How to Create Purposeful, Intentional Space for Effective Team Collaboration
In ‘3 Actionable Tips To Plan and Prepare For Your Next Team Meeting’ we touched on what it takes to plan and prepare for team meetings, whether these meetings are in-person, hybrid or virtual.
Leading and facilitating team meetings takes planning and preparation: check out these 3 tips here.
Today’s topic touches on what it takes to create purposeful, intentional space for effective team collaboration, especially as it pertains to hybrid meetings.
Challenges with Hybrid Meetings for Participants
For those team members who attend in-person, they:
- Cannot see and/or hear everyone who is virtual
- Get caught up in the conversation and forget to acknowledge those who are virtual
- Are unaware of a separate conversation that emerges in the chat channel
- Hold back, not wanting to have a better experience than virtual attendees
For those team members who attend virtually, they:
- Do not feel included, seen, or heard in the conversation. This is the biggest challenge to a hybrid format because many behaviours can create the feeling of separation for those online like:
- Multiple conversations that happen in the room
- It being unclear who is speaking
- The conversation in the room becomes animated but doesn’t online
- Flip charts are being used and are difficult to see
- Contributions have to be made through someone in the room, rather than directly from the person
- Something funny happens in the room but online participants do not see it
- Create a nested conversation using chat functions, and risk depriving the full group of the contributions and insights
- Cannot see and/or hear who is speaking, what is being said, or what is written on the walls
Challenges with Hybrid Meetings for Facilitators
For facilitators there is:
- Complexity. It’s a complex scenario to design and create space for multiple people who will have different experiences that they can see and/or hear, making collaboration difficult, if not impossible.
- High Cognitive Load. Facilitating in-person meetings already comes with a high degree of complexity and many things to pay attention to. Fully virtual adds a layer of technology and helps people move around the virtual space. Hybrid brings the complexity of both the physical space and virtual space.
5 Key Principles for Hybrid Planning and Meeting Design
Here are the 5 principles needed to plan and design a successful hybrid meeting.
1. Establish ground rules specifically for hybrid meetings
As the facilitator, you will have some specific requests for participants in order to make the session the most effective. Be sure to share these, along with other logistics and joining information, with participants ahead of time
- One camera, one mic, one mouse per person
- Be on camera
- Be off mute
- Be prepared to be called on
2. Level the playing field
Those in the room will have more power than those online. Your design should find ways to level the playing field so that everyone can be seen, heard and can contribute equally.
- Establish your ground rules
- Assume that remote participants are not seeing and hearing what is being said and shown in the room and check in on their experience.
- Use small groups with a trained facilitator to increase the quality of the conversations and help the group stay focused and on task.
- An alternative to each participant being on a laptop, remote participants could join via tablet and have a buddy in the room.
NOTE: While hybrid experiences may be necessary and it’s important to make them as great as possible for everyone, consider making everyone remote as the ultimate way to level the playing field.
3 Allow for extra planning and design time
Planning a hybrid meeting will require more time.
General planning and design time guidance is as follow:
- In-Person – 2 x the length of the meeting
- Virtual – 2.5 x times the length of the meeting
- Hybrid – 2.5 – 3 x times the length of the meeting.
Factors to include – technology setup, designing pre-work, envisioning transitions, ensure EVERYONE can see and hear the same thing. If you are bringing in more facilitators to lead smaller groups, you will need to do some pre-work with them as well.
4 Prioritize the collective conversation
The collective, sense-making conversation is the most important part of any collaborative meeting. Facilitation tools and methods are doorways to different kinds of conversation.They are not meant to be the activity in order to reach a decision; they are meant to give people new and different insights or ways of thinking.
In any meeting, but especially in hybrid, prioritize the collective conversation over the gathering of data or ideas. Use pre-work or design asynchronous work for the session to gather data or do detailed work that is better suited to one or two people (i.e. wordsmithing a mission statement, estimating the workload, researching facts or data).
Do not waste people’s time. Think about the purpose and desired outcome for the meeting and the type of interaction desired. Prioritize conversations and minimize detailed work in a large group.
- Carefully consider the conversations needed and think about ways to accomplish them asynchronously prior to the meeting rather than during the meeting.
- One of the pros of meeting online is that you can design breaks and space for individual work and then bring the group back together at a later time.
5 Change the frame
Create your design so that you vary the frame being used (individual, small group, large group, written, verbal, drawing, etc.). If you start in a large group then move to a small-group activity and then back to a large group. This shifts the energy in the group and will help people stay engaged. It also helps to level the playing field and give people different ways to get their voice in.
Use small groups to give people time to connect with others and deepen the conversation. Think about how you will divide people up to create varied perspectives in the breakouts. It will be technically easier to pair people in the room with others who are also in the room, and vice-versa for online. But mixing in-person and online in small groups can also be a great way to break down barriers of ‘us vs them’ between participants.
- High-tech idea: Use a meeting platform like Zoom and have everyone join using their own device. Use the breakout room features.
- High-tech idea: Have an iPad for each Virtual participant and assign them a ‘buddy’ in the room. The buddy will be responsible for bringing them along to small group breakouts happening in the room. (Be sure to rotate the ’buddy’ role to new people so one person does not become stuck in that role.)
- Low-tech idea: Ask participants to exchange phone numbers and call one other having a voice only conversation. Agree on where and how the outcomes of the conversation will be captured and shared with the group.
10 Key Principles for Hybrid Conduct
Last but not least, we want to leave you with 10 key principles for hybrid conduct.
- Help participants ‘see each other
- High-tech idea: Send out a circle ahead of the meeting with everyone’s name and picture.
- Low—tech idea: At the start of the meeting ask everyone to take a sheet of paper and build their own virtual circle at the start.
- Connections before Content
- Building connection is one component to fostering trust and creating a space where people feel like they can fully bring their voice into a conversation.
- Start with a check-in that allows people to share something personal about themselves.
- Call on People
- Ask a question: What ideas do you have for the future?
- Say someone’s name: Cindy, would you like to share?
- Repeat the question: Cindy, what ideas do you have for the future?
- “Nomination” or “Pass the Mic”
- In this adaptation, prompt the group for who would like to speak first. Then ask the group to pick the next speaker.
- Share with the group the technique of saying someone’s name and then repeating the question.
- Have Two Co-Facilitators
- Have a Remote Liaison
- This person‘s role is threefold:
- to make sure that technology does not impede collaboration
- support the facilitators and participants
- navigate technology to ensure that everyone can see and hear the same things and contribute equally to what’s being created.
- This person‘s role is threefold:
- Ask Participants to be Facilitators
- If you are using small group breakouts, ask for one person in each group to step into the role of facilitator.
- Ask them to be mindful of hearing all voices and not overly driving the conversation. This person should also take responsibility for bringing the themes and summary of the small group conversation back into the large group.
- Hear and Be Heard. See and Be Seen
- Design a working agreement with the group and ask them if at any point they do not feel like this is happening, to say so. This includes asking questions if they are not sure what they are supposed to be doing or seeing at the moment.
- As the facilitator you will need to rely on the group to speak up if something does not seem right.
- Be Clear and Direct with your Instruction
- Chunk up your instructions, don’t tell them everything all at once
- Be specific with what the task is
- Be clear about where and how they should be contributing
- Adjust your instructions for multiple experiences (this will be the challenging part)
- It will be easy for people to become lost, or confused because they are looking at something different than you are. Always ask “Is there anyone who is not with me?” or “Is there anyone who is seeing something different?”
- Use Virtual Collaboration Whiteboards
- Use a virtual whiteboard or collaboration tool (i.e. Lucidspark, Miro, Mural, etc) that allows for everyone to see and contribute to the work being created.
What comes next?
Once you’ve planned for a team meeting and have taken all the steps necessary to create a space for effective team collaboration, you need to ‘read the room’.
Interested in learning more about facilitation?
Read ‘The Art and Science of Facilitation’
TeamCatapult offers several workshops:
Virtual Facilitation Masterclass
We invite you to reach out to us via firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about our workshops!