Meeting and learning online is here to stay. What used to be a slight annoyance, a temporary situation, is staying with us long term. But are we learning anything online? And are we listening to each other or simply talking into the camera?
Next time you are asked to lead or facilitate an online meeting (of minds and hearts), please bear in mind these following points:
1. Define your meeting occasion. If you are not sure which words to use (online meeting, workshop, course, get together, standing meeting, meet up, etc.) use a headline to define what the objective is and what you expect participants to do. Should they participate? Camera on or off? Will they learn something from an established expert? Or is it about knowledge sharing? People should know what to expect when they sign up or receive an invite to your event.
2. Instead of telling people how important it is for them to participate, make sure to identify exactly the moments where participation is expected. Then, as much as possible, identify people you want to hear from ( if they know in advance, even better). Call people by their name (not an easy feat, but make sure you know their first names!) and get them to respond (if participation is what you expected in the first place).
Don't expect people to be proactive: create opportunities for them to say something.
3. Start with a bang. In any new situations, our brains are scanning the environment wondering whether what you are presenting is relevant. Is this content worthy of my staying around for the next couple of hours or even days? You need to get my attention from the beginning! After the introduction, which sets out of the event's objective, we want some good quality content and to learn something from the start. Use an attention getter: a story, an anecdote, facts, image- anything to show them that this will be worth their time. If possible, avoid video as it changes the pace and takes away attention from you.
4. Always introduce yourself. Remember one important point- this is not show business. You are not there to be entertaining, fun and happy. If you are the facilitator or even a trainer in a participatory workshop, your role is more of in the background. But there needs to be some reason why you are leading this event and not someone else. So some info on your skills, qualification, knowledge or interest are key. If you are presenting some expert knowledge or information, its even more important to establish your credibility. Also, a good idea is to practise the art of introducing others. Introducing oneself is a bit awkward but knowing how to introduce others effectively will help you when introducing yourself effectively as well.
5. Quicken the pace! In an offline setting, pace can be adjusted by the many cues you get from your audience. It is easy to feel if people are restless and adjust accordingly.So, be ready with loads of content. Have more slides and activities that you would if this was an offline event. In addition, whenever possible, have one person present the content and another deal with messages in the chat, questions of all sorts, technical issues and logistics. Of course, certain questions and issues may need to be responded by the presenter or facilitator, but make sure to know which information is relevant to all, and which is highly individual and therefore not needing an immediate reply!
If you want to know more about how to communicate well in any environment, as an organisation or as a professional, please drop me a line at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call me: 0032 4876 11367 ( Brussels, Belgium).