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Welcome to Facilitation Stories, where we discover how facilitators ended up in the profession, and how facilitation methods, principles and techniques are used more widely. Brought to you by IAF England and Wales. For more information on our chapter, click here.

How to Make Your Virtual Event a Success

Aug 3, 2021

Suzanne Bennett, Board member of the International Association of Facilitators England and Wales chapter kicks off our blog with 5 hacks to make the most out of your virtual event. (Please note, this is a text blog post, with no audio attached to it.)

This post has some hacks to help make your virtual session more inclusive. The virtual world doesn’t have ramps to the front door or vegan lunches but there are other factors to consider. Here are the top five.

1. Allow plenty planning time.

Allow time to send out invitations to ensure maximum take-up. It’s also a chance to ask participants if they have any challenges (sometimes hidden) which you can overcome by discussing them.

This might include colour blindness, hearing issues, needing regular breaks. Advance planning means you’ve maximised the font size for your presentation, you have arranged captions if needed, and can set out when the breaks. All of these help participants to feel comfortable.

Allowing planning time will enable you to have a pre-session to ensure everyone is comfortable with the technology and feel they can participate, especially if you will be using platforms like Slido, Miro and Conceptboard to collaborate.

2. Ground rules.

Making sure everyone feels at ease before your session begins helps you get good outcomes. Display a slide which sets out expectations as participants join can be really helpful. This might include whether there is a chat function; an ask to mute microphones; whether the preference is cameras on or if it’s ok to turn cameras off; when the breaks are; what the objectives and outcomes of your meeting are.

Showing the agenda can be helpful too to keep everyone on topic and manage their time. Ground rules such as using the chat and hands up function, listening with respect are useful to state too.

3. Schedule in breaks.

It’s good for our health and wellbeing to get up and move around once an hour, so don’t skimp on the breaks. If your session is longer than one hour, allow at least a five minute break per hour, preferably 10 minutes.

Ask everyone to turn off their camera and go onto mute during the break. Don’t give participants a task during the break – they’re taking a breather.

4 Acknowledge different learning styles.

Everyone takes in information in different ways. Make use of as many as you can: visual, auditory, kinaesthetic and reading/writing.

Visual: use pictures as well as words on your presentation, and limit the word count.

Auditory: aim to have another voice in the room to give variety, and don’t speak too quickly.

Kinaesthetic: where you can, have break-out rooms and the option to ask questions to test and embed understanding - learning by doing helps new information stick.

Reading/writing: enable participants to write their key points if they wish and include key points in the presentation which can be shared after the session.

5. Get feedback.

A simple questionnaire or request for feedback will help improve your next session. Even negative feedback helps you learn. You can use feedback platforms like MS forms, whiteboard, Slido or similar, and sharing an email address or holding poll during the meeting can be really effective.