How to Facilitate Online Agile Meetings

Just over 8 months ago I wrote an article about facilitating remote meetings which said that in 2020 the ONS expected 50% of colleagues to work remotely in some form. Since then, the remote landscape has changed dramatically due to the coronavirus pandemic with most organisations being forced to implement remote working across the board.

This has meant teams the world over are sharing knowledge, generating ideas, overcoming challenges in meetings online  – which are often a lot harder to navigate than in the room ones.

In this article, I explore what facilitation is, why it’s important to get right (and why all team members need these skills), and how a facilitator helps improve the work we do in meetings. I also share some useful tips that you can begin using right away to facilitate your online (and in the room) meetings.

THE GLOBAL SHIFT TO REMOTE WORK

With the global shift to remote working this has meant people and their teams the world over are working away from each other, often for the very first time. When people are working away from each other this means a number of different online meetings are needed to share knowledge and to communicate with each other, such as “standups”, retros or planning.

However, online meetings often need a lot more prep than in-the-room ones and are often a lot more challenging to get participants fully engaged, feel safe, and to keep them engaged. We are hearing from our customers that getting people to feel safe online is now more important than ever, especially with the overhead impact of c-19 worries.

When we don’t know how to create meetings that feel safe, where people can do their best work or how to use the technology correctly, that’s when people in meetings can become distracted, disconnected, feel uncomfortable and ultimately not feel safe enough to contribute. A skilled meeting facilitator (which can be anyone from the team not just a dedicated person) can help overcome common problems like these for both online and in-the-room meetings.

WHAT IS A FACILITATOR?

Facilitation is the art and science of helping groups (and teams) in their thinking, planning and decision-making. A facilitator designs and leads the meeting while remaining neutral from the group and doesn’t contribute to content creation. Their job is to create the right environment where great stuff is done and agreed. A skilled meeting facilitator can get a group to discuss, debate, and, above all, decide a lot of stuff in not-a-lot of time. However, many teams and companies don’t have a dedicated person to step in and fill that role. So, as our workplaces become ever-more collaborative (and remote), it’s increasingly important for all team members to know how to design and run effective meetings.

WHAT ARE SOME TIPS I CAN TRY NOW? 

Here are a couple of techniques you can start using right away – whether you are online or in-the-room:

  • Set the purpose and outcome
    Write out the Purpose and Outcome of the meeting you are organising and paste this into the calendar invite before you click send. You can use this technique (which we explore more deeply on our Agile Team Facilitation class) for online and in-the room meetings to encourage participation and attendance of the meeting because it gets everyone aligned on why they need to be there.
  • Prepare your space
    Before logging onto host your online meetings it’s important to check that your environment is set up right. Find a quiet room (if possible) where you can limit distractions, use headphones to reduce background noise and, if you are using a webcam, check that you are clear and visible on the screen. Our CEA shares more in the video below

  • Read the “Room”:
    A good meeting facilitator knows how to create an open and honest environment where people can do their best thinking and collaboration and feel safe to share their ideas. To do this the group needs to respect and trust you and feel confident that you are able to deal with any incidents that may happen. On our 16-hour online Agile Facilitation course we explore how to have presence and how to “read the room” for both online and in-the-room meetings. Simon shares some tips to help you get started below from the 10 minute mark:

HOW CAN I LEARN MORE?

Curious to learn more? Want a new and improved facilitator toolkit for working with distributed and co-located teams? Then join us by booking an online class today. 

If you need both an in-the-room and online meeting facilitation toolkit (and get certified) then join our 16 hour online facilitation class, which is certified by ICAgile. You can book now at the special online price of just £999 +VAT (£1300) / $1200 ($1800)

If you already know how to facilitate in-the-room meetings and now need remote facilitation skills, then join our 8-hour Remote Agile Facilitator class.

I work at AWA HQ looking after day-to-day operations, speaking with people, organising events and training, and thinking up the next cool thing we can do. Outside of work I’m probably in one of 3 places – at F45, on the mat practising yoga, or out in the countryside with my husband walking our whippet, Luna.