Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response

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Facilitation Tips for Virtual Meetings


Beth on a Zoom video meeting on Tuesday. She joined the meetings while hiding out in her daughter’s loft; these days we will go to all measures to find a quiet space to work.

What do I have to offer to prevent the spread and impact of COVID 19? I’m not an infectious disease expert however I am a professional facilitator, convener and supervisor. Due to distance from colleagues, Zoom as a virtual meeting platform has become my primary tool to connect with colleagues across the state of Vermont. Building Bright Futures is a statewide non-profit with 14 staff serving all corners of our small state. All staff meetings are conducted by video conference, and nearly all of our state committee meetings are either exclusively virtual or have a virtual option.

Here are some facilitation ideas for Zoom from my team to yours:

  1. Be patient with yourself if engaging colleagues, partners and students through your computer is unfamiliar. Getting the hang of hosting or participating in a virtual meeting space takes getting used to.
  2. Take time to plan. Create an agenda, even more detailed than you are used to. 1) Write desired outcomes that clearly state what you plan to accomplish in the meeting; 2) Write an agenda identifying each discussion item; and 3) include where you will ask participants to share information (reflection on a decision, report out on an activity). Share this agenda with participants ideally a week in advance so they can be prepared.
  3. Establish a meeting culture. Think about the culture you want to create; is the purpose of the meeting to efficiently share information? Is it to build connection with each other? Zoom meetings don’t have to be rigid and void of connection. Start with a prompt that encourages sharing to build this connection before you continue with the rest of the agenda such as, What are you doing to relieve stress? What is your favorite cookie recipe? What is a high and low from the last week?
  4. Start with a mindful moment or guided meditation. We have one team member who is great at leading us through brief guided meditation or breathing exercise at the start of each staff meeting. A favorite resource is this site.
  5. Mute when you are not talking and ask participants to do the same. Now that many of us are working alongside our family members or housemates, the mute button is an essential tool to make your video conference experience successful. (A Zoom pro-tip, the person hosting the meeting can also mute and un-mute other participants).
  6. Prepare participants for when there will be discussion. Asking the question verbally may not be enough. Try putting it in the chat bar so people can read it and consider their response. Be kind to the introverts in your meeting; count to ten to give people the time they need to respond (and un-mute).
  7. Take your time. Meeting virtually may feel awkward at first and there will be technical glitches. People will get more comfortable and Zoom will become a trusted tool to connect with each other.

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