5 tips for remote facilitation

Remote work and virtual meetings have come to stay but they have also introduced challenges to maintaining work culture and effortless cooperation. Creating shared understanding has become the most important task of virtual meetings. Facilitation skills have become a mandatory part of everyone’s daily toolbox. What remote facilitation skills should an organizer have? How to virtually commit participants to shared work, democratically allow everyone to speak and create a psychologically safe working environment? Read this article for some good tips!

5 tips for remote facilitation

Take time for preparing

It is much too common to call a meeting without first considering its objectives and some efficient ways to reach the desired outcome. As the meeting organizer, make it clear to yourself as to what the fundamental reason for holding the meeting is. The following questions can help you to clarify the objective:

  • Do you want to make decisions?
  • Do you want to create ideas?
  • Do you want to get to know the status of other people’s work?
  • Do you want to communicate something to the participants?
  • Do you want to plan something together?

Communicate the objective of the meeting clearly to the participants so that your time together is spent efficiently. Write a short description in the meeting invitation as well as communicate it separately to the invitees to encourage them to participate and commit to working together. In addition, start the meeting by reviewing the objective and the desired outcome so that everyone present understands it.

It is easier to continue to plan the meeting once the core idea is clear. Plan the agenda of the remote meeting with the following steps:

  • Plan the outline and different stages of the meeting
    Plan the different stages required for the meeting to reach its objective. Create a presentation to keep the meeting focused.
  • Ensure that the schedule is realistic
    Schedule the different stages of the meeting and leave enough time for discussion. Also remember to consider breaks if the meeting is longer than 90 minutes.
  • Choose the appropriate methods for different stages of the meeting
    Define the type of activity in more detail, such as defining a key question, ideation, concepting or turning solutions into practical measures and then choose the appropriate method for each stage.
  • Choose and test tools that are appropriate for the methods
    Choose appropriate tools, such as collaboration platforms that enable working together.
  • Draw up instructions for working during the various stages of the meeting
    Write down and share clear tasks for each work stage so that the participants can review them while working.
  • Prepare for changes during the meeting
    Be prepared for sudden changes – it is common for there to be some.

Get the participants committed to working together

The participants’ commitment to the meeting can be fostered with very simple actions. Starting the meeting with a relaxed chat and a quick and easy question for the participants lightens the mood, fosters commitment to working together and creates a safe space for discussion.

Communicating the purpose and objective of the meeting provides the participants clarity. It is also important that the facilitator provides everyone the shared rules and guidelines, such as operating methods, assignments, methods used, or a more detailed schedule. A round of presentations is a good way to start a meeting in order to ensure that everyone knows who is present and what their roles are.

One of the most important methods for fostering participation is to give a task to each participant to keep them committed from start to finish. This can be further enhanced by working in small groups in order for every employee to get their voice heard better. The facilitator can also create dedicated virtual materials for each participant that they are responsible for. This way, no one becomes just a passive listener, and the group meeting manages to create added value.

In remote facilitation, it is important to make sure that everyone’s input is received and acknowledged.

Give everyone equal opportunities to voice their opinions

Give everyone equal opportunities to voice their opinions

Every meeting will also have passive and quiet participants. However, it is important to equally enable everyone to participate so that no one is left out. Here are some handy ways of getting everyone’s opinion:

  • A discussion round where everyone gets to share their view and ideas on a set subject. You could also mention the discussion round in advance in the meeting invitation so that shy participants are not taken by surprise.
  • Using documentation and chat that enable participation in writing.
  • Getting the participants’ views in advance and handing out the collected materials during the remote meeting.

Creating a relaxed atmosphere and fostering psychological safety

Fostering psychological safety enables diverse high-quality discussions. It is important that the facilitator acts in a transparent and open manner to enable an atmosphere of trust.

Here are some measures to increase psychological safety:

  • Greet the participants and do not forget the round of introductions.
  • Present the agenda, schedule and objective of the meeting.
  • Provide clear instructions for working – tell what happens next both verbally and in writing. Also provide your reasoning for using the selected methods.
  • Be easy to approach, transparent and an active listener.
  • Encourage dialogue between the participants and help them make decisions.
  • Recap and summarize.
  • Remain neutral regarding content when you want to hear different participants’ views. Do not praise or criticize ideas.

The role of the facilitator is to guide the remote discussion in a safe direction. As the facilitator, you can ask the participants what they would like to get out of the meeting and review their wants at the end. You can also mention something good that you heard from another participant or tell what you have learned from the discussion. You could also lighten the mood by telling 1–3 things that a facilitator can get wrong – this will make the atmosphere more relaxed.

Summarize and clarify the result

Once the remote meeting has ended, it is important to summarize and clarify to the participants what was learned. Did you manage to reach the desired objective and end result? As the facilitator, you can create a summary of questions to review before closing:

  • What was the topic of discussion?
  • What were the most important insights?
  • Which new and surprising perspectives came up?
  • Which matters still remain unclear?
  • What will have to be reviewed and clarified later?

After a remote meeting, you should communicate clear tasks and responsibilities to the participants in relation to the expectations on future tasks. It is also important to thank all the participants of the remote meeting for their time and input. Remember to also share the minutes and materials of the meeting at the end.

Which methods support planning and ideation? Which tools are appropriate for facilitation and workshops? You can find the answers to these questions for the blog post “Methods and tools to help with facilitation”.

Facilitation is not only about organizing shared work but also a collection of methods and tools.