Cisco’s major takeaways from our Large Virtual Meeting workshop

Cisco Systems, Inc. is a multinational technology company that develops, manufactures, and sells networking hardware, software, telecommunications equipment, and other high-tech products and services. The goal was to build a successful virtual training. They help “seize the opportunities of tomorrow by proving that amazing things can happen when you connect the unconnected.”

The Cisco team participated in our recent Mastering Large Virtual Meetings Workshop held on April 13 (and has been held a few times since), co-hosted by master facilitators Douglas Ferguson and Daniel Stillman. In this fun, fast-paced one day online workshop, participants learned how to facilitate large virtual meetings. Our instructors led them through various methods, teaching why and how they work. Attendees learned facilitation tips and tricks and how to incorporate these techniques into virtual meetings. Cisco was among other participants who greatly benefited from the experience. 

“It IS possible. As simple as that—it is possible to run big virtual meetings and make them engaging, fun, and use those as the tools to connect people. It was a huge inspiration and a boost to try things out.” —Valeria Kanziuba, Program Manager, Design Thinking Facilitator, Cisco

Large Virtual Meeting Workshop

Getting good work done is hard enough in person. In a virtual context, it requires even more attention to detail. Virtual sessions can be difficult to run with just a few people, and the dynamics shift greatly when you start to get over 6-10 people. 

“Especially at large enterprises, conversations sometimes have to be large—there are many hands that touch critical products and services, and bringing all the people involved together to have a real conversation can start a project off on the right foot or get it back on track. These gatherings took time and energy to design for ‘real-life’ meetings and the same is true for virtual ones. I’m really excited to see the impact the LVM workshop is delivering for people. The critical work of innovators and changemakers can’t wait for when it’s safe to bring a big group together in person…we can get back to work on our most important challenges right now.” —Daniel Stillman, Master Facilitator

We’ve spent a lot of time at Voltage Control thinking about how to adapt our methods to the virtual space to keep teams engaged during virtual meetings and distribute the work in an asynchronous manner. It takes a pro-level toolkit and mindset to leave virtual meeting participants excited about the next virtual meeting. 

“We felt it was really important to share this knowledge to help everyone level up during this challenging time.” —Douglas Ferguson 

In this workshop, we taught participants how to find the tools they need to get the most out of a team’s distributed intelligence. Each exercise in the workshop was both an opportunity to participate and a teaching moment of the tools we use to drive successful large virtual meetings.

The Workshop

The day began with participants finding their virtual table, followed by impromptu networking techniques used to build rapport with virtual workshop attendees. Just like a wedding reception layout, attendees found their assigned table and connected with others at their table. They were then randomly assigned to other participants in breakout rooms to network and get to know new faces. This level of connection and engagement elevates participatory decision-making. 

Participants found their virtual tables in MURAL and met other attendees at their table.

Next, the group dove into 9 Whys, an exercise that helps people clearly identify and unpack their challenges. Participants voiced their concerns and challenges with holding large virtual meetings and then the group debriefed the information to learn from one another. The group then synthesized the information, connecting common themes and identifying patterns, acquiring the skills to synthesize data along the way.  

Participants used digital sticky notes in MURAL to generate and cluster ideas.

Douglas and Daniel also lead everyone through an  Open Space Technology, a useful method that helps you create and guide participant-driven agendas that align around a common theme. Leaders guided each group as individuals shared their personal methods and learned from each other’s approaches. We wrapped the day with a  Fishbowl Conversation, where the leaders of each session discussed and explored the artifacts created from the group work sessions. 

The group then engaged in a Spiral Journaling exercise to reflect on the previous day and to help clear participants’ minds of anything other than the workshop at hand. 

Participants had the opportunity to gain free advice from others in the workshop during Troika Consulting. People were put into groups of three: one person started as a Client and the other two served as Consultants. The Client shared a problem with the Consultants explaining it in detail. The Consultants listened and then asked clarifying questions. The Client then turned off their camera and listened as the Consultants discussed amongst themselves possible suggestions and solutions to the presented problem. The Client then turned their camera back on and shared with the Consultants their major takeaways from the advice they were given.  We repeated two more times so that everyone got a chance to receive advice on a challenge.

Then, the group engaged in an exercise called 1-2-4-All. Everyone was presented with the same question/prompt about how to move forward with running successful large group meetings. Participants first started ideating possible solutions in silent, solo reflection, generating sticky notes in a MURAL board. Then they were put in pairs, followed by foursomes, and then finally the entire group ideated together. This exercise helps groups naturally build consensus, enrich the quality of shared insights, and engages everyone in the room. 

Mad Tea was the next exercise. Participants were paired up and discussed the tangible things they were going to do post-workshop. They talked about the commitments they were going to make to ensure productive and effective large virtual meetings. 

The day ended with a commitment Chat Storm. All participants wrote out their personal commitment to this work to share with the group and simultaneously “entered” it into the Zoom chatbox. This method is great for sharing and gathering all forms of information from participants in a large virtual meeting. 

“If I would name one tool that found its implementation throughout—it would be a chat storm. I think it is one of the best discoveries that we would like to carry over to the in-person events once those are back. We use it literally in every single engagement, no matter the size. It proved to be a universally easy-to-use tool to ask opinions, brainstorm, respond to polls, sign up for teams, etc. So many use cases, it’s unbelievably simple and powerful.” —Valeria Kanziuba

Major Takeaways

One of the important takeaways that allowed us to build a successful 100% virtual training offer for Cisco Security Business, as well run multiple meeting with big audiences, was the possibility to use multiple technologies at the same time—Mural/Miro + video conferencing with breakouts + chat—switching between those, depending on the needs and the group dynamics we need to achieve.

It was initially too overwhelming to figure out how to manage not only participants (and meet their expectations, if not exceed) but also navigate the tech. We learned from Douglas and Daniel the importance of teamwork, having a tech facilitator, proper setup to allow facilitators to have the right things at hand whenever needed, as well as plenty of planning upfront—altogether that set us up for success from the very first event we hosted. Equally, allowing ourselves to be honest and say Hey, people, we are experimenting here, we are learning how to do it, be patient with us and yourself—also took off the pressure, and that was something I observed during the training.

Another great example of the implementation of our learnings is the successfully delivered Technical Marketing Engineers Summit for the Cisco Security Business Group that we just wrapped up a couple weeks ago. It brought together 65 TMEs from all over the world from all the different time zones for three days. The Summit consisted of two leadership panels, two keynotes, and twelve Design Thinking sessions. It took a team of more than 10 people to plan and design. We were especially challenged with one of the main goals of the Summit: TMEs community building and breaking silos. How could you think of the community building over the screen? We were pretty nervous to see how we might make it work. And we did! We learned that when designed with thought and understanding the constraints properly and finding the ways to work around those constraints rather than fighting with them and trying to mimic what we would normally do for the in-person event, guarantees the success.

“The most important [takeaway] was to understand that it is possible to do, and do successfully, get inspired and get very practical tools and tips on how to make those work. We were able to put all into practice and have success from the very start.” —Valeria Kanziuba

It’s always rewarding to see how this work impacts teams and helps them achieve amazing outcomes. We are excited to see who will come to our future Mastering Large Virtual Meetings Workshops and the awesome work they may bring these solutions to. Maybe we will see you at the next one!