Challenges of Online Facilitation and How to Solve Them
People want the same things from leaders that they have always wanted: decisiveness, understanding, honesty, confidence, positivity, inspiration, etc. However, the medium in which those are delivered has changed since online facilitation. Here we will address the challenges of conducting meetings online and provide some solutions to make the process a little bit easier.
- Technology Fails.
This is something we don’t actually have a fool-proof solution for. However, there are ways to prepare for the worst and keep a light heart when things do fail. Patience is key in all facets of online facilitation. How many times have you been on a call and asked someone to repeat themselves a couple of times because the wifi was spotty? Even before wifi it was (and still is) cell phone service. Or someone’s mic isn’t working. The problems go on.
Check your Wifi Speed. The best you can do is make sure you have access to acceptable wifi for your mode of communication. You can check your wifi speed through an online platform. We recommend using SpeedOf.me. Before you check your speed, stop all programs and close all browser windows that you do not need open. All of these processes are eating up your wifi speed. Skype offers a table for approximate necessary wifi speeds that we have included here:
Check your microphone and video functionality. You should do this yourself and instruct everyone in the meeting to make sure their mic and video are working as well. Check out Webcammictest.com to test the functionality of your mic and video. You can also always call a friend or family member. This might get annoying for them after a while but hey…what are friends for!
Schedule extra meeting time. It is wise to arrive at a meeting (online or not) about 15-20 minutes early to make sure your equipment is working and your notes are prepared. You can also overestimate the time the meeting will take so that you can make up for time lost with any potential technical problems.
- Repeating Yourself.
Wait, what did you say? Can you please repeat that? I missed the last part of that. We know you just love repeating yourself a couple of times for each person on at the online meeting. But we have a time limit and other things to take care of so here are some not so fool- proof solutions for repeating yourself over and over.
Take turns. This is more easily said than done. However, it makes things a lot easier in terms of organization. Set up a rotation that makes sense for your topics. This will avoid people talking over each other.
Listen. You can’t listen while you are talking. So everyone on the video call needs to go in with the intent of listening, not responding.
Take advantage of chat. Most conference platforms or online calling services offer a chat option that can be simultaneously used with calling and video. Have people drop their thoughts into this bar so they can be addressed after someone is done talking.
Let’s do the best we can here. If you know you are having an online meeting then make sure you are in a quiet room without distractions. We know it is easy to get distracted when you are in a meeting room, let alone in your own home talking to a screen. The benefits of working online and participating in online facilitation is the flexibility of environment. But you are still “at work.”
Control your environment the best you can.
Make sure the dog is in the backyard, the baby is asleep, you are not victim to someone morning smoothie making, etc. Some people do not have access to a quiet space, just do the best you can.
This one is something a lot of people overlook. When there is noise on your end, everyone on the conference call hears too. Say you have 7 members on the call. That means noise from 7 different worlds are coming together on one platform. When you aren’t talking, mute your microphone if your environment isn’t close to silent. Just don’t forget to un-mute it when you want to say something.
- Social Cues are missing.
This is the struggle of online communication. Emojis, gifs, and emoticons can only go so far and often get misinterpreted. Maybe you can recall the infamous misplaced wink face emoji. Not being able to detect someone’s facial expressions or body language makes it difficult to gauge someone’s emotional state. According to Dr. Albert Mehrabian who wrote Silent Messages, only 7% of any message is expressed strictly by words. The other 93% combination of vocal fluctuations and body language.
The good news is that at least 38% of messages are conveyed through vocal elements. So it is time to get really good and noticing what it sounds like when someone is mad or confused by the tones in their voice. Some people are better at detecting this than others. They have a special ear for tones. However, there are also people who are good at hiding their emotions which makes it confusing for the listener. You know that time you were absolutely furious, but instead of lashing out, you voiced a forced I am fine, everything’s fine.” This is where things get messy.
Opt for Video
Video gives you access to facial expressions which makes reading someone much easier. So get out of bed, brush your hair and turn on your video!
This online world is becoming bigger and it is becoming more common to have meetings online. As an online facilitator, you are ahead of the technology game. Be patient as technology catches up with the needs of online communication. One day, the idea of virtual meetings might become very close to an in person meeting. Until then, let’s do our best to work with what we have.
Very best wishes for your every success,
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