Tomasz Nedzi, an experienced facilitator, explains some simple tips that can help you facilitate online meetings
If you are the facilitator of the meeting it’s your duty to manage the meeting and be prepared. Show that you are prepared by being on time. It’s best to be the first person in the room. Your participants will join gradually and you can meet and greet them. By showing your appreciation for their presence you will reduce stress. Asking them casual questions about the place they are joining from, or the weather at their place will help to build relationships.
It’s important to understand that we humans are not all the same. Even though we like to assume that other people think, see and communicate as we do, that’s rarely the case. According to Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) we can identify 16 personality types and therefore meeting a person with the same profile as yourself might not be so easy. We need therefore to understand participants can prefer different ways of communicating (Introverts vs. Extraverts). In online meetings we need to understand that certain groups will prefer talking to other participants, whereas others will choose the chatbox to communicate.
Understanding participants profiles will help when engaging with them. You might be able to assign delegates to different rooms, using “Breakout rooms” or “Teams”. Breakout rooms are especially helpful if there’s person of authority and power in the main room. This can be intimidating to other participants. Therefore breaking the group into subgroups will create engaging spaces, where different ideas are accepted. Don’t be overly prescriptive about how the groups should work together, because they will find their own rules. Some of the groups will choose to talk through, where others might want to write down their solution(s).
If you are expected to facilitate the meeting, you are not expected to become a consultant. It’s not your role to give advice or solve the problem the meeting is addressing. You are expected to create a space where other people can actively participate. You are needed by the group when they don’t understand the task to be delivered or the goal to be achieved. It’s the responsibility of the facilitator to maintain the focus on the meetings tasks and not prescribe exactly how these task should be achieved. If you think you have a better solution than your group you should probably keep it to yourself.
As a the facilitator you’re expected to stay objective and indifferent about the results of the meeting. You shouldn’t suggest the outcomes or interfere in the work. It’s still your responsibility to create the supporting relationships with the participants though. While facilitating traditional meetings you may have spent some time in coffee breaks talking to workshop attendees. It’s more difficult to do so an on-line meeting, but you might finish your breaks early and talk to people joining gradually after the break to understand their experiences better and collect feedback. You are there for them afterall .
This article was first published on March 25, 2021 on APMG portal