Facilitating online delivery 

The last few weeks has really pushed us out of our comfort zone.  We have had little choice but to embrace different ways of working together and it has gone surprisingly well.

We have a daily meeting online with our team and we are all involved in various meetings with a range of stakeholders.  We have delivered our first Virtual Knowledge Circle, a Statewide Reference Group Meeting and recorded an online workshop.  In a few weeks we will hold the first of our Same, Same but Different Inclusion forums, online. Register here

When we deliver face to face consultations, meetings etc, we are intentional about process, keeping people safe, and engaged.  We are continuing to grapple with how to do this in an online space and would like to share with you what we’ve learnt so far.

TIP 1:  Jump in 

Adapting to online delivery can be scary, but it is vital to keep connected with teams and stakeholders so jump in and give it a go.  We are all learning together, some things will work, and some things won’t.  Think of it as undertaking an action learning project; testing, reflecting, adjusting and improving over time.

Importantly, be kind to yourself if things go a little awry.  You don’t have to be the best or do the best, just do the best you can and improve as you go.

TIP 2:  Creating the space 

Just like a face to face meeting or workshop it’s important to have a facilitator or meeting host.  This person keeps the process moving along, keeps people engaged, starts and ends the meeting and manages the conversation.

To begin our sessions with bigger groups we use an introductory slide which explains the various features people can use to engage and sets some simple ground rules.  For example, some people are not comfortable with speaking online and prefer to use a chat function to contribute, sometimes people accidently talk over each other.  A ground rule such as, everyone is muted, please signal that you wish to speak, and the facilitator will unmute you is helpful in managing these challenges.

TIP 3:  Check in – Check out 

Posing a simple check in question and asking each participant to respond sets the tone for the meeting and supports people to feel comfortable with speaking in the group.  With external groups this also ensures that people know who is in the room which helps them to feel safe to contribute.  A check out question to end the meeting well is just as important – this supports people to contribute any closing thoughts or questions.  A couple of examples below:

Check in – what will enable you to feel safe to contribute today?

Check out – what are you taking away from our session today?

Of course, the size of the group needs to be considered and for larger groups a poll or quick breakout session to end the meeting might be best.  A slide to let people know how to provide feedback, how to get in touch etc is also helpful.

TIP 4:  Engagement 

It can be tricky to keep people engaged in online sessions.  We find that two hours is the maximum length that people can stay engaged and a ten-minute break in the middle is useful.  Whatever online platform that you use it will have a range of functions.  Developing a simple session map that includes mixing up the way that you’re engaging people using the various functions is helpful. We like to use polls to gather quick feedback, break out rooms to allow for small discussions and the whiteboard to collaborate ideas.

TIP 5:  Back up

The facilitator or host of the meeting needs to focus on keeping people engaged and running the session effectively.  It can be very stressful trying to do this and to manage any technical difficulties or challenges that participants may have.  A backup person to do this is useful and probably essential if you’re working with external groups of more than five.   The backup person can also provide trusted feedback to help improve sessions in the future.

TIP 6:  Breath in

Find a way that works for you to keep calm and carry on if things go wrong.  Stopping and taking a couple of deep breaths helps me to focus so that I can figure out what needs to be done.

Also, just be honest, we are all learning together, and people understand if we let them know something isn’t working and we’re trying to sort it out.

Stay tuned for more WorkUP Queensland blogs about ways to stay connected.