Great facilitators anticipate trouble when guiding groups. We normally consider conflict between the participants as the most likely disruptor. However, facilitators should be prepared to overcome a handful of disruptor types in collaborative sessions. This article discusses technology misfires and provides three case examples with solutions.
Virtual Meetings Get Zoom-Bombed
We've been having monthly Pee Dee River Basin Council meetings for nearly two years. I serve as the facilitator of the 25-person group and Clemson’s University’s Tom Walker is the logistics coordinator. The meetings are in a hybrid format that allows the public and stakeholders to view the meetings virtually. The meeting was Zoom-bombed mid-way through the January 2024 meeting.
Zoom-bombing is the unwanted, disruptive intrusion, generally by Internet trolls, into a video conference call. In a typical Zoom-bombing incident, a teleconferencing session is hijacked by the insertion of material that is lewd, obscene, or racist, typically resulting in the shutdown of the session or the removal of the invader.
Unfortunately for me, I had been Zoom-bombed twice during COVID-19. I recognized what was happening within the first few frames and told Tom to shut it down. Tom reacted quickly and I asked another colleague to send out an invitation-only Teams meeting. We were back up to speed within 15 minutes and finished the second half of the meeting.
PowerPoint Gets Scrambled
I’m in Echo, Nevada, a few years ago getting ready for a day-long reliability training with Barrick Gold. My PowerPoint slides experience a technical glitch, and the FINAL version gets electronically scrambled. The Draft Final version is missing two important modules.
PowerPoint files can become corrupted for various reasons, such as abrupt shutdowns, power failures, or issues during saving. Corrupted files may display errors or behave unexpectedly. Large file size is usually the culprit when numerous high-resolution images and videos exist.
The solution was to move quickly to the Adobe PDF version. Fortunately, I like presenting from PDFs and have a lot of experience doing it (PowerPoint is common but over-rated and often not needed). The backup plan saved the day.
Software Updates Lock You Out
I am in the virtual green room for a monthly webinar provided by Communicating with FINESSE. This is an international event. A dozen people are already waiting online. More are logging in when I notice my PowerPoint is not advancing. Oh no! My entire Microsoft 365 is frozen! And now it’s showtime.
Running resource-intensive applications simultaneously, such as PowerPoint, Microsoft 365, and Zoom, may strain your computer’s capabilities. The first check is to make sure that your system has sufficient RAM and CPU power. The second check is to verify your internet connection, although it usually just makes things slow. The third check is to make sure you have the latest version of the software, which was the problem.
The solution was to do the presentation without slides. There was simply no time to log out and reboot. There was no way to shift to the PDF. A good approach for accessibility is to practice and edit your presentation without slides. I was able to shift to an interactive presentation-discussion format because of that preparation.
Great Facilitators Anticipate Trouble with the Mental Model “CATER”
The T in the mental model CATER stands for Anticipate Trouble. Great facilitators anticipate trouble when guiding groups. We normally consider conflict between the participants as the most likely disruptor. However, facilitators should be prepared to overcome a handful of disruptor types in collaborative sessions. Zoom-bombs, corrupted PowerPoint slides, and being locked out of your computer's operating system are just three examples we cite here. The main point is to anticipate trouble and prepare for several forms, including technology.
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