In time of lockdown and movement restrictions around the world during the the Coronavirus pandemic, people are flocking onto Zoom Conferences / Virtual Meetings to continuously operate businesses amidst the chaos.
So, from our experience of being a Zoom/Virtual Meetings facilitator - these are the 3 things you must have in order to have an effective virtual meeting.
1. Get familiar with the technology & it's limitations (or have a tech support partner)
Like getting to know the meeting rooms space, the projector, acoustics, plug points, additional facilities by "event space owners" - anything that has an impact on the overall meeting experience for the participants.
So before we get into the meeting, we have to always just run through what are the technologies being used (Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, Blue Jeans, & etc).
Are we familiar with the technology?
Do we have a technical support partner with you (or with your client) should you be not familiar with the current platform?
Knowing the technicalities of each virtual conferencing platform also allows us to integrate our personal facilitation styles seamlessly - therefore creating the intended meeting experience.
2. ALWAYS Set the Ground Rules
Especially in a virtual platform where we will be presented with different sets of possible disruptions that are out of our control (noise feedback, network disruptions, power outages, multiple conversations, etc), we have to set the ground rules to ensure that no matter what happens, the ones that are still in the meeting will still be engaged in an effective meeting experience.
Every facilitator will have their own Ground Rules, but the ones that we recommend & use are as follows:
1. Only 1 person is to speak at any moment of time - if anyone else needs to speak, question, comment while someone else is speaking (use a messaging system or give an agreed hand signal for the facilitator to take note of, therefore the facilitator can facilitate the conversation experience)
2. Using Mute unless speaking - the quality of the person speaking is at utmost importance, and to minimise other background noises from other participants is a MUST. So most virtual conferencing system has some mute function, so we have to get everyone to check in and build that muting habit early on in the meeting.
3. Establishing Roles (timekeeper, notetaker, ground-rule moderator, etc) - so that everyone is actively engaged in the meeting even when somebody is sharing something mundane or boring.
3. Using the right equipment (A Laptop & A Tablet/Ipad)
Finally, as a facilitator you must have the right equipment in place in order to ensure a seamless meeting experience for your clients.
For different platforms there will be different "right" equipments, so we will be basing our recommendations on a more general basis.
What we prefer is to ensure that we have a laptop as the "Main Display" and a tablet/ipad as a "Secondary Display".
Main Display Purpose:
1. To use it as a platform to share your screen (power points, ground rules, note taking, etc)
2. As the main facial visual focus for your webcam as it would be of a decent height.
3. Mainly to use it to also have a clear view of all the participants for us to have a reading of the room (or you can get an assistant for this purpose as well if multitasking is a struggle)
Secondary Display Purpose
1. To use it as a "backup" should something happen to your laptop.
2. At the same time, to use it as an additional screen to view slides or participants.
3. To use it as a "Whiteboard" for sketches/handwritten notes should the need arise
Ultimately, it all comes down to the User eXperience.
As we can see, these 3 factors all play a part in uplifting the meeting's experience as a Virtual Meeting Facilitator. If we do not have all this in place, there is a chance the meeting's experience will be at risk - and the participants might not end the meeting in a positive matter (of course, there will be ways to save the meeting experience through creativity & experience).
Of course, this might not be the best advice as some of you Virtual Facilitators out there might have something more to add - feel free to share your experiences in the comments below as well.
We are all learning and sharing in these tough times - so if you are a Virtual Facilitator out there, feel free to get in touch.
Looking forward to hearing from all of you! Stay safe, Stay clean, Stay sane.