Updated: May 19, 2020
Have you ever been in a call and nobody answers? Were you ever in a call where it seemed like you were dropped in a middle school playground since so many people were talking at the same time? Did you ever wonder if participants of an online call were trying to recreate famous movie scenes because of the funny noises their microphone's made?
You are not alone !
In the past, a lot of companies started paying attention to offline interaction and team dynamics, which is great! However, we see that more and more people have questions about whether these same dynamics can also be achieved online.
Even if there are differences between online and offline interactions, we experienced that it is also possible to host very successful and pleasant online sessions, if you take some things into account!
Take time to do a proper check-in
As a facilitator, take the time to do a check-in with every participant, even if you know everyone that is participating. This will help to enforce the connection between participants and will create a safe environment.
Asking questions as an icebreaker can really help with this. If you need focus during the workshop or meeting, try to already make people reflect. If there is some tension going on, ask something funny to make things positive.
Possible questions to ask: "What is your super power today?" "What do you hope to get out of this meeting / workshop?" "If you woke up tomorrow as an animal, what animal would you choose to be and why?" Be creative!
Keep everyone involved
I am sure that you have noticed this yourself, but long online sessions or meetings are much more intensive than offline ones.
It is hard to stay focused when you are constantly staring at that same PowerPoint presentation or hearing the same people speaking.
Try switching between different work formats every once in a while to keep attention high. You can start with a small presentation, move to white boards to brainstorm, divide people in different break-out sessions, let people use the chat version etc. There are a lot of different options like Miro, MS whiteboard, Mural that offer a lot of possibilities to make interactive sessions. Check them out!
One last golden tip to keep everyone involved: Try to make sure that every participant is busy at all times! Rethink the content you were planning on giving in a way that allows this.
Effective communication between participants
When doing online sessions in large (or not so large) groups, there is often a lack of clear communication between participants due to technical or other practical reasons. Below you can find some facilitation tips to make things run smoother:
Try to keep your presentations or brainstorm material visual and easy to understand. This will keep participants involved and will help getting your message across.
When people are done talking, let them say something like "I'm done," "that was it," or something similar. This way others know that they can start sharing their points.
Make a rule that when you are not talking, you switch off your microphone.
Let people turn on their camera, it will help in creating a connection with the others in the group and reading body language.
The biggest don't might be a lack of preparation. Some people might think because it is an online workshop or meeting, preparation is of less importance. However, preparation, as always, is key in delivering a qualitative online session!
What can you do to be optimally prepared for you session?
Write down which objectives you would like to achieve with this workshop. Make sure that after you're done preparing, you double check whether you included everything to achieve these goals.
Draft a clear schedule and timing that explains when you will do what, which tool you will use as support, the information participants need to have etc.
If you are using online tools, test them upfront! This way you will know how everything functions (it is sometimes harder than it looks) and you will give the impression of being a real pro !
Brief all participants upfront on the objective of the session, why their presence is needed and what is / will be expected of them. This will increase involvement and peace of mind of participants.
If you are interested in some help to improve your online and offline team dynamics, or creating a safe team environment, don't hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org!