Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Virtual Collaboration Practices

We all working remotely for last one and half year. This has necessitated virtual collaboration at massive scale. Here is list of my learnings to gain and hold attention during virtual collaboration – simple meeting or engaging workshop.

1. Avoid cognitive load: Virtual environment adds a lot of challenges – bandwidth issues, audio, and video hardware, background noises, etc. Considering these potential issues try to limit cognitive load due to content. Incorporate visual components to ease acceptance.

2.      Social contract: Establish a social contract at starting of the session. This will set the expectation about expected behavior.

3.      Ensure that you understand the cultural context. For example “Miss manner” might be OK in the USA and UK but might be very awkward in India and China

4.      Co-facilitator: Recruit a co-facilitator if possible. A co-facilitator is a must if break-out activities are part of the session.

5.      Multiple display/screen: Multiple screens (varying between 2 to 3) and preferably large ones apart from your laptop. Multiple screens are a must if you are the organizer/facilitator of the event.

6.      Pre-reading material: Provide pre-reading material for the event. Although assume that no one will be reading it fully.

7.      Emphasize conversation not vomiting: Preaching (monologue) is a big NO. Think of participants not as audiences.

8.      Video on: Make a point that everyone is on video. If bandwidth is a challenge, ensure everyone switches to video at starting and end of the interaction.

9.      Whiteboard: Almost all of the virtual collaboration tools provide white board facility. I have used it extensively and found it very useful.

10.  Polling and Quizzes: Incorporate polling and quizzes during the event certainly engages participants. A word of caution – Don’t overdo it.

11.  Activities: Incorporate some activities/games during the event. Ensure that these activities are relevant and short.

12.  Powerpoint: Use PowerPoint (or any other presentation tool) judiciously. Do not gravitate toward extremes of “Death by PowerPoint” or “No PowerPoint”. Also ensure that slides are not too heavy in content as well as you have talking points beyond what is written on the slides.

13.  Jokes and Humor: Incorporate jokes and humor. A word of caution: sensitive to cultural intricacies

14.  Post-event material: Provide post-event material.

15.  Feedback: Ask for feedback about – how to make session more engaging and interesting before closing the session.