Running the meeting

Icon of several people connected by lines like a hierarchy.

Now that you are underway, running the meeting is the next step! Here are some guidelines that help me.

First, if you record the meeting, make sure you have told people you will do this and the purpose for the recording. As a rule, I don’t tend to record my sessions, as I like the opportunity for people to be vulnerable and to feel free to share, which can change when they are being recorded.

Photo of two women in a pottery studio looking at a piece of pottery together and smiling.
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Principles to Follow

  • 60 second rule – If you introduce an issue, make sure you can get people to engage in the problem itself within a minute.
  • Responsibility rule – Ensure that people can have responsibility for their learning. Don’t let them fall into being a passive observer. Ask questions and encourage people to recap what’s just happened.
  • Nowhere to hide rule – Use limited time and focused tasks to get people to engage. I call on people often so that everyone gets the idea that they should pay attention in case they are called on.
  • MVP – Minimum Viable PowerPoint – Use limited amounts of PowerPoint as the talking head and PowerPoint slide is a sure way to get people to disengage.
  • 5 minute rule – Don’t go five minutes without having people do something engaging!

Breakout Groups

Designating breakout groups is useful for creating smaller workgroups. A way to help people choose where they want to spend their time is to use a signup method like that shown below. This was created in Google Docs and shared with everyone. You can also use online software like Miro to do this. You can prepopulate the names prior to the session if you know them.

Image of a google doc that shows a heading "add and drag your name to a small group" and an organization of different small group themes that these names are dragged to.

When you create small breakout groups, be sure to capture notes. I use another Google Doc to do this and share it with the groups. This is helpful to capture what is discussed.

Screen shot of Small Group notes google doc with the header, "Small group notes" and two columns to put notes in.

Equitable Participation

For me, the most challenging aspect of facilitation is ensuring equitable participation. What does this mean? It means ensuring that everyone has a fair chance to speak. This can be tricky sometimes because people can monopolize the conversation. Men can sometimes talk first or talk over other people. I try to keep in my head a running tally of who has spoken. I can also call back to my community agreement, with specific reference to these two items:

  • Step up, step back. If you speak a lot, step back. If you don’t speak a lot, step up!
  • We centre voices of equity-seeking groups. Please understand that we give space for those who are not often heard from.

You can also make more specific recommendations, such as, “I’ve noticed that a lot of the men are talking, and we are not hearing the same amount from the others.” This can give men the opportunity to listen and hear from other people.

Breaks are critical in online sessions because we sometimes forget to move our bodies, and we are easily subject to Zoom fatigue. I like to have a 15 minute break every 1 hour 45 minutes. This works out to the two hour mark. If it is a shorter meeting, I usually have a 5 minute “bio-break” in the. middle to allow people to tend to their needs.

Monitor the Chat

One important piece for me is to monitor the chat. For many of my online sessions, I don’t always have a tech assistant. I’ve gotten pretty good at managing all the pieces, but I always have a second person if I can. The chat can be a busy place for people to post responses, and making sure you check it every once in a while is crucial. You can decide yourself how you will respond. For example, you might tell people to put their questions into the chat so that you don’t have to be interrupted, and then you can choose when to answer them. My suggestion is to answer any content-related questions in the moment instead of waiting until the end of the presentation. But you have to remember to check the chat!

Also, it’s possible to check in with people as you go. For example, a quick way to check is just to ask people to show how they feel.

Image of a screen that is shared to give people a way to respond with a hand gesture to indicate how they feel. 1 is an okay sign. 2 is a stop sign with two hands. 3 is a heart sign made by two hands together and 4 is a thumbs up sign.

These are all good ways to ensure that people feel heard and seen.