Online facilitators are the digital interior designers and decorators. They plan digital meetings, organize the necessary tools and guide you through the room so that the goal always remains in front of your eyes and something tangible remains at the end of the meeting. What exactly to do can be read here?

Facilitating digital formats is not a no-brainer. An online facilitator has various tasks (read more here).

– Define the goal
– Plan the approach and determine the methods
– Identify and invite participants
– Conduct the workshop in such a way that the participants remain active until the end.
– Prepare and communicate results

Sounds logical, but as always you find the devil in the fine print. What does that mean in detail?

Define the goal
What always gets lost is the definition of the goal. Especially digitally, it is a cardinal mistake to simply schedule a meeting quickly. The flood of digital meetings is enormous because they are quick and require no lead time. Everyone rushes from one online meeting to the next without knowing: What’s happening, what’s being discussed, what am I here for? In the worst case, these events discourage truly productive work, and participants become annoyed, overwhelmed and demotivated over time. The solution: define clear goals and communicate them in advance. That way, each participant knows what to expect and what is expected of him/her. The facilitator, in turn, is clear about where the journey is headed and can plan the workshop accordingly.

Planning and use of methods
If you just sit by and don’t get active yourself, you will get digitally tired pretty quickly. Switching off is also so easy and tempting. That’s why interactive collaboration is essential. This has to be planned, the time allocated and the methods selected accordingly. Simply brainstorming is boring and does not help to really approach the goal. Experience shows time and again that preparing good meetings is time-consuming and extremely important. Working together digitally also means limiting yourself to the kind of tasks that can really be done together (so-called synchronous = simultaneous work). This can also include short individual tasks, but only if the results are subsequently incorporated into something shared. Everything that cannot be worked on together should be done asynchronously, i.e. individually.

Who participates?
Being there is not everything, but participating is crucial. Whoever is there should be able to contribute. Even quiet people can be involved digitally, often more easily than in face-to-face meetings with alpha people and fast talkers. For example, a skilled facilitator can use the power of muting in a targeted way here and make sure all participants are heard enough – a particularly efficient digital tool. Tools that support interaction well are chat (has every video conferencing platform) or digital whiteboards (our favorite here is Miro).

Interactive instead of falling asleep
Just listening makes you sleepy; it’s not for nothing that many people doze off best with audio books. The only reason this doesn’t happen as often in face-to-face workshops is because office chairs are so uncomfortable. The attention span in online formats is only ten minutes (!), after which a new, activating impulse is needed. That’s why it’s essential in the digital space to incorporate various phases in which participants can work interactively, optimally even in small groups. This increases the output and – even more – the energy. I have experienced more than once that participants would have liked to work longer at the end of a workshop.

Save results efficiently
It’s so simple, you just have to know how: Modern digital tools capture the results virtually for eternity: one click and the collected ideas are on every desktop as a PDF. Chats can be saved, digital whiteboards save the collected ideas as PDF or Excel, shared minutes are immediately on the drives. This is great and makes work much easier. It’s also wonderful for everyone involved to have their work results in digital hands in no time at all. But it also raises expectations. It is important to share and make the content available as soon as possible after the end of the workshop.

Conclusion
Online meetings require a lot of time and effort, preparation and follow-up need even more time than before, and the execution must be practiced and planned. In return, digital workshops can often enable more results in less time because the focus is much greater.

For those who need more input and suggestions, check out http://www.onlinefacilitator.de/. The training offers important information for beginners and advanced users. Maybe see you soon in a course of the Online Facilitator Academy!