By Laura Gramling, President, EnSpark Consulting
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been doing between 3-7 hours of virtual facilitation per day. Here’s what I’ve found:
The biggest challenge is creating rapport. As social beings, we have an innate desire to connect. Connection lays the foundation for trust. And trust has to be there in order to cooperate, collaborate and solve problems together.
That ability to connect is foundational. How do you engender that in a virtual environment?
1) You cannot skip over introductions and check-ins, making space for that is essential
Know who is on the call, and what their roles are. For smaller groups (under 20), have everyone do a voice check in. For larger groups, use the chat function.
2) I want to encourage everyone to be on camera.
People are sometimes reluctant. But seeing them as they speak makes a big difference in the quality of our experiences with each other.
3) Another thing that helps connect people is having a strong facilitation hand.
For an in-person meeting you might have a free flow of ideas, since people can see cues when to speak up or step back. But it’s harder online.
I find it useful to cue people when to speak. Sometimes I even go so far as to mute everyone and only unmute people whose turn it is to speak. You can also cue people, “I want to hear comments from Tim next, then Ann, and then Mike”, this allows people to get ready.
4) You don’t want to put people on a spot. It’s awkward in person but even worse online.
You want to give people a good question or topic and have them be ready to respond to that.
5) I encourage the active use of chat to solicit comments, or to acknowledge good points.
You might type in the chat box, “Mike made a really good point, I think it would help xyz” or you can prompt a question in chat while you are letting the main conversation go on. This is especially important for introverts who might ordinarily not speak up.
6) Acknowledging people, especially at the end of the meeting for their focus and attention.
We’re not just at home because it’s a snow day–we’re working and moving conversations forward in the middle of a pandemic. Thank people for being present and contributing.
Checklist for Building Rapport
- Check-ins and introductions
- Everyone on camera
- Strong facilitation
- Call on people to speak
- Give them a question to answer
- Liberal use of chat to spur additional conversations
- Acknowledge people’s participation and humanity
Connect with us to discuss more about how you can create great virtual meetings.