Tips for Technology Challenges in Online Meetings/Trainings
Online Facilitation ToolsTraining & Facilitation Fundamentals
No matter what software you use for online meetings or trainings, (Zoom, Google Hangouts, a conference call, GoToMeetings, Blackboard Collaborate, etc.) some technological bumps are unavoidable. To navigate these bumps, it’s important to both plan ahead and also have strategies you can use in the moment. Here are some top tips that apply no matter what software you are using. Get to know your specific software for additional challenges and strategies.
TIPS FOR BEFORE YOUR ONLINE MEETING/TRAINING
⬝ Co–facilitation: Plan to have two facilitators, or one person facilitating and another person helping with technology. If you have co–facilitators, decide who will take the lead on facilitation and who will manage technology for each section. Trying to do everything can be too much for one person and slow you down more when you hit a problem.
⬝ Set–up your space: Recommend to participants how they can choose a space for maximum engagement. The ideal setup includes: a quiet place (reduces background noise and distraction), headphones or a headset (to reduce background noise and audio “feedback”), good lighting (so you can see each other), and a wired/ethernet connection for internet (for best bandwidth).
⬝ Maximize your screen space: For facilitators especially, having two computer screens can help you keep an eye on all the different tools at once. Keeping your meeting/training outline and notes on paper in front of you can also help you manage your screen space.
⬝ Send connection information: Send out your connection or dial in information shortly before the call as well as farther in advance, with a very clear subject line, to make it very easy for people to find the connection information when they need it.
⬝ Encourage connecting early: Especially when you are using software that is new to people, encourage people to join 10 minutes before the call so you have time to settle in and help people with their set up before your meeting or training.
⬝ Have a back–up connection plan: Poor connection or other issues can throw off your whole call. Have a back–up plan (for example a conference call line) in case you need it. If possible, have both email addresses and phone numbers of those who are joining your meeting so you can contact them in different ways if needed.
⬝ Have back–up visuals: If you will be using slides during your call, put some extra slides at the beginning of your slideshow with tips about using your platform. Tech help slides you only need sometimes (like when there is a problem) can be kept at the end of your slideshow just in case you need them. Also, include template activity slides you can adjust for new activities if a need arises.
⬝ Send materials & engage people in advance: In case someone won’t have internet and will be connecting by phone, send out any visuals you will be looking at during the call, such as a slideshow. This is also an opportunity to expand your engagement by having people engage with the materials in some way before your call.
WHAT TO DO WHEN THINGS GO WRONG
Each challenge may be solved in different ways, but there are some general principles that can be applied no matter what the problem:
⬝ Hold the space: As a facilitator, the group is impacted by your tone and direction. When problems arise, keeping a calm tone while you work through things is very helpful. Humility and vulnerability can help, too!
⬝ Utilize your co–facilitator: Help keep the group on track by having one of your facilitators, or tech support person, work on the issue while the other holds the space. Here are a few examples of what this might look like:
“I see [participant] is having trouble connecting. [Co–facilitator], can you connect with them, while we keep discussing?”
“I see [participant] is having some trouble with their microphone. It looks like [Co–facilitator] is going to work it out with them in [private chat / a breakout room], while the rest of us keep talking.”
“I’m having some trouble with my connection. [Co–facilitator], can you take over for me for a couple minutes while I move closer to my wifi–router?”
⬝ Take a pause: Just like in in–person meetings, facilitators may need to take a moment to figure out what to do in a situation. It’s okay to say “Let’s take a 5 minute break then come back” or give participants a breakout activity or a journal activity or something like that that moves the agenda forward but also gives the facilitator(s) an opportunity to regroup or deal with the issue.