Top Tools For Virtual Facilitation and Meetings

Recently earning a Certified Virtual Facilitator™ credential, we have spent countless hours researching and test driving online tools to really wow our clients. Some work great; some had a learning curve before delivering; and some aren’t worth the time. 

When looking for new collaboration tools for facilitation, we evaluate them in the following areas:

  • How easy are they for everyone to use, even those who are less familiar with tech?
  • How well do they integrate with common tools, such as Zoom?
  • How do they help the whole team communicate, especially those who might be inclined not to participate, for any reason?
  • How many fun or intriguing features do they have, to get people excited about trying them out?

Here are a few standouts to explore. 

SessionLab*

SessionLab is a planning tool for group gatherings that includes a curated library of all kinds of facilitation activities. We love these because they help people get involved without the standard practice of...

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We Now Have A Certified Virtual Facilitatorâ„¢

We are so proud to announce that our founder and president Gina is now a Certified Virtual Facilitator™, or a CVF™, credentialed through the International Institute for Facilitation (INIFAC)

This reflects a deep and practical knowledge of productive virtual meetings. 

To receive this credential, Gina had to be evaluated against 22 competencies in the following areas: Presence, Assessment, Communication, Control, Consistency and Engagement. These competency areas are well-researched, international, and used for offline facilitation certification as well in-person meetings (remember those?). 

What does this mean for our clients? In an increasingly remote-working, technology-driven world, working with a facilitator who is not only comfortable and familiar with virtual spaces, but has certified competency means that you can relax knowing she can navigate that environment in effective and proactive ways. 

“My favorite part of the evaluation, and online...

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The Dreaded Icebreaker

I’m currently designing several trainings centered on emotional intelligence, empathy, and managing people. My biggest challenge is that most trainings are time-constrained - for instance, I just finished an outline for a 90-minute training to cover emotional intelligence, empathy, and active listening in the workplace.

90 minutes! with 4 activities!

That does not leave a lot of time for people to interact with each other, or with me as the instructor. Yet no one wants an instructor who robotically drones on, trying to fill as many facts and ideas as possible into a specific time, expecting you to either take notes at her pace or just remember everything she says - and only says once.

Trainings are meetings

The thing is, trainings are meetings. You bring a group of people into a room, and you expect them to leave either having learned something or made a decision about something. Everyone’s time is limited, especially today with so many distractions vying for our...

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Research on Familiarity with Mediation and Facilitation

Do you work in a business with fewer than 250 employees in Northern Virginia? I invite you to take my current survey, Research on Familiarity with Mediation and Facilitation.

I’ve found that people who work in the legal system are usually familiar with mediation, but most people are not certain what it is. Or, they think it’s something that can be used to resolve amicable divorces, and not much else. However mediation can be used to resolve many workplace issues, and for a lower cost than alternative solutions like hiring a business coach, firing an employee, or ignoring the conflict.

Facilitation presents a somewhat different problem: People who know what it is, but haven’t experienced really great facilitation or are extra budget-conscious, believe it’s not truly necessary for their own meetings or planning processes. The word facilitation simply means the process of making something easier. Meeting facilitation has many forms. Most professional...

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Mediator Tips: Active Listening

Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward, and we want to sit in their radius. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.

Psychiatrist Karl Menninger, 1893-1990

Recently, I’ve spoken to several small business owners, salespeople, and fellow mediators and professional facilitators about how the skills used in mediation translate to so many other arenas of life. The most important one, I think, is listening well. Great listening skills can help pretty much all the time: at work, in friendships, while parenting kids of any age, and when talking to neighbors, clients, friends, loved ones… pretty much anyone.

We all have a basic need to be listened to, to be understood. Listening to understand helps you comprehend, sympathize, and identify with the other person. In conflicts, and often throughout life, only when a person feels that their story (or point of view) has been ...

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The Power of Graphic Facilitation

On Friday morning, I spent nearly 3 solid hours drawing. On my feet. With fancy markers. This is not my normal.

I’m a word person. I’m into language and reading. In my spare time I love crosswords and even word search puzzles. I rarely draw. And these days I’m also rarely on my feet for three hours unless I’m the one running a workshop!

So what was going on Friday morning? The Mid-Atlantic Facilitation Network’s workshop, Drawing for Graphic Facilitation, by Brian Tarallo of Lizard Brain Solutions. When you teach, it’s important to get people to do what they’re learning so they retain it. So, shortly after introductions, Brian got us all up and drawing - stick figures, symbols, shapes, connectors, callouts, containers, and more. Trust me, it was not high art… for most of us, anyway!

The first thing we did was draw a symbol that captured how we approach facilitation. Being forced to draw, in one minute, in a tiny space, this is what...

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Make Your Meetings Useful

Ever hear someone complain that they can’t get anything done because “I’m in meetings all day!”

Hanging out with friends is one thing – no one really wants a plan or an agenda if you just want to spend time with people you like. But work is different. Everyone has the same goal (or complementary goals) – to do a good job, to make money, to provide a service, to sell to customers. Work meetings should move everyone closer to the goal, not farther from it.

So how do you make your meetings useful?

  • Know your purpose.

    Notice I did not say “topic.” Anyone can have a topic. That’s just the thing we’re talking about. In contrast, “purpose” implies a goal. There is a reason that people need to have an in-person conversation about, well, whatever the topic may be. What is everyone trying to accomplish together? How will this meeting make it happen? That’s your goal.

  • Only invite necessary people.

    I’m sure...

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What to Expect in Professional Facilitation

facilitation Sep 24, 2018

To facilitate simply means to make something easier. Professional facilitation services make meetings go more smoothly. An outside facilitator is especially helpful when your meetings require decisions. And honestly, why have a meeting where a decision isn’t necessary?

 

For example, if your group needs to discuss:

  • Project updates and management issues

  • A strategic growth direction

  • Creating or updating a strategic plan

  • A potential policy change

then bringing in a facilitator from outside your organization lays the foundation for a successful discussion.

 

A professional facilitator will help your group:

  • Stay focused and timely.

  • Ensure all voices are heard.

  • Create decision-making criteria before an idea takes hold.

 

So how does facilitation work at Chantilly Mediation and Facilitation? Every facilitation engagement is unique. The process is customized for your group’s needs, from timing and space to considerations for personalities on the...

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