My 5 takeaways about online facilitation

The magic that is created when forming a group of people and going through a process with them is truly unique. When gathering virtually, the online facilitation is challenging. It is much harder to create the sparks and the “A-ah!” moments. That’s true for all kinds of groups: employees, community members, random participants, and so on.

I graduated from the IAF Academy “Making Magic: Designing & Facilitating Impactful Gathering” seminar in September — nine days of online-learning with 30 facilitators from around the world through more than 20 zoom hours. The seminar was a great reminder for practices and tools that I use in my workshops with communities and organizations. In this post you’ll find the key reminders.

Online facilitation
Find the online facilitation methodology or approach that fits you and your style | Photo: Surface

Create rituals

As an online facilitator and consultant, I have three main rituals:

  1. Before the session, I have a list of things I should do to be prepared as ever and be focused during my time with the group, I.e., making my workspace tidy and closing all tabs on the computer. I also prepare a coffee and move a bit, which is crucial before hours of Zoom. Sometimes I put on an energizing song or meditate to relaxing music.
  2. When I have a group that meets more than once, I build the program in such a way that they’ll have rituals as well. A 5-minute icebreaker activity in the beginning of the session or a reflective round at the end. It depends on the group, the participants, and the session’s goals.
  3. Following the session, I always write questions that arose and that I should answer. I reflect on the session and how it was. Write myself a summary of what worked, what didn’t, and what I should improve for the next session.

Ok, I know, I love rituals in anything I do. They really help me. I recommend you find the ones that get you into the mood and support you in your role as facilitator.

Don’t forget to use your voice

Amy Cuddy shares important points in her famous TED talk about how your body language affects the way others see you. Whether in person or online, you should sit upright, look straight to the camera, and use facial expression to support what you’re saying.
But did you know that sound affects our subconscious more than our body language? That’s why we should focus on the way we talk. For example, if you’ll start speaking with high intonation and lower the intention very slowly by finishing the sentence with a dot, you’ll sound professional and official. Want to explore your voice more? This guide will help you sound like the leader you want to be.

Is the meeting online?

Read my tips for organizing it

Apply humor

Humor isn’t only a great way to create icebreakers or form a more connected group. Humor is also a great tool for our growth as facilitators. When we face a challenge, especially in real-time, we tend to get stressed, frustrated, and can sometimes see ourselves as a failure. But instead, we can laugh about it with our group. Yes, laughing about ourselves with others. In the end, we are all human and mistakes happen.

Need to improvise during a session? Follow these steps.

Want to add more humor to your facilitation? These tips will help you.

Use more design thinking

I already recommended Miro as a wonderful tool for mutual brainstorming. Following nine days of intensive Miro use, I’ve deeply experienced the power of design thinking in online facilitation. From icebreakers to group presentations, the Miro whiteboard canvas can support the facilitator’s work.
You can find further best practices about running workshops and facilitating using Miro here and here.

Find your own way

Facilitation has different shapes and uncountable methods.
As a facilitator, group leader or community leader, you should find the methodology or approach that fits you and your style. If you can’t find it, simply create one. Moreover, be confident with the way you choose and your skills, and don’t compare yourself to others. The group will subconsciously acknowledge this confidence, and the outcome will be stronger.
And lastly, you might want to consider choosing a methodology and become an expert in it. That way, you’ll also have the chance to help and influence other facilitators.

What’s your favourite facilitation method? Have a question about one of the takeaways? Let me know in the comments or write to me.



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