VIRTUAL MEETINGS: It’s all about the numbers

The math is different when you’re planning for a virtual meeting! Here’s some rules of thumb to keep in mind.

Cut your expected outcomes by half.
If you were planning to do eight things with the participants in person, plan to do four things virtually. Simplify, simplify, simplify. Get down to the leanest, most essential tasks (or task!) you want to accomplish in the time people have together.

Pad your time.
There is no such thing as a 10 minute group discussion – that’s one person talking. And make sure to build in some socializing time for breakout sessions – they will do it anyway – let them connect!

A hundred people isn’t a facilitation.
It’s a state of the union. And it’s time to stop asking large groups to dial in to hear live messages that could have just as easily have been recorded and viewed in their own time. Let people listen to a recording while they’re taking a walk in the woods. You’ll get better attention that way. And you’re never going to hear from one hundred people in a meeting anyway. Split them up into three or four separate sessions if you want to hear their voices.

It takes two to facilitate virtually.
In any facilitation having a partner creates a better experience because two can better handle the mental load of managing the people and process. In the virtual space, it’s even more important because of the added responsibility of tech support. If a few participants are struggling, one facilitator can enter into a breakout room with them and troubleshoot to bring them back on track without disrupting the process.

Turn one long day into several short sessions.
“Well, we were planning on getting everyone together for a full day offsite. So let’s just do the same thing online.” Wrong. Virtual facilitation expends energy more quickly than in person meetings. If you don’t want Zoombies at the end of the day, take those eight hours you would have spent over one day and spread them out to two hours across four days.

A formula to follow.
If you must present information*, here’s a formula to follow that provides your participants space to share their voices. Please note: the formula assumes the purpose of the meeting is about transmitting information, not facilitating a discussion. Whenever possible, extend the time dedicated to participation* and reduce the time dedicated to presentation**.

is frontal, didactic, and informative. One person is transmitting to many. It’s a shared screen, a PowerPoint, or a talking head.

is collaborative, co-creative, and facilitative. Many people share with many. It’s question and answers in Chat, breakout discussions, polls, or ideas shared on MURAL or Google Docs.

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