2014 08-20--online facilitation4--keeping-sessions_lively[v1]


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This fourth of four webinars on "Mastering Online Facilitation," originally designed and delivered for SEFLIN, focuses on day-of-delivery essentials. It is designed to model the practices discussed with the learners; leaves plenty of time for interactions with and among the learners; and concludes with resources and suggested activities to help participants apply what they are learning. Speaker notes are included along with the slides.

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  • I hope, as we begin our fourth and final session together today, that you’ve already gained a great sense of some of the rewards that come with online facilitation.
    For me, one of the most exciting elements of online facilitation is that we never know what we’re going to find when we set out on this journey—something reflected on our title slide this week.
    We’re looking at a Creative Commons image posted on Flickr.com by Sarah Stewart, an online facilitator based in Canberra (Australia). I had no idea Sarah existed until I did on search for images on Flickr using “learning online” as my search terms. And there it was: this lovely image, taken during an online session using Elluminate. It reminds us that behind as well as at the center of all great online interactions are people. And connections. And warmth.
    What we’ve been exploring, and what Sarah’s image suggests, is a theme we have been discussing since the opening moments of the first of these four webinars:
    Technology is the tool. People remain at the heart of the process.
    As we explore the process of keeping sessions lively—focusing today on the day of delivery itself—let’s keep that fabulous image from Sarah in mind, and see what we can do to be as engaging, encouraging, and effective as that image suggests we can be in our online environments.
    [For more about Sarah, please visit the blog she set up for her own online-facilitation course; it’s another great resource, well worth exploring: http://facilitatingonlinecommunities.blogspot.com/.]
  • When we talk about webinars and online meetings, “excitement” is not often a word that immediately comes to mind. And yet it should be. We, our colleagues, and our learners should want to be looking forward to what we are offering. All of us should feel drawn to these opportunities just as much as we are drawn to the most engaging experiences we can imagine.
    There should be a sense of anticipation. A promise of transformative experiences. And an opportunity for the sort of follow-up that facilitates action rather than leaving us with a sense that we’ve just given away another hour, day, week, or month of our lives with no visceral return on the investment of time and energy all of us make when we agree to be part of an online meeting or learning experience.
    It begins from the moment we walk through the virtual door into our online meeting space, and continues through whatever means we provide and encourage others to pursue.
    That’s what we will explore together today.
  • Before we build upon our previous discussions and move into determining whether to proceed with plans for an online meeting or a webinar, let’s plug any remaining gaps:
    If you have questions about what we discussed or what you just saw in that brief review, please type them into the chat window now…
    As always, I’ll pause here to give you a few seconds to think and respond—and make the point again that online silence can not only be nice, but can also be part of effective meetings and webinars. If you have no questions, please don’t hesitate to type that note into the chat window so I know you’re ready to move ahead.
  • There is nothing quite like a warm greeting to move things in the right direction. Whether we greet our colleagues and learners at the door to a physical meeting learning space, or meet them online and welcome them the moment they arrive into our virtual spaces, we can’t go wrong by humanizing the experience. (You’ll notice that I’ve tried to integrate that idea visually into the entire presentation today by including plenty of images of people rather than focusing on charts, graphs, and book covers.)
    Without becoming too technical, let’s acknowledge how we feel when someone greets us makes us feel as if we’re immediately an insider rather than an outsider, and also acknowledge research that shows the more we see and become familiar with someone, the more comfortable we are. If one of our goals as facilitators is to make people feel welcome, we need to start at the moment they arrive rather than leave people in that uncomfortable position of feeling a bit off kilter or outside the inner circle.
    And that brings us to a very important tip:
    It’s very helpful to be online at least 30 minutes before a webinar formally begins. That leaves us with plenty of time for last-minute trouble-shooting and puts us in a great position to be ready to calmly, warmly, and engagingly greet our learners.
  • Sococo, a company selling a virtual platform, codifies some of the practices we’ve been using throughout this webinar series. Among the suggestions are:
    Chatting with everyone within the virtual room
    Sending private chat messages (or encouraging others to do the same) so our colleagues and learners have a chance to develop the same sort of connections developed within face-to-face settings
    Our colleagues at Sococo also draw attention to a couple of other obvious ways to facilitate interactions:
    Sharing our screens with others
    Sharing videos
    These can both be very effective extensions of our interactions as long as we have adequate bandwidth and have seen, by testing our equipment and the equipment our colleagues and learners will be using to be sure that there are no unexpected tech problems that will interfere with our interactions.
  • For those of us who are—to be polite about it—control freaks, there’s a set of great reminders to be delivered:
    We have to learn to let go at a certain point.
    There’s no way to control everything.
    We’re going to drive ourselves crazy if we try to carefully control everything.
    Facilitating involves numerous skills, but few are as important as listening and observing what is happening so we engage in supportive behavior. It’s more about keeping that thumb up rather than keeping everything –and everyone—under that thumb. (Think back to that image we saw at the beginning of our first webinar together—the one about herding cats. We aren’t going to herd cats, and we aren’t going to herd disengaged colleagues and learners online, either.)
  • Facilitate.com is one of many sites offering tremendously useful tips for facilitating successful online meetings. Beyond the pre-meeting items we have discussed, we find reminders to:
    Make sure basic ground rules are in place, understood, and used by everyone during the session to encourage rather than squelch participation and results
    Do all we can to foster trust among participants so we have the greatest possible amount of engagement possible
    Pay attention to the group process—be sure everyone is engaged and able to participate to the greatest extent possible
    Pay attention to the emerging results—and build upon them whenever we can
    [Another good resource, although it doesn’t appear to have any new postings later than June 2011: http://www.facilitate.com/blog/]
  • There are, of course, times, when participants in meetings bump up against each other and discussions can become a bit tense. This is one of the many situations online in which we can draw upon the same practices we would use in face-to-face situations:
    If there’s an easy way to identify the crux of the difference and encourage those in disagreement to seek a readily-available compromise, we’re back on track.
    If setting a time limit for discussion and then moving toward some sort of compromise is possible, we might try taking that approach; it may simply call for each of the opposing sides in a discussion to back up a bit, make room for the other side to maneuver, and then attempt to move forward—without again careening into each other.
    If it’s clear that nothing can be resolved within the timeframe established for the meeting, there’s no reason why we can’t ask for a few of the participants to try to seek options outside of the meeting that is currently underway and bring proposed solutions back for further discussion at the earliest possible moment.
  • We have, in this series, already covered a variety of basic and intermediate tips on how to prepare for and deliver engaging and effective webinars, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to look at one relatively brief (17-page) free online resource that summarizes much of what we have explored.
    Cory Miller’s 15 Best Practices for Rockin’ Webinars is a well-organized concise guide that reminds of us where we have been and where we hope to go.
  • The table of contents itself serves as a course outline as well as another checklist in addition to those we encountered in some of our Week 1 book-length resources exploring online facilitation. It also hits a couple of points we haven’t previously discussed:
    We shouldn’t underestimate the challenges of keeping track of different time zones where our colleagues and learners are. Setting sessions too early or too late for those on opposite extremes of the time zones we cover can be extremely discouraging for those who struggle with inconvenient or impossible time slots.
    Remember that we’re not rock stars: What we promise to do should start on time regardless of how few or how many participants actually arrive. If there’s absolutely no one present within five or ten minutes of the proposed start time for a webinar or other learning experience, we always have the option of going ahead with the session so it can be recorded and posted for others.
  • We probably all remember the tagline for the movie Alien: In space, no one can hear you scream. And yet we seem to think that there’s a corollary in virtual space, that no one can hear you snore.
    Great facilitation, as we’ve heard so many times during this series of webinars about online presentation skills, leaves no room for snoring. We’re not so much facilitating meetings as we are facilitating opportunities to reach agreements that lead to substantial actions. We’re not so much facilitating webinars as we are facilitating essential learning opportunities that serve our learners, their organizations, and the people ultimately benefitting from what their (our) organizations provide—at their moment of need.
    I won’t bore you with a lecture about how ineffective lectures are in most learning environments. But I will encourage you to look at how much has been written over decades, if not centuries, about how we need to find other ways to stimulate learning beyond the standard lecture format—and hope that what we’re doing together here leaves you with a good foundation for facilitating that particular set of explorations.
  • Let’s think again for a moment about great examples we have seen of engagement in our own meeting and learning experiences—including during our time together over the past few weeks:
    Please add your thoughts here, and remember to jot down your colleagues’ ideas that can be useful when you organize online meetings and webinars.
  • I’ve alluded, throughout our time together, to the idea that there’s a certain level of performance involved in online facilitation.
    We can learn quite a bit from our great jazz musicians, our great comedians, and others who embrace the art of improv.
    If we stick with our scripts, we can pretty much guarantee that we’ll bore those who are relying on us for interaction. We can also pretty much guarantee that we will miss wonderful opportunities to find creative solutions to problems discussed in meetings—just as we will miss wonderful learning opportunities in our webinars.
    Besides—as we’ve seen when our technology was not with us in earlier webinars—we need to be ready for and comfortable with those moments when technology lets us down—for example, when the audio feed is slower than expected, or when we are unexpectedly booted out of our own webinars or online meeting.
    Developing riffs that we can incorporate into our work actually makes us able to laugh with our colleagues and learners when those less-than-optimal moments occur. It also has the advantage or removing one more sources of stress as we approach and engage in the moment of facilitating webinars and online meetings.
  • There are numerous online guides to help us learn some improvisation basics, but they all come down to a few consistent principles:
    Saying “yes” to what comes our way; if something goes wrong, embrace it, work with it, and overcome it rather than letting the challenge overcome us
    Don’t be afraid of the unknown. Our colleagues arrive at our meetings and our learners arrive at our webinars without knowing everything. There’s no reason we have to feel as if we’re meant to know everything, either. Admitting what we don’t know and then joining our colleagues and learners in seeking to fill the gaps in our knowledge makes us partners in the process and takes away a lot of the pressure we unnecessarily put upon ourselves.
    Improvisation is an art form, as is facilitation…as is learning. If we see the interrelationships between the various elements we are using, we’re more likely to creatively explore options that lead us to wonderful, unanticipated rewards.
  • There will be breakdowns.
    We know this.
    We have seen this.
    We have to live with this.
    But if we learn how to seek virtual roadside assistance—and if we carry the equivalent of a roadside assistance card (which simply means planning for problems, practicing how to recover from problems, and learning how to laugh at problems rather than being overwhelmed by them)—we do ourselves, our colleagues, and our learners a huge favor.
  • This one is pretty basic and wonderfully to the point:
    Shari Alexander, writing for Entrepreneur, begins with the mantra “Don’t freak out.” She recalls a time when, during a live online session, she heard a bit of static and then lost all sound in her headset. And she was tremendously grateful that she didn’t verbalize the expletives that were flowing through her head, because she soon received a phone call assuring her that her colleagues could hear her even if she couldn’t hear them.
    Her other tips include practices we have used in this webinar series, including the idea that problems can actually provide learning moments for all involved. She also reminds us to keep a sense of humor while acknowledging the problems and frustrations—that helps keep everyone feeling as if they are part of the team or learning community.
    Again, we’re not alone here—even though it may feel that way when we’re unfamiliar with our online tools or specific members of our online groups.
  • Let’s take another breather to build upon what we already know and what we are exploring today…
  • There’s something undeniably exhilarating about reaching the finish line in any endeavor, and webinars and online meetings are no exception.
    As you have probably sensed during our time together, we do develop a sense of camaraderie if things have gone well. We do reach the end of a session with a distinct sense of accomplishment.
    And it doesn’t stop there. If we are successful, we’re back where we started:
    Recognizing that this is a process as much as an event
    There’s always more to do, and
    It’s up to all of us to determine what we will do to take advantage of what we have gained. Applying what we have learned is easily as important as learning it in the first place—and that’s an idea well worth repeating to ourselves and those we serve.
  • You have, no doubt, noticed through the lists of resources and through much of what I’ve encouraged you to do that I’m a big fan of lifelong learning and experimentation, so you probably won’t be surprised by the admission that I’ve been doing some experimenting and pushing of the envelope through this series.
    One of our more successful efforts occurred last Friday during the first of the two “master classes” we set up as part of the series. Jeannette Smithee, one of your colleagues, and I engaged in a loosely organized session where the learner brought a sample slide deck and did a ten-minute online presentation that the three of us then jointly discussed and critiqued. It wasn’t just about the presenter/facilitator in this case: all three of us learned quite a bit from the experience, and the result was that our community of learning became a little more solid.
    As we reach the end of our formal series, we face some interesting choices:
    To simply take what we have learned and apply it in our own settings
    Continue meeting in some other context (for example, through a Google+ Community that you set up, or a listserv that already provides you with an established meeting place for ongoing conversations)
    Some other way of staying in touch with each other so that your support each other’s continuing learning process
    Let’s take a few minutes to discuss any preferences you have and ideas you might want to pursue.
  • Planning ahead…
  • Planning ahead…
  • We started off, in looking at the picture provided by online facilitator Sarah Stewart, with the reminder that much of what we’re doing focuses on interactions between people, and that the technology is the tool, not the driver, of the process.
  • We talked about the importance of nurturing and sustaining a sense of excitement in all that we do.
  • We noted the importance of creating the same sort of welcoming environment online that we strive to create in face-to-face meetings and learning opportunities—and how we foster those through the choice of images we include in our slide decks for webinars and online meetings .
  • We acknowledged the importance of keeping our thumbs up in support of those with whom we are working rather than trying to keep them under our thumbs by being overly controlling.
  • We explored the power of incorporating improvisation into our work online.
  • And we considered the importance of acknowledging the sense of achievement we have as we approach the end of our work together—and the possibilities that exist if we want to look and work beyond the obvious lines of demarcation that we cross.
  • A bit of background:
    As we did earlier in this series, let’s use PowerPoint’s “Slide Sorter” view to see how today’s webinar was designed to demonstrate what it is trying to convey…
    You can see that:
    There was a deliberate effort to interweave imagery with text
    Bullet points were not part of the program—even the visual review at the end used repeated imagery to help you remember what was offered
    Use of color in the headlines provided some subtle guidance: Green headlines were often used for discussions, red for presentation of new information, and blue for introductory or summary material. (For ease of legibility, I had to switch to white type on the slides that used full images.)
    Plenty of white space was incorporated into the slides to make them as easy to absorb as possible
    Discussions were built into the presentation at regular intervals to help keep everyone engaged
    And the Slide Sorter view itself provides yet another review tool for us as we consider the topic we have been discussing: There is a visual roadmap of the journey we are completing together today
  • 2014 08-20--online facilitation4--keeping-sessions_lively[v1]

    1. 1. Facilitated by Paul Signorelli Writer/Trainer/Consultant Paul Signorelli & Associates paul@paulsignorelli.com Twitter: @paulsignorelli August 20, 2014 Mastering Online Facilitation: Keeping Sessions Lively
    2. 2. Excitement
    3. 3. Questions from Weeks 1, 2, and 3?
    4. 4. Greeting Themat the Virtual Door
    5. 5. More Tips forWarming Up the Room
    6. 6. Meetings: Facilitation vs. Controlling
    7. 7. Tips forMeetings
    8. 8. More Tips forMeetings: Defusing Conflict
    9. 9. Tips forWebinars http://ithemes.com/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2012/05/15-Best-Pract
    10. 10. Tips forWebinars http://ithemes.com/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2012/05/15-Best-Pract
    11. 11. Webinars: Facilitation vs. Lecturing
    12. 12. Discussion #1: Engagement What keeps you engaged in onsite oronline meetings and webinars?
    13. 13. Discussion #1: Engagement What keeps you engaged in onsite oronline meetings and webinars? What drives you to despairin onsite oronline meetings and webinars?
    14. 14. Improvisation
    15. 15. Improvisation Tips http://improvnonsense.tumblr.com/post/29299746548/understanding-comedy-50-improv
    16. 16. Dealing With the Tech Gremlins
    17. 17. More Tips forDealing With Tech Meltdowns http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/229805
    18. 18. Discussion #2: Recovery What has helped you recoverfrom a challenge you have faced in an onsite oronline meeting, orin an onsite oronline learning experience?
    19. 19. End of Session…and Beyond
    20. 20. Opportunities at Mastery http://buildingcreativebridges.wordpress.com/2014/08/15/learning-with-our-learners-o
    21. 21. Discussion #3: Applying What We’ve Learned What, if anything, will you do in the next weekto furtherhone your day-of-presentation practices?
    22. 22. Discussion #3: Applying What We’ve Learned What, if anything, will you do in the next weekto furtherhone your day-of-presentation practices? What will you do in the next 30 days to create additional learning opportunities foryourself, yourcolleagues, and those you serve?
    23. 23. In Summary
    24. 24. In Summary
    25. 25. In Summary
    26. 26. In Summary
    27. 27. In Summary
    28. 28. In Summary
    29. 29. Resources (1) “A Dozen Tips for Facilitating an Online Meeting,” Faciitate.com, accessed August 15, 2014 http://www.facilitate.com/support/facilitator-toolkit/online “Have Your First Meeting in Sococo,” by Matt Leacock Soroco.com, December 1, 2013 http://www.sococo.com/news-and-events/have-your-f
    30. 30. Resources (2) “Understanding Comedy: 50 Improve Tips from Billy Merritt’s Improv Party” Improv Nonsense, August 12, 2012 http://improvnonsense.tumblr.com/post/29299746548/understand “How to Save Any Presentation From a Technology Meltdown,” Shari Alexander Entre pre ne ur, November 12, 2013 http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/229805
    31. 31. Resources (3) Formore about online learning and online presentation skills: http://ithemes.com /wp- content/uploads/d ownloads/2012/05 /15-Best- Practices- webinars- eBook.pdf http://buildingcreativebridges.wordpre ss.com/2014/08/15/learning-with-our- learners-online-master-class/
    32. 32. Going Underthe Hood
    33. 33. Questions & Comments
    34. 34. ForMore Information Paul Signorelli & Associates 1032 Irving St., #514 San Francisco, CA 94122 415.681.5224 paul@paulsignorelli.com http://paulsignorelli.com Twitter: @paulsignorelli http://buildingcreativebridges.wordpress.com
    35. 35. Credits & Acknowledgments (Images taken from flickr.com unless otherwise noted): Title Slide (Elluminate Conference): From Sarah Stewart’s photostream at http://tinyurl.com/njqlukv Fireworks: From Vetto’s photostreamat http://tinyurl.com/q3t8c3p Welcome: From Simply CVR’s photostream at http://tinyurl.com/klbksgm Encouragement: From Sebastiaan ter Burg’s photostreamat http://tinyurl.com/mf266tq Collision: From Khuroshvili Ilya’s photostream at http://tinyurl.com/mhobjhs Lectures That Induce Slumber: : From ScottJacksonX’s photostream at http://tinyurl.com/oeygoo3 Improvisation: From ePi.Longo’s photostream at http://tinyurl.com/lx5wbar Roadside Breakdown: From JBizzie’s photostreamat http://tinyurl.com/l39sycx Finish Line: From U.S. Army’s photostreamat http://tinyurl.com/k9y2jtq Question Marks: From Valerie Everett’s photostreamat http://www.flickr.com/photos/valeriebb/3006348550/sizes/m/in/photostream/