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Hosting A Great Zoom Session

Ten Top Tips I have learned since the world of work changed

This is the third in a series on the challenges and opportunities working with a global pandemic. Some of this may be repeating some of what I’ve said before but I’m finding learning new ways of working, it's a truly iterative experience. It’s evolving.

Tip 1

“Feel the fear and do it anyway” a great quote from Susan Jeffers, author of Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway. Hey Jude, “We need to take all our work online and one of the things is some all staff engagement events using the Zoom platform. We can have breakout rooms and use the Chatbox, we can show a few slides and so, if you can host it, design the event, facilitate the event and do the tech…. then that would be just great!!!!!!!”

Well no problem, let us do it….

Tip 2

Get used to the tech practice, get some great training

I had 4 weeks to plan and prep. I practiced, practiced, practiced. Got some great training on how to work online from @happyltd. I joined as may Zoom calls as I could and watched how it was done. If you are not running the event, you have space to try things out, gallery view, closing other apps, using slides. Hosted some zoom calls with my family, friends and colleagues and explored how to use the tech and feel it. Over the summer I spent an evening every week doing some great CPD on zoom hosted by @Leilanimitchel

I built my confidence and practiced the tech.

Tip 3

Be prepared to make mistakes

One of the corporate zoom events we ran got off to a tricky start, it was the first event.

The Zoom invite disabled everybody’s microphone, so we could see everybody, but nobody could hear anybody else. After my blind panic and, with my business partner showing calm, we used the Chatbox to agree to resend a new link to everybody. This worked. The idea came from the Operations Director of the Company that we were running the event for; now that’s what you call a team effort. Feedback from the event made me smile as some people thought the whole exercise was a “warm up/ice breaker.

Tip 4

Don’t try and do everything on the day

If you can build your Zoom session with as many people involved as possible. Get somebody to run the Chatbox, QUESTIONS IN CAPITALS with general chat and comments in lower case. It’s good to share the work with others, the more people that own the event the better. If there is write up, share that task too, it adds to the event and sharing the load is key. Less is definitely more with slides on Zoom, limit the number to maximise impact and it’s also easier for you, the host, to manage.

Tip 5

Choose the background that you are happy with.

How you sit, how you make eye contact, what background you have, bookcase or plain wall. All those things are important and are elements of the online world you need to feel comfortable with. Not so many do’s and don’ts more about what works for you. I would suggest you need to remain fairly still otherwise your behaviour will become a distraction.

YouTube has some great tips on this. For me personally I have found that a light behind and Infront of my computer works well, I practice looking at the camera, even though I might rather look at faces. Lots of colours on my shirt don’t work for me, neither does the colour green on screen or very red lipstick. I would encourage you to experiment with what works best for you. Don’t be shy, you’re on telly.

Tip 6

Make a careful script and break down your activity

Unlike Face to Face group facilitation where it can be a bit easier go off script, online facilitation or hosting an event needs more scripting and much more detailed design.

Of course you do not have to follow the plan to the letter or the structure you propose without deviation but you can bet that if you have failed to write down the capsules of activity, or indeed the running order and timings, then it’s harder to get back on the plan during a “live broadcast” and it’s easier to lose yourself in a distracted ramble.

Tip 7

Give people choices

With adult learning its always good if you can continuously give people options and choices.

For example, if you put people in a Breakout room they have been in before, maybe with their manager, or their therapist, or their ex, or with less people than they would like, give people Permission to come out of the room and allow them to either wait in the lobby or be assigned to another room.

At the start make it clear that if somebody has to answer the door, look after small kids, blip out of the Zoom for a little while, they have PERMISSION to do it. If you see the energy changes and weaken in the meeting, engage others by saying the have a choice to have a 5-minute break now or later, maybe ask if Zoom members would rather do Activity A or Activity B to shift focus then do it. Make the event as dynamic as you can and as interactive as possible.

Tip 8

Keep people engaged

Keep the energy going. Do a forage e.g. hunt for something blue, ask people to write something in the Chatbox. Even a 30 second break or change of energy will, in my experience, be welcome. Remember to bring your whole self into the experience and if things don’t go right all the time every time, remember we are all learning.

Tip 9

Be prepared to write up what you are learning.

The world has changed, and we are all learning on how to make online communications work for us. Even if you do not want to write down your story you can always post something brief on social media, that is how we all learn and share. Sharing our experience and continuous learning and reflective practice helps us, as well as others.

If you can find somebody who values CPD and somebody who motivates you and that you can learn from that is a double strength. I personally find @Susiehewitt an inspiration, she challenges my thinking and is supportive about learning and feedback. Check out

Tip 10

Be yourself. If you are good facilitator and used to working with people, then working with a different medium is just a different challenge and treat it as a whole new, exciting experience. Remember you are still you. You will keep the essence of what you do and how you do it….

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