Virtual Idea 1: Using images before and during a facilitated virtual session

Over the past few weeks of our COVID-19 reality, I have enjoyed learning excellent ways to transform in-person facilitation design and techniques to virtual meetings and sessions. Here’s Virtual idea 1 in a short series I will post about activities I am experimenting with as I move from in-person to virtual facilitation. One overall comment about this series: I design the virtual sessions using the same principles and approaches that I use for in-person sessions. Start by working with the client group to clarify and agree upon the purpose and outcomes of the session, consider the participants, the process, the products – then choose the most appropriate activities and tools to use online. Outcomes lead, technology follows.

This is not a blog about the overall ways to move to virtual facilitation. Many excellent resources have appeared online over the past few weeks. I am focussing on specific techniques that I am using and hope to use.

Using an image activity

I frequently use VisualsSpeak Images in my sessions, meetings, and workshops to invite participants to think with a different perspective, to encourage creativity and innovation, to utilize right-brain thinking, to build upon emotions, to broaden and deepen their ideas, and to have fun. Images are powerful! I use them to encourage ideas about questions such as:

  • Which images show what you want your organization/business to achieve in 5 years?
  • What images depict team unity and success to you?
  • Which images convey how you feel about your conversations and decisions today?

The Virtual Session

Two weeks ago, I had a 3-hour in-person session scheduled with a team of four in a start-up company to give them time to talk about their vision, mission, and values, to understand each other’s perspectives, and reach a common and highly valued understanding. When COVID-19 struck, the team and I did not want to cancel or reschedule. We decided to change to a 1 1/2 hour virtual session. With little time to re-design, I adjusted the image activity I planned to work in the online Zoom meeting.

What did I do to transform the activity of the images to the online session?

For the in-person session, I had planned to place the images on tables and ask the four members of the team to: “Select 2 to 4 images that depict what you think and feel about the vision and mission of your company.” I really wanted the team members to have time to think about the choices. Therefore, for the virtual session, I took pictures of 20 of the images and with the instructions, sent them by email to each participant 36 hours in advance. During the session, I had the images on the screen and the participants had them on their monitors. Each person shared the images he/she selected by referencing the number of each image.

An example of the images emailed in advance of the virtual session

It worked great! Before the session, one team member emailed to say, ” I already had lots of fun with the two pre-work activities and I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s session.” During the Zoom virtual session, each person shared her/his images and listened to each other. As each person talked about the images he/she selected, I typed the images and descriptions into the Chat function. I used an ORID Conversation to with the team answering:

  • What words and images stood out for you?
  • What excites you?
  • What concerns you?
  • What themes did you hear? (similarities, differences, etc.)
  • How can you use the themes as you decide your vision and mission?

Documenting (harvesting) the virtual conversation: I typed the decisions into the Chat and sent out to the team following the session. I also recorded the session and sent it to the team.

Options: Yes, many more sophisticated apps exist to share images during virtual sessions. This is a low-tech and easy-to-do method that is highly effective.

Other ways to use images virtually:

  • If you do not need the participants to think about the images before the session, you can place them on a slide and share your screen during the virtual meetings. This would be very effective for an opening conversation, such as: What images show how you are feeling today? What images depict what you want to gain and give today?
  • Participants, in response to a question sent in the agenda, could bring their images to show online either by holding them up to the webcam or sharing their screens.
  • Participants could draw images on a whiteboard.

I am enjoying the creativity, challenge, and fun of transforming some of my favourite facilitation techniques and tools to the virtual space. Some upcoming ideas will include decision matrices, historical scans, rating scales, and active listening.

Virtual Idea 1: Using images before and during a facilitated virtual session
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3 thoughts on “Virtual Idea 1: Using images before and during a facilitated virtual session

  • April 2, 2020 at 5:31 pm

    The low tech image sharing technique I believe brings a personal or human scale to this technique while making sure this this virtual workshop delivers on your client’s needs.

  • April 7, 2020 at 1:16 pm

    What a great idea for a series of blogs, Barbara! I’m sure we’re all struggling to adapt our favourite activities to online facilitation, and it is very generous of you to share your process.
    Images are a very powerful way to stimulate open and generative conversation on a topic. Since I don’t use the VisualSpeak Images, I would probably lean toward having participants find and share their own images.
    Thanks for the ideas, and I look forward to your next installment!

  • April 7, 2020 at 6:47 pm

    Barbara, thank you so much for sharing the exercise and the method you used. I am surely going to use it in my class on Intercultural Communication!
    Thank you

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