7 Ways to Create Collaborative, Inclusive Online Meetings

Have you been to online meetings or events that lack engagement and opportunities for collaboration? Have you felt excluded from the conversation and disconnected?

I offer these 7 Ways to create collaborative, inclusive meetings online based on decades of in person facilitation, and a rapid learning curve in the last 18 months in online facilitation. In June of 2020, I started training other educators and facilitators how to combine virtual tools and facilitation best practice to design and deliver online meetings that result in impact take-aways. You know, the meetings where people feel more connected and energized than when they started. The kinds of spaces that allow relationship and trust building across difference.

In the early days of my own learning, I adopted a “fail forward” mindset. I challenged myself to step out of my comfort zone. To fail, iterate, fail again, and then learn, quickly. Fast forward eighteen months later, and I have trained hundreds of people across Canada and beyond to up their game in online facilitation. I invited them to adopt a “fail early and often” mindset. I learned as much from course participants as they learned from me. I want to share the 7 Tips that have helped me the most. I hope they resonate for you. Over my next few blogs posts I’ll dive a bit deeper into each of these ideas.


Create Safe(r) Spaces

I try to do this early in the agenda through:

  • Sharing a personalized land acknowledgement, and the invitation for others to share their land acknowledgements in the chat
  • Inviting participants to add pronouns to their names
  • Respecting that participant may have their cameras on or off for different reasons, and to let them know when it is most important to turn their cameras on, if possible.
  • Check-ins that allow us to share our feelings


Design Openings with Purpose

  • Invite participants to connect to the purpose of the meeting or event. Why is this important to them? How might it impact their work, or the people they serve?
  • I often open with a story that highlights a connection to purpose
  • I often use a Think-pair-share process that allows personal reflection + connection to others


Integrate Polls, Chats, Breakouts

  • Use a variety of built-in tools like chat and polls early to build rapport
  • Use breakouts to build connection
  • Focus on creating connection before diving into content


Use Visuals + Annotate

  • Up to 80% of us are visual learners
  • Share your screen with a funny image that represents multiple emotions
  • Invite participants to annotate with a stamp, or draw what emotion they are feeling
  • Use a spectrum to understand the continuum of ideas, and levels of confidence on a specific topic


Build in Movement/Analog Activities

  • Building in movement activities is key to maintaining energy through meetings
  • I use show and tell, find an object, power poses, and put on music with cameras off to invite play and energy
  • Analog activities like drawing, writing, and creating off camera with a share back also allow movement and a different focus


Crowd Source

  • Invite participants to all share their ideas at the same time. This is called Crowdsourcing.
  • Using whiteboard tools like Google Jamboard, Padlet, Mural or Miro invite collaboration and visual idea sharing
  • Use these tools ahead of meetings to brainstorm, and after meetings to refine and follow-up


Meaningful Openings and Closings

  • Use reflection questions, short breakouts, a visual check-in, or a chat waterfall to invite participants into a meeting
  • Use the same tools for participants to share what they’re taking away, how they feel, or a question they have

The 7 Tips that have helped me the most through decades of facilitation :

  • Create Safe(r) Spaces
  • Design Openings with Purpose
  • Integrate Polls, Chats, Breakouts
  • Use Visuals + Annotate
  • Build in Movement/Analog Activities
  • Crowd Source
  • Meaningful Openings and Closings