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The Keys to Successful Virtual Participant Engagement

by Nadine Bell

Plan Appropriate Group Processes

Use a variety of participatory processes. Select methods and processes that foster virtual engagement by all participants and achieve a high quality product /outcome that meets the identified needs.

  • Understand what is different in virtual and face to face meetings
  • Create an agenda that includes the unique components to an effective online meeting that will deliver your client’s desired outcomes.
  • Plan activities for all three varied learning / thinking styles
    • Auditory –include check ins, discussions, wrap ups, etc. to enable participants to hear what others are thinking and experiencing.
    • Visual –select images that support the content and provide effective atmosphere and impact for the sessions.
    • Kinesthetic – actively engage participants in interactive activities such as exercises in chats, polls and break out rooms
  • Stimulate and tap group energy with journalistic questions:
    • Who
    • What
    • When
    • Where
    • How

Chose a Suitable Virtual Platform

 Select a platform that will enable you to accomplish everything you have planned.

  • Learn how to effectively use the selected platform before the meeting.
  • Prepare the site to support the purpose of the meeting and give participants:
    • Opportunities for individual participation
    • Break out rooms (if available) for small group interaction
    • A large room that accommodates all of the participants for presentations, etc.

Ask a colleague who has used that platform to be your technical producer so that you can focus on the facilitation of the session

  • Hold rehearsals with the technical producer and presenters so that everyone is clear about their role and timing.
  • If the platform is new to you, set up a test run of the meeting you designed with colleagues who can give you feedback

 Plan Effective Use of Time

  • Productive virtual meetings are generally scheduled for two hours or less. In order to get as much done as possible in the time you have allocated for the meeting, follow the 4 “SOTs”
    • SOT Start on time
    • SOT Stay on time
    • SOT Stay on track
    • SOT Stop on time

The above guidelines are taken from The Highly Effective Facilitator, Keith Ryall.

 If the work that needs to be accomplished takes longer than one 2 hour meeting, schedule multiple meetings of two hours or less.

    • On the same day with at least an hour break between meetings
    • On different days. To keep participants engaged in the focus of the meeting:
      • Provide questions for thought on which to reflect between sessions
      • Assign tasks to be fulfilled for the next session

Before Your Virtual Session Starts

  • Turn off and restart your computer
  • Put a Do Not Disturb sign or On The Air sign on your office door
  • Center yourself through relaxation techniques, deep breathing, other tools you have used in the past to become and stay focused.
  • Provide a platform tutorial for the participants so that they are familiar with the tools they will be using and can focus on the session content

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