COVID reminded even the most experienced facilitators that conducting all-virtual facilitation creates a dependency on the virtual platform. Hybrid facilitation, a combination of in-person and virtual, now dominates the group meeting and collaboration landscape. It's a bit sneaky and overlooked, but good virtual facilitation principles are alive and well in the hybrid format. And the first step of virtual facilitation is virtual platform training.
First Challenge: Getting Everyone to the Training
Facilitators often overlook that getting participants to the virtual training depends on their knowledge of the platform. The first action of any great facilitator is talking to the members by phone or in person in a pre-session exchange. The pre-session exchange should proceed with the virtual training. This interaction is the best way to ensure everyone can get on the platform.
Focus on virtual communication best practices, emphasizing clarity, active listening, and proper etiquette. Discuss ways to engage and participate effectively in virtual meetings and strategies for maintaining professional communication in chat and other channels.
Similar Core Concepts
Pick your poison. The core concepts of virtual platform training apply to Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Cisco Webex, Skype, GoToMeeting, and others. However, the specific details and steps for using each platform require training content and delivery adjustments. It is essential to consider the platform's unique features and the skill set of your participants to tailor the training for a great learning experience.
Virtual Facilitation Training Agenda
Platform-specific Features (10 minutes)
Start the training with an overview, explaining the platform’s purpose, benefits, and how it assists virtual collaboration. Cover basic navigation, including how to access, join meetings, and use the main features like chat and file sharing.
Security and Privacy (10 minutes)
Overview the participants on the security features and best practices specific to the platform being used to ensure a safe and private virtual facilitation experience.
Scheduling and Joining Meetings (10 minutes)
Show participants how to schedule meetings and integrate with scheduling software like Microsoft Outlook and Google. I like to do a quick, live demonstration at this point.
Collaborating on Documents (15 minutes)
Show participants how to work collaboratively on documents, especially version control and commenting features. I normally do not restrict participant access to documents, but explaining how to set appropriate permissions is a good idea.
Breakout Rooms and Polling (15 minutes)
Breakout rooms and polling are common features, but how they are set up and managed differs by platform. I normally discuss creating breakout rooms and conducting polls specific to the platform. Then I show them during a working break.
Working Break (10 minutes)
Ease the information overload with a few voluntary polls highlighting some of the material covered in the first hour. This is also the time for a restroom break.
Recordings, Other Apps, and Management (15 minutes)
All platforms allow session recording, but the process for recording and accessing recordings varies. Show participants how to customize other settings, integrate other apps, and use direct messages or emails through the platform.
Hands-on Practice (25 minutes)
I reserve the last 25 to 30 minutes for Q&A and hands-on practice. Experience has taught me to make this mandatory, even though some participants will claim they are gurus with the platform. Making sure everyone has comparable knowledge is one of the first ways to interact when the group gets to their work.
Post the Training
I usually record and post the training on the platform. However, this is only helpful for participants who have mastered using the platform.
I also try to send the Adobe PDF of the pre-session training material at the mid-point of the facilitated sessions (or whenever new members are added).
Facilitating with FINESSE
Hybrid facilitation, a combination of in-person and virtual, now dominates the group meeting and collaboration landscape. It’s often overlooked, but the principles of good virtual facilitation are alive and well in the hybrid format. Making sure everyone can use the virtual platform makes facilitating with FINESSE possible.
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JD Solomon is the author of Communicating Reliability, Risk & Resiliency to Decision Makers: How to Get your Boss’s Boss to Understand and Facilitating with FINESSE: A Guide to Successful Business Solutions.