virtual team meeting

Tips for facilitating DiSC virtually

Running a virtual workshop takes preparation. If you’re moving an in-person training into a virtual space, it will take some reimagining, redesigning, and even some practice. Adjustments to technology, design, and ways of facilitation will have to be made. Even if you’re experienced facilitating virtually, there are always opportunities to make your training session run more smoothly.

Know your technology

Familiarize yourself with both the hosting platform (e.g., Zoom, Adobe Connect, Webex, etc.) as well as any "engagement technology" (e.g., Mentimeter, Slido, MURAL) you're using.

Know your tools' maximum capacity and associated costs. What interactivity tools does it provide (e.g., chat, video sharing, polls, breakout rooms, whiteboards, etc.) and which will you be able to use? How many people can be visible in a gallery view of the group?

What can you expect from your participants? How large is your group? Can you make any assumptions about their connectivity, their environment, or their familiarity with the tools you're using?

Design for learning and interaction

Begin by reviewing the learning objectives. What’s essential for learners to walk away with? What points must be covered in live, virtually delivered sessions? What can be done as independent work between sessions or as follow-up work if you’re doing only one session? Which modules from your Everything DiSC® facilitation kit do you want to cover? What is the story you want to tell and how will you weave that story throughout the course?

Plan for how the learning will unfold. Are there topics or assignments that can be completed as pre-work or between sessions? Will you provide note-taking handouts with prompts to learners before the session(s)? What level of relationship should be nurtured between participants and can you design for that? How will you and learners use the features of your platform to maintain engagement among learners and with you? Will you need to break up your training into shorter modules than you’ve delivered in-person? When you send your meeting invitation, can you provide a few questions to ponder before learners click on the link to the training?

Learners' attention will begin to fade after 8-10 minutes, so plan on how you will change things up, with a Q&A, a poll, a personal anecdote, video clip, or something else that's engaging in a novel way.

We recommend announcing that you’ll open your session 15 minutes early so people can come in and start learning the technology before you begin. What should you ask them to try out before the class starts? Is there anything you should demonstrate for them?

Use your platform’s tools to direct attention. Keep learning interactive and vary the way you’re engaging learners. Take advantage of options like polls, surveys, and status check emojis (thumbs up/down), or use the chat feature to ask preplanned discussion questions. Be ready to check in immediately with any learners who don’t respond, and ask if they have questions or technical issues.

Review any slide decks you’re using. You might want to simplify them or increase font sizes for viewing on smaller screens. Will you be modifying scripts or activities from those kits? Will a slide you’re using to give directions for breakout rooms appear once people move into those rooms?

Make a plan for smaller group interaction. Breakout rooms can be a powerful tool for social learning. If your platform has this capability, you can put learners into breakouts for small-group discussion so they can work together as they would in-person. Give them clear, concrete instructions so that they understand what they’re expected to bring back to the large-group discussion. Will each room need a scribe? If the room has a chat room or whiteboard, how should the scribe capture that information to share with the larger group? Keep the number of people in a breakout room to four or fewer.

Mix up the breakout groups. For example, if you put like DiSC® styles together the first time you do a breakout, put dissimilar styles together for the next one. Plan breakout groups ahead of time, unless you’re using a randomizing feature available on some platforms.

Pop into the breakout rooms to provide guidance. As the facilitator, join each breakout room in progress to make sure learners are on task. You may want to ask a question, do some coaching, or prod the group to deepen its discussion.

Don’t have breakout room capabilities in your platform? Instead, organize shorter sessions with 10 or fewer people to allow learners to have rich, engaging discussions with one another.

Be prepared for facilitation challenges

Enlist a producer. Virtual facilitation often goes more smoothly with an additional person who can help with technological problems, monitor engagement, and communicate with learners during the session so you can concentrate on conveying the content. If you’re using a platform with more sophisticated tools, the assistant can also help you with polls, whiteboards, and timers.

Don’t have an assistant to partner with? If you don’t have an assistant to partner with and aren’t familiar with the platform you’re using, consider conducting smaller sessions and/or shorter sessions, or having a low-tech backup plan if advanced features (e.g., breakout rooms, whiteboards, polls) are not working. Also, consider advising participants at the beginning that if they drop off and are unable to reconnect, you will follow up with highlights of the session. You can also plan periodic breaks, which will allow you to connect with participants who are having difficulties.

Log in with a second device. This allows you to see what your learners are seeing. You won't have to ask if your video, poll, or other presentation is working; you’ll be able to see it. And if your main device gets disconnected or fails in some way, you might still be able to interact from your second device. You might be able to use your phone to leave a chat message to your learners (and producer) telling them you’re logging back in. Or that second device can become your alternative option for facilitation.

Prepare thoroughly. Familiarize yourself thoroughly with the technology, and think through how you’ll make sure learners are listening and learning. Decide how to handle questions and comments from learners during the session. Organize your materials carefully so you can find them immediately during the session.

Keep the learning personal. Remember to use names. A simple but powerful tip is to acknowledge each learner by name and respond to each of their questions and comments. Make their participation count.

Let learners see you. Appear on the camera when you give your introductory remarks (which you may want to script for maximum impact). Appear on camera before each break and at the end, to provide a personal and compelling wrap-up. If you don’t have access to video, put a headshot of you on the slide when you introduce yourself so learners have a face to put with your voice. Some facilitators place a photo of loved ones behind their camera so they're more likely to smile and focus when looking at their camera.

Adjust your expectations. You won’t get the same kind of immediate feedback from learners—and it’s okay. You won’t be able to see the heads nodding, the smiles, the confused faces that you’re used to getting in the classroom. While this lack of visual cues can make it feel like the learners aren’t excited or engaged, it’s not necessarily a sign that things are going wrong. Just make sure you stay engaged with the learners and keep your energy high.

It takes some reimagining, extra planning, and a different type of preparation, but following these tips will help your virtual sessions be just as impactful as your classroom experiences.

Additional resources

Facilitation with Catalyst

Download these tips from Wiley, the publisher of Everything DiSC (PDFs). The virtual faciliation activities all assume that you own and are using a facilitation kit.

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