Different Angles 17: Facilitating Collaboration in Online Meetings

In This Issue

• Facilitating Collaboration in Online Meetings

• PCC Fall Workshops: Making Online Meetings Less Terrible (2 hour workshop), and Tools for Good Meeting Facilitation (4 consecutive Tuesdays)

• Embodying Antiracism workshop recommendation

Know somebody who would benefit from reading this eNewsletter? Please send it to them using the Forward link at the end.  Thanks!

* * * * * * *

This is the third in a series focused on meeting facilitation.  You will find the earlier articles in this facilitation series as an older post in the Different Angles eNewsletter page of my website: https://www.tasha-harmon.com/newsletter/

Facilitating Collaboration in Online Meetings 

I have spent a lot of time in the last 18 months developing tools and strategies for making online meetings and trainings useful, energizing, and fun. The biggest breakthrough for me in that work was discovering Mural, an online white board format that allows you to create large, super-flexible, easy-to-access spaces for real-time collaboration. (There are several similar online services – Miro, Lucidspark, Sketchpad, etc., but I’m a big Mural fan.)

Here’s what changes when I use Mural in meetings or training sessions:

  1. It breaks up the tedium and stress of Zoom (or other) online meetings where we are trying to connect by staring at tiny pictures of each other and allows us to focus on interacting actively with each other in a way we can see.
    • It means we can see and capture what’s happening in real time. Having visuals helps keep track of what ideas have been presented and clarify where we are in the process. It also helps us be sure we all know what decisions we are being asked to make, what next steps have been assigned, and how they relate to the decisions made. (As a bonus, it creates a set of notes you can save and share, as you are doing the work.)
    • It supports visual-thinking. Mural includes many templates, frameworks and images you can use to help groups generate and organize ideas and processes visually. This can support non-linear and outside-the-box thinking and help smooth the transitions from brainstorming to decision-making to action-framing.
  1. It facilitates parallel work processes, which makes meetings far more efficient. For example:
    • Everyone can be putting up sticky-note responses to a question or proposal at the same time, and grouping them with similar answers.
    • Folks can work in small groups, getting the benefits of interacting with fewer people (see below) and be putting up sticky-notes or other visual representations of what they are coming up with, in real time, where everybody can see them — so we capture the report out in parallel and can spend our time reflecting on what we’re seeing, not getting the ideas up one group at a time.
    • In a large meeting where not everyone needs to be involved in each item, you can set up part of the meeting to be in work groups/teams with different groups working on different things in different sections of the Mural. And then, everyone can see — and, if useful, respond to — what all the groups have been working on.
  1. It reduces the impact of the folks who tend to dominate discussion, and increases opportunities and support for marginalized or quieter voices to be heard. It does that in several ways:
    • All of the parallel processes listed above support this (you may have to think well about who to put in what small groups to maximize this impact).
    • It makes it easier to share ideas anonymously, and hence have the group responding to the ideas themselves, not the people who suggested them.
    • Visual thinking is the preferred mode for some people, and so will play to their strengths in a way that video calls do not.
  • It supports doing real work in meetings, as opposed to talking about doing real work.

It also provides a place where non-synchronistic work can happen between meetings. For example, if you want folks to think more about a topic and put up ideas to be discussed at the next meeting, individual people (or small groups) can add to the Mural whenever it’s convenient for them in the time between meetings.

Additional Resources

  1. The Tools for Teambuilding and Facilitation page of my website includes several handouts that may give you some ideas you could use in your meetings: 
    • Different Formats for Meetings
    • Mapping as a Meeting Facilitation Tool
    • Mapping Our Pandemic Experience and Our Paths Forward
    • Small Group Work for Team-Building
  1. Books: The Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making by Sam Kaner et. al. offers many other tools that would translate well onto Mural. There are also great tools for this work in adrienne maree brown’s books, including Emergent Strategy and Holding Change.
  1. Workshops: This article is drawn from my meeting facilitation workshops. I am teaching a 2 hour workshop called How to Make Online Meetings Less Terrible as well as my longer basic facilitation training this fall at PCC. (See below.)  I will teach the Beyond Basics workshop in the Winter Term, or perhaps in the fall as a self-run workshop if there is enough interest. Please email me if you are interested in that intermediate-level workshop.
  1. Direct Support: If you would like a thought partner to help you or your teams learn to work with Mural in facilitating online meetings, I am available for that role. Please see the Thought Partnering page under services on my website.

What’s your experience facilitating online meetings with and without a shared whiteboard? Do you have questions or comments?  

Please email me, or join the conversation below. I will respond, as appropriate, on the website or in future eNewsletters. If I refer to your question or comment in a future article, I will keep you anonymous unless you give me permission to do otherwise.

(I think there may be a technical issue with comments tool, so I would appreciate it if you would email me directly if you leave a comment below to let me know you did so – that way I know something is up if the comment doesn’t show up. Thanks.)

Related Posts:

Creating Good Meeting Agendas

What are Meetings For? 

The Power of the Format Shift

Working with Complaints in Meetings

Using Questions to Move Meetings Forward

Roles in Decision-Making 


Fall Workshops at PCC

How to Make Online Meetings Less Terrible

This 2 hour workshop for anybody feeling challenged by running online meetings, is Tuesday, October 5th, from 6:30 to 8:30. NOTE: The PCC catalogue lists the end time as 8:20. but we will go until 8:30. The CRN is 45396. The cost is $29.

Are you frustrated by how hard it is to get folks to engage and do collaborative work in online meetings? We’ll use Zoom and Mural to explore facilitation techniques and ways to do visual collaboration online that will energize your meetings, increase engagement, and help you get good work done. This workshop will use the online collaboration tool Mural, but many of the ideas presented can also be done on other visual collaboration tools, like Google’s Jamboard. You will need a computer (not a phone) to be able to participate.

Tools for Good Meeting Facilitation

This workshop will run four consecutive Tuesdays, starting October 26th, from 7:00 to 8:30 pm. NOTE: PCC lists the end time as 8:20, but we will go until 8:30. The CRN is 43804. The cost is $55.

What do you wish you could change in the meetings you run, or participate in? This workshop combines lively presentations on useful tools and practices with Q and A and highly interactive exercises, reflecting on actual challenges experienced by participants. It will be offered online using Zoom and Mural, and include discussion and practice of best practices and tools for facilitating remote meetings. Because we will be using Mural, you will need a computer, rather than a phone, to participate.

You do need to pre-register for these workshops through PCC.


Embodying Antiracism – Recommended Workshop

I participated in an Embodying Antiracism level 1 workshop this spring, offered by Inclusive Life. It was a life-changing experience for me, and I want to recommend it to other white folks on this journey. It is being offered again starting in September.

When asked to write a recommendation for the course, here is what emerged: 

Embodying Antiracism 1 was different from any antiracism-focused workshop I’ve ever participated in. As a long-time facilitator and trainer, and a person whose commitment to this work is long and deep, I learned an enormous amount at two levels. 

The first (simplest) was gaining new language, frameworks and tools that were resonant with what I already knew, but super useful. 

The second, and probably more transformative, was experiencing a container for antiracism work that was generous, and built on curiosity and an invitation to embrace respect and trust. There was no softening of the analysis of the toxicity of white supremacy and racism, but there was also a strong felt experience of being embraced as a white person struggling to deconstruct the myths of whiteness and the hold white supremacist norms have on all of us and to figure out how to be an effective agent for deconstructing white-body supremacy inside and out and a respectful and generous ally for BIPoC folks. 

One critical part of that container was the attention paid to the experiences in our bodies as we gathered to do this work. The practices used to keep us connected to this somatic piece, grounded in Resmaa Menekam’s work, meant that I was able to go deeper, stay more present, and leave each session feeling enlivened, not beaten down and overwhelmed. It left me wanting more. I’ve already signed up for Embodying Antiracism #2.

I would be happy to connect with anyone who wants to know more about the workshop, and Laura Halpin, who is the facilitator, is also very welcoming of questions and discussion with folks considering whether to participate.


I am offering training, coaching, facilitation, and thought-partner work online

I am currently supporting organizations and individuals primarily online, using phone, Zoom, and Mural, a powerful and easy-to-use tool for visual collaboration.

If you would like to discuss what I could bring to your organization or team please contact me. You will also find an overview of my services and experience on the Services page.


© Tasha Harmon, August 2021. All rights reserved.

You are invited to share this eNewsletter with friends and colleagues. Please keep it intact, including the acknowledgements and contact information. If you’d like to reprint an article from my eNewsletter, written permission is required. Please do contact me about this if you are interested. Thank you.

Posted in Different Angles | Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *