example from a real Mural board
Example from a real Mural board

Add "example" stickies for each exercise

  1. Put an appropriate number of empty stickies in the workspace
  2. Write 1 or 2 example stickies
    1. As you progress to an exercise where participants will need to write their own stickies it helps them a lot to see a real example to guide them. It helps them:
      1. to understand how much to write (i.e. short clear statements / questions)
      2. to see the most useful way of phrasing their stickies
      image

Re-phrase stickies to make them clearer

Most people aren't used to writing short, clear, punchy statements on stickies.

In an in-person workshop a thick marker and the small size of the sticky usually gives some restriction to how much people can write.

In digital collaboration tools (like Mural and Miro) there is no limit to the number of words people can put on a sticky, so it can sometimes be useful re-phrase the words to make them clearer for everyone.

Here are some steps you can follow:

  1. Wait until after the session is complete
  2. Make a 10 min break
    • If a sticky has been chosen that is wordy, long and hard to read at a glance, say we'll have a quick break (if there isn't one in the schedule)
  3. Re-word the sticky (without changing the meaning)
  4. Check-in with the group
    • Show them your re-wording, and say "Does this capture same meaning?"
    • use a phrasing that makes it easy to say "yes" but still leaves room to bring up something important
    • i.e. don't say "do we need to change this?" or "is anything missing?". People will definitely find something to change or add!)
    • If something does need to be changed:
      • Ask what's missing (with a time-box)
      • Add or change some words as the group is telling you what's missing

Voting differences in remote workshops

In remote workshops you don't need to give separate time-boxes for "reading time" and "voting time".

For in-person workshops it can be helpful to give separate time-boxes for reading stickies and then voting on them, because:

  1. People can feel pressured when they start seeing other people placing dots and making choices. They can feel that they should be choosing faster and it might make them rush through more.
  2. Seeing voting dots on a wall of stickies draws attention to those stickies (that's what the dots are supposed to do!). Seeing the dots can heavily influence where others will place their next dots.

In remote workshops you can make use of digital voting tools where participants can't see where others are placing their votes. So you don't need to allocate separate time-boxes.

Note: You should still allow enough time to read and vote. e.g. instead of: Reading 3 mins + Voting 3 mins. Give 5 mins to do both.

Additional Resources

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Recommended reading

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Additional Resources