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Whether you're a professional workshop facilitator, a scrum master, or part of a team that makes workshops regularly, chances are that you recently had to transition these collaborative moments online.

For most of us, this transition has been tough.

Making the magic happens behind a screen is definitely more challenging than doing it on-site.

Technical issues started bugging the experience we created to unleash the participants' creativity and confidence. Our facilitation superpowers, drawn from our ability to read the room, weakened.

But as we experimented, and learned through tribulations and awkward moments, the story got happier.

Facilitating remotely has its own rules beyond a good internet connection and some interactive tools.

After years of experiments and months of daily exchanges with communities of facilitators around the world, I am delighted to present this compendium of lessons I have gathered on online facilitation:

https://www.excelway.co/online-workshop-design-facilitation

Feel free to try some of these tips, share your feedback and own lessons learned.


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    I think there are some really smart observations in this article:

    1. Reducing the duration of the workshop by 40-50%. That's a very interesting suggestion and I can totally imagine losing people if we keep it as long as an on-site workshop where people have the ability to disengage and also have informal talk with others next to them.

     

    2. Planning in advance for technical issues - No matter how good internet, etc. has gotten, I think it certainly has a way of raining on our parade at the wrong times 😅. So totally align with this.

     

    3. Camera on is a must. Even in normal meetings at our startup, we have sort of mandated it.

     

    4. Speak less and make them collaborate more - A big hi5 to this too ✋

     

    Thanks for this Sophia!

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      Thanks Karthik for the sum up! 

      Regarding the camera on, I still have mixed feelings about imposing it in team meetings and would love to have your views on it.

      The camera on for every meeting was also our policy at first. But then, when we got aware of the zoom fatigue, we realized that most of us were not even looking at the screen when speaking or listening, and we were mostly focusing on the spoken words through the audio. As we do a lot of screen sharing, we didn't even pay attention when someone's camera was on or not.

      Then to free some bandwidth, especially with screensharing on, we started turning cameras off, and having one's camera on was not a priority anymore. 

      The question is: how do you make sure that people are engaged in the meeting and not zoning out and doing something else? 

      And to me, the answer is the same as face-to-face meetings: making sure that the conversations are relevant for every attendee.

      It seems plain and stupid, but it's still a harsh thing to do rigorously.

      One rule that has worked for us is to limit discussions on specific topics to 7 min. A specific topic is one that doesn't involve everyone in the room. If the discussion goes over 7 min, we just set immediately a one-on-one or a small group meeting, where there will be fewer chances of zoning out.

      And if the topic involves more than 3 people, then we transform it into an all-hands workshop, where everyone will be tasked to actively do something. 

      In the article, I refer mainly to larger workshops or the ones with participants that you don't know such as clients. 

       

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        Regarding the camera on, I still have mixed feelings about imposing it in team meetings and would love to have your views on it.

        Great point Sophia and I think there is quite some merit in your suggestion.

        For us, we largely have one standup each morning for about 30 mins and that's the only time people get to see each other. I believe that being able to see one another while talking helps a lot even if virtually. I wouldn't like people to slowly start thinking that they are having conversations with faceless humans

        Also, to a lesser extent, since our standup is at the beginning of the day, people make an effort to be mentally ready as it is more discernable visually than on audio.

        Of course, we are still not an async team yet, so standups are probably a feature that async teams won't have.

        Overall, personally, I just feel odd (and have heard from my colleagues too) if I am talking on Zoom to a person and can't see them. Maybe, it is just our team 😮

        One rule that has worked for us is to limit discussions on specific topics to 7 min. A specific topic is one that doesn't involve everyone in the room. If the discussion goes over 7 min, we just set immediately a one-on-one or a small group meeting, where there will be fewer chances of zoning out.

        I love this. I don't think we are doing a good job at this - definitely, going to call this out from Monday! Thank you 😬

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          Thanks, Karthik!

          Totally get your point about faceless humans. Maybe we should reconsider this in our team as well.

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            🙏