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Facilitating meetings and creating participation – Overview
This page has many ideas, suggestions and tools you can use (both within Zoom and other programs/Apps) …
… for managing participants, helping them feel relaxed, involved and connected, getting feedback and ideas, brainstorming, generating questions for Q&As.
You will need to consider and balance the following things as you decide what to use and when:
- The process, benefits and results you expect/hope for from the activity/tool
- The technological experience/ability that will be required of participants and their current level
- The number of people involved
- The time you have with people (an hour vs a series of sessions). It’s an investment.
I want to emphasise point 2. It is easy to expect too much of your participants in terms of managing technical things. Even things like Copy / Paste and switching between Zoom and another program can derail a session if just one person struggles with it. And I’ve seen this happen many, many times. So, to quote the popular saying in IT circles … KISS – Keep It Simple (Stupid).
Things you do in meetings that can be easily done online
- Check in (plenary / Chat / shared Google Doc / pairs in Breakout Rooms)
- Presenting information (share your screen) – with slides or without
- Group Discussion/Sharing (Breakout Groups/Rooms)
- Brainstorm (Chat / shared Google Doc)
- Simple decisions (Hand-up / Yes-No)
- More decisions / voting / priorities (other programs like Slido)
- Surveys/Polls (Poll / Google Forms)
- Take minutes (shared Google Doc)
Tools that can help you
- Hand up / Yes-No
- Google docs
- Various desktop software: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Google slides, Photo display etc
- Slido (great for collating audience questions and suggestions and having people vote on their favourites)
- Polls / Google forms (surveys) (best if set up in advance)
Have a second moderator/support person to
- welcome latecomers
- mute people
- keep an eye on the chat
- look for raised hands (in people’s videos and/or in the participants list)
- answer technical or simple questions in the chat
so you can focus on running/facilitating/presenting.
This is especially important if sharing your screen, as you can’t easily see the chat etc. at the same time
… OR just do it all yourself 😉
- “Waiting Room”
- “Allow participants to join before host” OR “Allow participants to join anytime”
This is what happens with these two settings …
|Allow join before host||Waiting Room||Before Host starts/joins the meeting||Host starts the meeting|
|ON||ON||Waiting Room||Waiting Room|
|OFF||ON||“Waiting for the host to start this meeting”||Waiting Room|
|ON||OFF||People join the meeting (anytime!)|
|OFF||OFF||“Waiting for the host to start this meeting”||People join the meeting|
So with ‘Allow join before host’ ON and ‘Waiting Room’ OFF, people can “join” your meeting at any time. Literally, any time!
When people enter the Waiting Room they’ll see a message similar to “Please wait, the meeting host will let you in soon”
When and How to start your meeting
Your options for starting meetings are many (all with their own pluses and minuses). They depend upon the type of meeting, who the participants are, the number of participants etc.
- Mute everyone?
- Start exactly on time OR open beforehand?
- Set up a Waiting Room? Which allows you to admit people only when you are ready – you have more control and can even deny someone entry
- Allow people entry at any time and set up a screen share so they can read something about the meeting before you start (remember smart phones have small screens, so keep writing and images large and people on dial-in phones can’t see this at all)
- Opening the meeting/allowing entry before the start of the meeting itself, allows:
- you or co-host to welcome people
- you or co-host to handle any technical issues / support people with their use of Zoom
- people to talk amongst themselves (consider who will be attending and whether there’s a danger of people feeling left out, especially if most people know each other)
Usefulness of a Waiting Room with co-hosts
- Turn on “Waiting room” (Meeting settings)
- Allow co-hosts in early
- Have a pre-meeting meeting
- Then allow remaining participants in
Things to get clear at the start of a meeting
- If you’re recording, make sure you get permission from everybody and/or make it clear you’ll be recording when inviting people to the meeting.
- Getting agreement on communication protocols (see more under Facilitating meetings)
- Things that you’d do in any meeting: welcome, meeting agreements etc.
- Making sure everyone knows the basics of Zoom that they’ll need for this particular meeting.
Don’t overdo this. Keep it as simple as possible. Trust most people will find their way round. Ask “is this necessary for THIS meeting?”. For repeated events (courses) you could skill people up over a number of sessions.
Things to consider (I’ve listed these in approximate order of priority, in my experience)
and remember that menus and buttons are in different places on different devices – see Zoom – speaker / gallery view – can’t see everyone?
- Speaker/Gallery view
- Mute audio (or you and/or co-hosts handle that?)
- How to open and close Chat
- Turn on/off their video
- Rename themselves (or you and/or co-hosts handle that?)
- Unmute keyboard shortcut = spacebar
- Hide their own video from themselves (if they don’t like looking at themselves)
Ways to welcome people and “break the ice”
See the next section for ideas
As a facilitator/trainer you will know many methods and tools to achieve this.
Be present yourself
Being prepared, having co-hosts supporting you and ensuring you’re experienced with the technology can help.
“God spoke today in flowers, and I, who was waiting on words, almost missed the conversation.” Ingrid Goff-Maidoff
Welcome – some ideas
What you choose will depend upon the style of the meeting, the time you have, how formal/informal it is, the number of people expected
- Hold them in the Waiting Room and do one proper welcome when you admit them all
- Greet them one-by-one as they arrive
- If lots of people, repeat a general welcome at intervals
- Mute or Unmute?
- Consider having people unmuted as they arrive, welcome them and ask them to mute themselves
- Have everyone unmuted and free to chat until you start (can exclude people who don’t know anyone etc)
- Consider using a co-host to manage this part
- If you have many people, set up breakout rooms beforehand and, after a quick welcome, send them straight there to introduce themselves in small groups until you’re ready to start the main event (see separate Breakout Rooms help page).
Create a context for them
As host/leader your first words can create a context for the meeting. Some ideas (other than the obvious things you’d be saying) …
- This is NOT a virtual meeting – you are all REALLY here. In the room you’d be able to look around at each other – so look at your screen and look at each person.
- Zoom is not the same as meeting face-to-face. It has a number of disadvantages. But it also has a number of advantages. It is not better or worse than face-to-face meetings. It is different.
Breaking the ice
I have experienced three main “ice-barriers” for people.
- Their presence visually
- Their written Chat “voice”
- Their “real” Audio voice
Consider which, if any, you want to address (can be at different times in the event). Here are some ideas …
- Their presence visually: “Hands up if you are …”. Remember to make sure everyone gets included. Safest is to ask at the end (at least) “Hands up if you haven’t put your hand up yet”.
- Their written Chat “voice”: “Type three words into Chat about …”. Host or co-host could read a selection (or all) out as they appear – for people busy typing and for people who can’t see Chat (don’t know how or have regular phone)
- Their “real” Audio voice: Only really practical if smallish group
Get them to consider their physical environment
Not all these will be relevant/appropriate for your event:
- Physical comfort – encourage them to get comfortable within appropriate boundaries for the event
- Are they comfortable enough with Zoom for your event? Be clear what level of technical support you will provide. See below for tips on teaching people.
- Control background noise (use “Mute all” if appropriate)
- Can they see and hear you clearly – make sure your internet connection, audio and video is the best you can get for your budget (there are so many web sites talking about this I won’t go into the issues and answers here)
Empower people to control their Zoom environment
Some things you might want people to know is how they can …
- Mute and unmute themselves
- Switch between Speaker and Gallery view
- Communicate in the event/group (in whatever ways are relevant at this stage/in this event) – for example, how to interrupt, ask a question, get help. Click here for examples of useful hand signals.
- “Hide self view” so they don’t have to see themselves. This just affects their Zoom screen. It is NOT the same as people turning off their video (which affects everyone).
How you “appear”
Your professionalism, image, setup etc. can help people feel held.
Managing people sharing/talking
You aim is to ensure everyone has a chance to participate. In our society, quieter voices can often go unheard, which can give discussions, ideas and solutions a bias that doesn’t serve finding the “best” of them. Ask the group for permission to jump people to “the front of the queue” if they’ve not yet spoken or not spoken much.
Consider muting everyone to start.
Use hand signals (if fewer people – all on one screen) – people put their hand up if they want to speak. At the next pause, say people’s names in the order they asked to speak or typed into Chat. [Can use a co-host for this]
Use Zoom Chat (if more people – especially more than on one screen) – people simply write an agreed word into Chat such as “point”
Use Zoom’s “raised hand” and have a co-host keep an eye on the list of participants. Note: when people use this Zoom’s “raise hand” (and other icons) they jump to the top of the participants list, and in the order they “raised their hand” – making it easy to see who is next.
Avoid combinations of methods within a session. E.g. some people raise their physical hand while others click the Zoom “raise hand”. It’s just too much to keep your eye on and to manage, probably even with co-hosts.
This can help create a feeling of being part of the group. Probably only practical for relatively small groups (due to time constraints and also how mny people can see on one screen).
Be very clear at the start about what you want people to share and how long the group has for this. Makes it much easier to then pull people back to these if anyone/the group wanders.
Everyone is in different places on everyone’s screens. So there is no common pattern so no possibility of going in order or “round a circle”.
Manage the order yourself
Call on people to share in order.
Pass the sharing
One person shares and then names the next person to share. This is my favourite as it leaves you, the leader free to be more present and hands control to the group.
When they get near the end and anyone isn’t sure who is still left, simply ask anyone who hasn’t shared to raise their hand. The process can often then continue, without needing any further intervention from you.
- Anyone using tablets or phones can only see between 9 and 4 people at a time.
- You need to check at end to make sure everyone has shared [use co-host to keep track of this]
Have preset up “circle(s)”
If you know who you are expecting, email people “the circle” with everyone’s name on OR “Screen Share” the circle on a document. They can then use that to “go round the circle”.
Use Breakout Rooms
An advantage of Zoom is that you can have people pair up (or in any size group) and be sharing, within moments (see separate Breakout Rooms help page).
This can also help to bring the whole meeting together in a quick simple way.
- Paired sharing – broadcast messages for when they should switch over and then to end and come back
- Set “auto entry to rooms” option to make it fast (so they don’t have to click to confirm moving to their room)
- You can send people back into the same rooms they were last in OR have Zoom “Recreate” the rooms from scratch (this randomises people each time)
Other ways to bring people together
- Mirroring activities (helps people get a sense of they are all there). For example, get everyone to hold up a hand.
- Leaning in (lead this carefully). Can help people feel connected together.
- Use “Hands up if you …?” exercise. For example, where do you come from. Have you ever …? So that people can connect visually with others and, by the end, everyone has put their hand up.
Quick and low tech and can be saved for sharing later
Shared Google document
Copy the link into Chat and get everyone to click to open it – then everyone can view/edit the same document at the same time (higher technical confidence level needed – need to make document share link ‘editable’)
Use another program/app
Copy the link to that App into Chat and get everyone to click to open it
Whiteboard + Annotate
Not the best method if you’re gathering words and ideas. The whole thing can become too messy.
And people bring stuff back (see separate Breakout Rooms help page)
Combine Breakout Rooms with a single shared Google Doc!
Ask a few yes/no questions and people raise their hands (e.g. first time? / local? / further afield?) OR use the Zoom Yes/No
OR use some sort of interactive process using the shared Whiteboard or a poll
Small groups (everyone on one screen)
- Hands up in agreement (and optionally, down in disagreement OR or thumbs up/down/flat hand for yes/no/neutral)
- Click here for examples of useful hand signals
Larger groups (or alternatives to above)
Use Zoom’s “yes/no” icons. You can see from the participants list who hasn’t yet “voted”. And as the Host, you can see totals above the icons at the bottom.
Use Zoom Polls, if questions are simple. Limited to simple “tick one” or “tick as many as apply” questions. Quick and fast and simple for people. However, it’s hard to set these up in the session, so better prepared beforehand, so are not very flexible – and can only be done by the Host.
Shared Whiteboard – and people can annotate (can get complex)
These can be short onscreen breaks:
- Get people to do something physical (stretching etc)
- Have a quick go round or “Chat share” (depending upon numbers)
- Encourage everyone who is comfortable and able to, to stand up (maybe adjusting their cameras) and run an actual session like that
- Any other ideas?
or actual, physical breaks away from the screen:
- Either “mute all” or remind people that others will be able to hear them – to avoid any embarrassing situations! 😉
- Set a strict time
- Provide people with a “hook” to return on time – “when we get back, I’ll briefly share … or tell you about a free …, before we begin the next session”
Consider (depending upon your meeting and the participants)
- Telling people they can save the Chat (if relevant)
- An opportunity for feedback for people?
- Having some sort of formal or semi-formal closing (remember people’s last moments can often define an event)
- Leaving the meeting open for people to chat freely afterwards
Remember people may be on different devices. Menus, buttons, views vary depending upon what they are using (laptops / tablets / smart phones / even landlines)
You will need to balance the following when deciding what and how much to teach people
- What’s actually needed for this meeting?
- How much time is available for teaching (length of this meeting and if same people on a series of events)?
- How technical is what you want to teach?
- How experienced (IT literate) is your audience (e.g. business people vs non)
- Drip feed technical instructions over time/sessions (e.g. Right at the start explain mute / unmute. Then, a few minutes into the meeting, explain Speaker / Gallery view)
- Consider sending people into small breakout rooms to try stuff out
- Have a Breakout Room session near the beginning (perhaps for sharing). Then tell anyone who needs/wants some Zoom help/instruction to click “Later” when asked if they want to Join their Breakout Room. They will then remain in the Main Session and can be taken through some guidance.
Remember to make sure the “Automatically send into Rooms” option is turned off so people see the Breakout Room prompt.
Useful pictures to screen share when training
When training people about switching between Zoom and other programs (especially useful if you send them off to another program via a link in Chat, such as a Google Doc or Google Sheet or Slido). Simply right-click and ‘Save Image As …’ (or similar)
Simple tools for interaction and participation
Simplest way for people to open and close Chat is to click on the Chat button on their menu
People can change the width of their Chat by clicking the dividing line between it and the rest of the Zoom screen and dragging.
People can save the Chat:
- Open “Chat” and at the bottom click the three dots “…”
- “Save Chat”
- “Show in Folder” (opens the folder the Chat has been saved to)
Chat will automatically be saved if, the meeting is being recorded and you’ve set Chat to be saved in the recording.
Participants can provide feedback using “Reactions” (“Reactions” button on computer/laptop or “More” button on Android) …
Use Alt+Y (and on a dial in phone * 9) to raise and to lower your hand
I can’t find it
If you can’t find the option you want, try turning on the list of participants and look down the bottom and/or for small three dots button. This is what it used to look like …
Still can’t find it? Try updating your copy of Zoom and try again.
Great for people wanting to ask a question or make a point
Once someone raises their hand …
- They stand out: they move to the top of your participants list and top left of video screens in Gallery view
- They get displayed in the order they raised their hand
- Their hand remains “up” until they or Host/co-host “lowers” it (click again on the icon)
clap / thumbs up / laugh / heart
Good for quick/silent feedback to the meeting (but consider asking people to use “real hand” signals – more active, direct and human)
They stay for 10 seconds on the person’s video
yes / no / speed up / slow down
Good for a quick/informal vote – as the total numbers are shown (so you can see number of Yes’s and No’s – see below)
They stay until dismissed by the Host/co-host
These need to be turned on in your global settings – available from zoom.us
Order of people in participants list
The order of people (in the participants list and chat list) is:
- Anyone with “Raised Hand” (or other icon) – in order of hand raised
- Unmuted participants (alphabetically)
- Muted participants (alphabetically)
Occasionally this order can get a little muddled up
Polls generally need to be set up in advance as they take a bit of concentration.
Poll questions are a great way to get an audience engaged. These little breaks keep the content dynamic while giving everyone a chance to participate, and refocus.
- Create an icebreaker and get the interaction started
Ask a fun question about what’s for lunch, how’s the weather where they are, or what is their favorite sport. A way to break the ice and get people interacting. It also helps to get everyone to turn on their video.
- Let your audience pick the content
If you’re giving a presentation, try letting your audience choose which content you’ll present. This can be a great idea where you have a lot of information and a limited amount of time.
- Get input on the meeting
Want to know what they thought about the meeting? Put up a quick poll with a scale that lets them rate the content and presentation. And your participants don’t need to worry as their responses are anonymous.
More technical/complex tools for interaction and participation
Google documents (including Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides) are powerful collaborative tools you can use alongside a Zoom meeting.
Multiple people can view the same document and, optionally, edit it all at the same time!
There is so much to cover and so much you can do with Google Docs that I have created a separate help page here.
A powerful and simple tool for people to collaborate on multiple devices
- Great for collating audience questions and suggestions
- People type their own questions/suggestions and everyone can vote – the most popular rise to the top
- Easy to register for and set up
- Instructions for users
There is a Free version:
- Up to 100 participants
- Unlimited Audience Q&A
- 3 polls per event
Similar to Slido. Collect ideas, discuss and vote. Useful for an ongoing discussion, but also a one-off, on the fly during a zoom meeting.
Set up a new session, add a question and invite people to add their own answers and vote by sending them all a link through chat
Also allows arguments for and against to be posted
Also similar – very basic
Word Clouds, interactive Charts, questions – “With Mentimeter you can listen to your whole audience by asking them what they really think, testing their knowledge and more with our interactive questions.” “Your audience can ask questions to you with their smartphones”
And some more for you to explore
Some extra tips
Learn the quick keyboard shortcuts
Mute Everyone is Alt+M (or Cmd+Ctrl+M on a Mac). More here.
Zoom sound “cuts out” when two people speak together
Explain that Zoom chops up people’s voices if more than one speaks at once (or background noise). And when people listening, say something like “yes” in agreement, it cuts out the speaker briefly.
Start off by muting everyone and tell people with laptops/computers, they can press and hold their Spacebar (un-mutes them) while they speak.
Encourage hand signals. They can improve a meeting’s effectiveness hugely. Start with just a few and add more at later meetings, as people become used to them.
I want to speak – I’d like to say something (have someone noting down the order people raise their hands)
I agree – yes / sounds good / or applause (“Jazz hands”) – particularly useful for quick decision making
e.g. consider a suggestion, that everyone agrees with: traditionally the suggestion would be made, people would talk about it and it would become clear there is general agreement. If people use this hand signal while the suggestion is being made, no discussion is needed at all.
Clarification please – I’d like a point clarified [beware overuse] e.g. “what does GTRF mean?”, “do you mean in the UK or globally?”
Technical point [beware overuse] – about the process and not the discussion – e.g. “can we have a break”, “let’s discuss this in small groups”
Direct response [beware overuse] e.g. “that meeting has just been cancelled”, “the date has been changed”, “that was agreed last week”
I strongly disagree