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Global Flipchart #19



September 2020

Nurturing our resilience, building our energy and speaking possibilities in a safe space

Celeste Brio

This is not a paper on best practices on how to deliver a virtual session; it is the result of the retrospectives that myself and Ana did after the 4 meetups we hosted and facilitated. Glad to share and thank you for having shared this experience with us.

Note: the meetups were held on March 17-24-31 and April 7, 2020. More than 150 participants, 21 countries, worldwide.

On March 12, both myself and Ana Umbelino wrote a message on WhatsApp asking if we were available to talk exactly at 4:46 pm; coincidence, destiny or serendipity, whatever … We chatted, in fact we complained, about the sudden cancellation of all initiatives we were planning to have till end of May, how it would impact our financial condition and about the multitude of feelings we were having as COVID-19 was impacting our lives. 

We did that for 5 minutes and rapidly we changed the conversation to “ok, if this is the situation that we cannot control or influence, what can we do and nurture our resilience, build our energy and speak about possibilities in a safe space”  which is the IAF community –

This is how the idea to host and facilitate a series of 4 meetups came up (we still don’t know why we decided “4”, nor 3 or 5!) and immediately we scratched meetup#1 – The Future of Facilitation is Now. We anticipated that we would be challenging ourselves as we are not tech savvy on collaborative platforms, though open to failing while doing it, learning from the experience and have fun… and that we should do it right away (on March 17 we started!). 

As we got to the end of this series, while we co-created and co-designed this experience with special volunteer guests, we decided to share with you what we learnt about virtual facilitation as a big thank you for participating, reinforcing and feedbacking us.  

Virtual Facilitation is very powerful to build connections, motivate and engage, and it helps reduce the carbon footprint! 

It requires preparation so that all the tech details are taken care of, a bit of risk.taking, especially when you are not tech savvy, and openness to experiment and learn. And here are some tips to inspire you to try it and/or be (even) better at doing it:

1.     Prepare & Practice

  1. invest time in designing your session – be specific about what the session is about, be aware of time needed to each part and activity
  2. have a co-facilitator as your tech back up – there are so many details to take attention to!; 
  3. do a session drill – put yourself in the role of participant and allow yourself to experiment the activities; 
  4. be open to revisit the roadmap, if you feel that something is not ok; 
  5. trust your co-facilitator by clarifying with each other what each of you do and when.

2.     Engage immediately, all the way through, and get personal

  1. communicate it on social media and make “some noise” about it – we used our personal and IAF social media accounts and the result was immediate!
  2. welcome participants, and if large groups, instead saying hello to each of them, ask a question and invite participants to write the answer (chat box, google jam or mentimeter)
  3. build rapport and be true about expectations setting – during the meetup#1 we realized that it would be great to ask for volunteers to co-design the following session (we didn’t think about this before, and it worked!)
  4. create opportunity for participants to connect – the breakout rooms are a fantastic option – allow time for that!

3.     Ensure that participants know what they are doing

  1. explain thoroughly how the technology works – do a demo, use examples so that people feel comfortable in using the different options they will be expected to use, during the session, in a playful manner; it pays back!
  2. be clear with instructions – use fewer words and repeat; if possible, use a slide or the chat box to write them down; while on breakout rooms, send direct messages referring to the instructions and time
  3. use the mute/unmute and tell people how important it is to have the video on, as it builds on the connection – seeing each other and have the non-verbal input is relevant in communication (this is a preferred recommendation and we understand when people cannot do it).

4.     Create meaningful interactions

  1. make sure participants understand why and how they need to get involved; doing virtual icebreakers can help!
  2. speak about the options each tool you are using may be helpful for them to use and make the most of them – chat, emoticons, virtual colorful post its, non verbals, 2-4-6 breakout rooms, invite to share email for further contacts, etc;
  3. keep participants active by providing the opportunity to interact, allowing enough time.

5.     Use visuals

  1. have imagery and pictures supporting your presentation – visual communication is key in virtual facilitation
  2. avoid too much writing – one idea per slide and go straight to the point
  3. be relevant and simple.

6.     While facilitating:

  1. follow the roadmap and be open to improvise, if needed – agree with your co-facilitator an “emergency” communication channel, just in case
  2. keep the momentum and read the participants
  3. be aware of timings and reinforce messages
  4. support each other (facilitators)

7.     Enjoy it!

  1. use funny icebreakers, light imagery and content; tell stories and make them fun – however, we need to be culturally sensitive and be aware that there are different perspectives, experiences, personalities, beliefs in the room!
  2. do a light and meaningful closing – it levels up the energy!
  3. ask for feedback and do a retrospective – what went well, better if – and include it in the preparation of the following meetup.