Everyone is working from home, and you have an important working session coming up. You would normally spend half a day or more with the team in a conference room. That’s no longer possible. What’s your first step?
If you’re like many of us, you’re adept at videoconferencing, but facilitating a virtual working session has never been necessary. Having just spent the last four weeks successfully facilitating multi-day working sessions and a team retreat, I offer a few tips and learnings:
While “winging it” may have been possible in person, preparation is critical for a virtual session.
Embed the learnings and get traction on action items quickly, to make the experience meaningful and the results tangible. During the session, identify quick wins. Use project management techniques to ensure ownership of action items and next steps. And use visual cues (e.g. virtual whiteboard) to capture recognizable moments from the session, to send out with next steps.
There will be surprises. Unexpected conversations, unavoidable distractions, difficult interactions, unanticipated results. Your job as virtual facilitator is to stay calm, be thoughtful, and know that you can guide the team to a solution. They will look to you for guidance. Stay in the moment. Perhaps, based on your experience level and comfort with the team and content, you know exactly how to proceed. Great. If you don’t, take a breath and relax. It’s perfectly okay to crowdsource the next steps. Ask the team where they’d like to go next with this new information, this unexpected occurrence. This can be a fantastic opportunity to allow participants to engage on a deeper level.
Remember, as a facilitator, you aren’t expected to have all the answers. And you may stumble here and there, as you get used to working the virtual room. That’s okay. The important part is what you do next. Acknowledge the stumble briefly and get participants back on track by reviewing your progress toward the session objectives. This refocuses the team on achieving its important goals and will build your confidence for future virtual sessions.
This blog was written by Tracy Colahan, leader of Customer Engagements and Strategic Programs here at Action for Results.
Tracy brings over 28 years of expertise in life sciences, including pharmaceuticals, medical devices, combination products, and in vitro diagnostics, and has worked for companies such as Allergan and Johnson & Johnson. Prior to consulting, Tracy held a number of senior management positions encompassing global project and portfolio management, R&D finance, business development and strategic planning.
You can connect with Tracy on Linkedin.
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