Video Conference Facilitation

These are unprecedented times and come with great turmoil, uncertainty, and “oh my goodness I am a learning and development professional but am struggling to help my third grader with some basic math” moments.

As a parent with three kids, I am so impressed with how school administrators and teachers have handled this whole situation on a moment’s notice. I think there are a lot of lessons of adaptability and working within the bounds of your resources that we could glean from these heroes.

To keep kids on track and engaged in schoolwork, my elementary-aged kids have regularly scheduled video conferences with their teachers and classmates. At first, while watching these I was just enamored with how excited everyone was to see each other. All those cute little faces! Then, as I kept watching these, I realized that the teachers (most of who are leading these and using this technology for the first time) are doing an amazing job! They are corralling 18-20 kids for an hour and being productive.

Now, I am sure most of us are used to attending video conferences, but perhaps you are being called to lead video conferences now or maybe you need to have more video conferences with your direct team to keep your business moving forward. For learning and development professionals, we are moving classroom-based experiences to virtual instructor-led webinars and doing more video team meetings and training recap meetings that would normally be face-to-face.

Leading these types of meetings can be nerve-wracking, but as I watched my kids and their teachers, there are some things I have learned that I think can help any professional that is having to facilitate video conferences more often.

10 Lessons Learned From Elementary School Zoom Meetings

1. Leave ample time for connecting with each other
The teachers don’t immediately dive into the agenda. Now, I understand that we are all busy and time is money – but in the current environment we are in, sometimes it’s nice to connect to others in a more personal way. Check-in on the meeting attendees. Spending a few minutes asking people how they are doing can give people that social interaction they could suddenly be missing by working remotely.

2. Know and set the purpose of the meeting
In the beginning, the video conferences were just for the kids to connect with each other. They were really casual, in fact, one kid was literally jumping on a trampoline during the meeting (you could hear boing, boing, boing, boing almost the entire time). This was ok because this was a fun “I just want to see your faces (or in this kids’ case his feet)” video chat. Had the purpose of this meeting been an actual content review, I have no doubt the teacher would have put an end to that quickly. Is your meeting purely to see each other and keep up team morale like a virtual happy hour? Is it to brainstorm? Is it to go through a project plan? Set the purpose and let your attendees know that upfront.

3. Keep the agenda short and tight
I have also noticed that the teachers keep the agendas short! Oftentimes, the teacher has one or two things that she wants to cover. They understand that they can’t do all the things in one video conference and are very realistic about what can be covered in that amount of time. They also always start the meetings by letting the kids know what the agenda items are for that day and end the call by sharing the action items for the next meeting.

4. Control the meeting
Teachers control who is the leader. They mute others if necessary. Don’t be afraid to take control of the meeting – if a meeting is getting derailed by a person or topic, bring the focus back to the original agenda item and make a plan to speak to the person separately or revisit the other topic at a later time if necessary.

5. Lead the meeting with energy!
The teachers are always full of enthusiasm (and I would assume loads of coffee) and keep up the energy level throughout the meeting.

6. Respect the time
The teachers do not go over time. They start exactly on time and end early in most cases once the agenda items are met. This goes back to understanding what a reasonable agenda is for the time that you have.

7. Thank your participants
The teachers always acknowledge and thank the kids (and parents!) for the work they are continuing to do. You can see the pride in the kid’s faces when they say this. Don’t forget to thank the people that you work with and that work for you – especially during this time of uncertainty and chaos.

8. Recap
The teachers always send a recap email of the meeting and let you know what’s up for the next meeting.

9. Give yourself grace
These teachers are making it work with what they have. A lot of them have never participated in or led video conference calls before and they’ve had some technology issues and hiccups along the way, but they never get flustered (that I can tell) and they don’t make excuses. They apologize to the kids for the slight inconvenience and move on.

10. Don’t forget you are on video and be vigilant about wearing pants
This one I didn’t learn from a kid’s conference call but from the power of the internet as I am sure we’ve all seen those videos recently of the poor souls who forget that people can see them on video calls. Just put on the pants.

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