Facilitating in the virtual landscape

“Working alone, together.” This is one of the mantras of facilitation. It’s a concept that’s ingrained in my own work as a facilitator–the idea to first allow individuals space to come up with their own ideas and solutions and then hold space for collaboration with others’ ideas to reach a solution together. This effective method serves as the backbone for many facilitation practices, specifically when running workshops. Since the Great Pause, however, this idea has been flipped around. We’ve been forced to be alone and find ways to come together. Now, we are together, alone. 

We Need Human Connection

Before COVID-19 took over the world, most of us worked together in common spaces. Even with close physical proximity, many people were still disconnected–phones and technology distracted from spending genuine time together. Then, we were forced to stay at home and technology was our saving grace, helping us connect in new ways. Funny paradox. 

Now we are all alone, but we still need to come together to not only stay sane (we’ve got this!) but also to do meaningful work together. The virtual landscape has created opportunities for collaboration and connection that weren’t possible in-person. You can now connect with hundreds of people from around the globe in an interactive virtual workshop, attend an important conference, or productively collaborate with your team all from a home office. In many ways, collaboration and connection are heightened via technology. But the need for human connection can never be replaced. If we’ve learned anything these past months, it’s that we need it more than ever. 

We’ve worked hard at Voltage Control to find ways to create connection and come together in this time of distancing and disconnection. From hosting our free community virtual facilitation practice every week to coaching companies through virtual transitions to throwing company happy hour parties to bring our own team together, we continue to lean in. As facilitators, we can all use the strong desire we all feel to have connection in order to build trust and help teams excel beyond their original expectations. 

Our free community virtual facilitation practice is a safe and collaborative space to build facilitation skills and network with fellow facilitators.

Save Solo Work

The more I’ve worked in this new environment, the more I’ve realized how critical it is to intentionally create connection while also reserving time for async solo work. We still need alone time to ideate on our own, just like in-person meetings, in order to move beyond mundane meetings to truly magical ones. One way to do this is to get back to the “alone, together” framework when facilitating a virtual meeting or workshop. Have attendees think silently on their own about their contribution before sharing it with the group.

Alone time is crucial to getting the best of individuals and therefore the most out of group collaboration. Make it a priority. 

Another important aspect to consider with virtual facilitation is to be more intentional about the kind of meeting you want to have. The bandwidth of the signal should match the bandwidth of the work and the type of connection you want to establish. For example, sometimes it is easier to be more intimate in a meeting if it’s voice only. Don’t just default to video. It’s a design choice. What is best for your attendees and desired outcome? Create that environment. Treat each meeting as its own unique experience. 

Don’t Be a Slave to the Tools

We must also be intentional about how we allocate our time, how we take turns during meetings, and how we engage in them. While the tools for virtual facilitation may be the same, it’s not as easy as transferring in-person facilitation processes over to a Zoom meeting. There are frameworks, structures, patterns, and facilitation skills that allow us to take meetings to the next level in the virtual landscape. At Voltage control, we are continuously observing the dynamics of the ever-changing business landscape, both its potential and restrictions, to identify best business practices and opportunities to expand them.

The future of work is hybrid and facilitation is essential to guide the possibilities it presents.

Here’s how we can effectively help people adapt to the business landscape and do meaningful work together: 

  1. Identify the best structures and skills for your facilitation toolbelt and work with them; you drive the tools, they do not drive you.
  2. Actively listen to people’s needs, concerns, and challenges.
  3. Reserve time for alone time to achieve the best group work results. 

Let’s use this time as an opportunity to truly connect and achieve results beyond the mundane; let’s have magical meetings together. 

Want to learn more about virtual facilitation? 

Voltage Control offers virtual services including Virtual Facilitation, Virtual Transitions, and Virtual Meeting Design. Please reach out at hello@voltagecontrol.com for a consultation.