Facilitating Virtual Groups and Meetings

Practices for Effective Virtual Meeting Facilitation

In February of 2022, I offered a 1-hour webinar on the skills needed to facilitate virtual groups and meetings skillfully and effectively. This webinar was hosted by the Center for Practice Transformation at the University of Minnesota

Webinar Focus: Groupwork Skills and Community of Inquiry

In this webinar, I provided an overview of the key skills and fundamental concepts of groupwork as a method of practice and shared the three interdependent elements of the Community of Inquiry Framework (CoI). Employing these concepts and skills will improve your capacity to facilitate virtual and online groups and meetings. 

Enjoy the webinar here.

A summary of the webinar is posted below the video in this post.

Summary of Let’s Re-Group Webinar

Presenter: Mary Tinucci, LICSW

Webinar Summary: In this 45-minute webinar, Mary Tinucci, LICSW a clinical social worker and social work educator, discussed effective practices for facilitating online group meetings, therapy groups, and trainings.

17 Effective practices for facilitating virtual groups and online meetings:

  • Recognize & accept that online facilitation is an increasingly vital skill needed now and into the future.
  • Hone your skills and confidence to use tech tools (Zoom, Google Meets, etc..)
  • Hone your skills and confidence to deal with technology glitches
  • Use waiting rooms, music, grounding exercises, & polls to help members begin
  • Make time for introductions & to orient members to purpose of the meeting
  • Ritualize beginnings & endings of meetings with simple check-ins
  • Provide structure/agendas & create shared meaning about meeting purpose
  • Create a process early in the meeting where the participants set group norms
  • Establish a positive tone, foster connections, & create a productive environment
  • Be an active, directive facilitator to compensate for lack of in-person cues
  • Integrate use of visual tools like Jamboard or digital whiteboards
  • Employ breakout rooms for smaller group or paired discussions
  • Create online games or activities to make meetings more interactive
  • Foster shared leadership & creating shared leadership roles of members
  • Use verbal discussions, paired conversations, written tools to foster engagement
  • Understand predictable stages of group development (beginning, middle, end) and implement content to in accordance with the needs of each stage
  • Apply the ‘Community of Inquiry’ model to create social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence in online settings.

Webinar Participants Identified Biggest Challenges of Facilitating virtual groups and meetings:

  • Not knowing how to increase meaningful engagement in online settings
  • Participants seeming disengaged
  • Participants not comfortable being on camera
  • Participants multitasking
  • Managing information flow of verbal, visual, and chat communication
  • Not having clarity of purpose, a useful agenda, or compelling content for mtg.
  • Not knowing how to create a sense of community online
  • Not knowing how to help members connect
  • Not feeling confident about handling technology
  • Not understanding the stages of group development

Summary of Key Concepts Presented in Webinar

Community of Inquiry Framework (CoI)

  1. Teacher/Facilitator Presence
  2. Cognitive/Content Presence
  3. Social/Participant Presence

Groupwork Fundamentals

  • Know your audience/understand your participants
  • Have clarity of purpose
  • Create shared meaning
  • Provide clear structure and agenda
  • Establish group norms
  • Open and close the meetings with simple rituals

Whether we’re facilitating a clinical supervision group, leading an online class discussion, facilitating a support or therapy group, or delivering virtual training, these key concepts will improve your facilitation skills.

Employing these group work fundamentals and the CoI framework can support increase participant engagement, foster meaningful connections of group members, and support productivity and social/emotional learning in various contexts.