Remote workshop facilitation: Ten reasons to use an external facilitator

Most of our clients are keen to find ways to make sure strategy conversations and workshops are able to proceed, and soon.

In the current remote working environment, orchestrating and participating in a remote workshop presents a unique challenge. Presenting content, moderating questions, paying attention to and responding to the chat function, and using technology effectively is difficult.


Here we reprise our list of top ten reasons to use an external facilitator with a focus on remote (or digital) workshops and conversations.

1. The right preparation

Well-considered preparation is one of the keys to a successful remote workshop. This includes having clear session objectives and structured plans. Running through sessions in advance. Ensuring key participants (e.g. CEO, chair, presenters, group captains, co-facilitators) are fully briefed on session structure, materials and tools so there are few surprises, and everyone is clear on their role. It’s frustrating when the technology lets you down, so we will have a test run on digital tools with everyone in advance, and we will have a back-up plan in the event of a tech melt-down.

2. Effective agendas

One of the reasons offsites are usually designed as consecutive sessions over 1-2 days is that it’s an efficient way to use everyone’s time if you are bringing them together physically. In fact – if we are not all required to be in the same location at the same time – we can get creative with our format and break it down into different time periods, delivering the sessions in modules over a few days or a couple of weeks. The trick is not to let there be too much time between sessions so you can maintain the right momentum and flow required to achieve desired outcomes.

3. Considered session plans

Don’t just expect that a session plan that works in physical form will translate perfectly for the virtual world. It won’t. Clever session design, that is cognisant of the strengths and limitations of working in a digital space, is more important than ever. And mix it up! Some sessions require synchronous participation, while others (for example, guest presenters) could potentially be pre-recorded. Breakouts can be scheduled at different times to meet the needs of different groups of attendees.

4. Strategy expertise

With the focus recently shifting to the skills required to deliver workshops digitally, let’s not forget or diminish the importance of content. Our team are all strategy consultants and facilitators with years of experience, breadth of talent, and proven methods. We will bring to your workshops new thinking and best-practice strategy frameworks to help guide conversations.

5. Independence

Whether it be an in person or remote workshop, this key aspect remains unchanged. An external workshop facilitator brings an independent perspective to better resolve alternative viewpoints among workshop members and keep meetings on track.

6. Technology enablement

There’s an amazing array of tools at our disposal to support effective digital workshops. Zoom, Teams, WebEx (or similar) for video-conferencing, allows multiple participants, breakout spaces, polling, enabled chat functionality for increased engagement, new security features, and has easy screen sharing capability (to name just a few features). Mural, allows us to create virtual whiteboards and templates that everyone can contribute to, and Zeetings or Slido for managing real time surveys and polling. Many of these tools require nothing more than a device (smartphone or tablet) and a browser, making them easy for participants to access. By selecting the right mix of tools, you can keep everyone engaged, collaborating and developing outputs in the right way, for the duration of workshop sessions.

7. Full engagement

Most people find it almost impossible to guide a discussion, record key points and make a meaningful contribution. Add to this moving in and out of virtual breakout rooms, broadcasting timings updates, responding to questions asked via chat, sharing screens etc. Engaging an external facilitator for meetings and workshops means you can be fully engaged in discussions rather than focused on the tech, process and documentation of discussions and outcomes.

8. Managing personalities

Managing meeting dynamics can be difficult, especially when you know the people in the room or in the current remote working environment when you are unable to use your ‘physical presence’ to manage individuals’ contributions. Keeping a meeting on track and managing conflict is core to producing useful outcomes, and so our facilitators are trained to ensure that everyone has a say, and no single view-point dominates the discussion.

9. Action-orientation

Have clear expectations for the circulation of outcomes following the session, and make sure these are met. We ensure you get value from your meetings and workshops by providing you with actionable documentation of workshop outcomes. This includes a summary of the discussion and outcomes of each session and the agreed next steps, so that no decisions get lost and you can implement your plans immediately; this is particularly important in today’s working environment where maintaining productivity and engaging in collaborative working processes is required.

10. Risk reduction

External facilitation reduces the risk that the investment of your team’s time will be wasted. Workshops have an opportunity cost; we help reduce the risk. We get the best out of your team and time while harnessing the skills and expertise in the group.

Want to know more? 

For more information please contact us below or call the office on 03 9428 8817.

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