Facilitation Tips for Remote Sessions

Practical tips on how to make your workshop successful with distributed people

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What is it?

This is a list of facilitation tips that can be applied to the majority of on line sessions where you can use one or more practices together.

Why use it?

It is a set of practical suggestions to make your workshop successful.

Prior preparation

  • Prepare an agenda and send to all invited attendees, so it’s clear what the meeting will cover.
  • Ensure the right people are invited to the right meetings. To help with this, have an agenda, arrange a meeting with plenty of notice and even have a pre-call to identify the right attendees.
  • Ensure facilitators know which tools and practices they will use, having tested them prior and are confident to deliver them to attendees.
  • If you’re using practices that are new to attendees, plan time to explain the practices and consider sending out links beforehand (but don’t assume attendees will have time to look into them).
  • Prepare a template on a whiteboard tool with title and steps and be clear on the fact that everyone is a contributor and timebox steps.
  • Check that everyone has access to tools used and is a contributor. Hold a preparation meeting with meeting attendees to validate tools access and usage.
  • Have an awareness of attendees locations and cultural backgrounds. Use for planning start and end times and be wary of language and cultural references used.

Facilitators

  • For remote distributed sessions online, it’s recommended to always have more than one facilitator. We suggest splitting between one who is facilitating and a second who is keeping an eye on the engagement of attendees and tracking time and agenda/activities.
  • Need for strong facilitation techniques to keep things on track, engage those who are quiet or aren’t doing anything and ensure the conversation isn’t being dominated by the same group of individuals.

Number of practices

  • Don’t overwhelm people. Be selective in the number of practices used, as every practice can take longer than what you experience if used face-to-face. Allow sufficient time to explain each practice and to actually carry out each practice.
  • Know your audience: you need to be sure everyone can follow what you are doing.

Workcycles

  • If you are organising long workshops consider to break them down in smaller sessions with breaks.
  • 3 Remote work cycle of 45 min + 15 break work well in a raw, 4 cycles is a stretch, 5 cycles can overstretch people.
  • Do a mini “walk the wall” if you do multiple sessions across days. If the whole team is not able to join, ensure everyone is on the same page working on the same target outcome.

Time

  • Use a timer to timebox sessions. Some tools have built in timers. Alternatively, use a physical timer or a separate online tool, which is either visible to all or at least the facilitator tracking time.
  • Allow time to think. Pauses/silence can be a good thing. Someone doesn’t have to be talking the whole time.

Boards

  • Use Kanban to visualise your work, so everyone is aware of the status.
  • Prepare the board with backlog and spaces, so attendees can see what they will be covering. This needs time to prepare.
  • If available use an online template board where spaces and titles are already organised.
  • If using Miro or Mural lock the background so people don’t accidentally move it during the collaboration (note Miro can only be unlocked by the same person).
  • Look at templates on our space so people can put together a canvas quickly.

Energy & Engagement

  • Use Ice Breaker practices to keep people engaged. These can be used at the start and also throughout the workshop to re-energise.
  • Have time for small talk at the start and during breaks throughout, as it helps connect everyone.
  • One facilitator should be in charge of monitoring energy and engagement. Ensure and check that everyone is contributing and engagement levels.
  • Use a practice to feel/track the energy in the room. Use for example the mood marbles as a practice to show if someone is off and not contributing for a period of time.
  • A Real Time Retro board is a great way to ensure you don’t lose that instant feeling and capture detailed information for reflection later, but also can be acted upon during the session; anybody can add to it without disturbing the others.
  • Use techniques to allow people to have the same voice (for example round robin).
  • ‘Pose, pause, bounce and pounce’ is a no-hands up questioning strategy and it might take some time to get attendees used to raising their voice. When attendees have given an answer, resist the temptation to comment yourself! Instead, bounce the idea straight to another attendee to comment on or add to. If you want, you can keep bouncing the response around the team allowing more people to add their response.
  • Give people things to do. If only one person is working you will not keep people engaged so make sure everyone is participating.

Video Conference

  • Use the camera to see each other face to face. It’s useful to be able to see people’s facial expressions.
  • Ask people prior to the meeting to turn their cameras on (it tends to not work well putting people on the spot asking them to turn cameras on).
  • Be present and keep eye contact if possible.
  • Record important meetings/demos when agreed.
  • Invite senior management to important demos (to keep them engaged & involved).
  • Each participant should be in a silent environment (dedicated room) to avoid background noise. They should mute when not speaking, to avoid background noise.
  • Before recording sessions, making videos or sharing documents please ensure to get participants’ consent to do this.

Further Information

All the tips above are base on daily practices in the team.

View all practices