Facilitators and trainers often work with Tech Hosts and Notetakers in online and in-person sessions. What can make this teamwork successful and fun?
I just had a fantastic experience working as a team with me as the facilitator, Anne-Claire Frank-Seisay https://www.linkedin.com/in/anneclairefrank/ as the Tech Host, and Chris Pedersen https://www.linkedin.com/in/cbpedersen/ as the Notetaker for a 1.5-day online MS Teams session for Parks Canada. Here’s my big thanks to them followed by what I learned about ways to make this type of teamwork successful and fun.
A round of applause to the Parks Canada people we worked with, Greg Wilson and Cynthia Hartway. They were willing to try new methods, responded thoughtfully to my questions to clarify what they needed from the sessions, and collaborated on the design.
My sincerest appreciation and admiration to my team colleagues, Anne-Claire and Chris. Their amazing ability to think as facilitators significantly improved the design of the sessions. They contributed ideas from the technological and note production aspects which I would not have thought about.
Anne-Claire was phenomenally adept as she managed the technology of the sessions. Ways to use MS Teams to engage participants – innovative suggestions. Multiple breakout groups – easily created. A participant drop-off – instant reconnection. Three participants couldn’t join a breakout room – she fixed it.
Being a Notetaker is a demanding role, requiring intense listening and astute analysis. Chris performed it brilliantly. Really – can you spell heterozygosity?? He capably discerned the main points in the large group discussions and captured verbatim notes when needed. He knew when and how to tactfully ask participants to clarify statements.
Design of the Session
Approximately 22 people participated in the session to give input on seven topics. We organized the session as a series of presentations and activities for each topic; running it much like a modified focus group. We effectively used MS Teams, Mural, Google Slides, Google Sheets, polls, and large group conversations.
The flow of the 1.5-day sessions
- Welcome and Land Acknowledgement
- Introductions and Opening Conversation – trio breakout out groups
- Discussion about the interest in the session – introducing Mural to the participants
- Topic 1 Activity – complex data collection using detailed charts on Mural and small breakout out groups
- Topic 2 Activity – complex data collection using a Poll
- Topic 3 Activity – complex data collection using detailed charts on Mural and small breakout groups
- Topic 4 Activity – data collection and ideas on GoogleSlides and small breakout groups
- Topic 5 – presentation
- Topic 6 – data collection and ideas using GoogleSheets and a large group discussion
- Closing Conversation – large group discussion and use of Chat
This fantastic experience was an endorsement of the value of having these individuals as part of my team. Here are things I learned.
- Assess your session. Decide if you need a Tech Host and Notetaker. Consider the topic outcomes, topic complexity, timing, and participants. Sessions of less than two hours and with one or two breakout groups may only need a Tech Host to join 20 minutes before.
- Know your style. Explain to your colleagues how you prefer to work as part of a team. I like lots of involvement (maybe too much!) from my colleagues, and I hold regular meetings and practices. I invite ideas in the design of the sessions.
- Ask your colleagues how they like to work as part of a team. Integrate their approach with yours.
- Allot additional time to work with your team, typically an extra 1 to 2 days to meet, plan, and practice.
- Involve a Tech Host during the design stage of complex sessions. They bring specialized knowledge about platforms. Describe what you wish to achieve and they can give ideas of activities using technology.
- Start with the end in mind with the clients and the Notetaker. What needs to be in the report? What should it look like? Design the collection of the data to fit the report format and content. This saves time and energy for the Notetaker. If there is no need for verbatim notetaking, don’t do it.
- Have the Tech Host and Notetaker meet the clients. Build rapport and trust before the sessions.
- Introduce the team to the participants and explain their roles.
- Agree on speaking roles during the sessions. When does the Tech Host and Notetaker “interrupt” and how?
- Use a “behind the scenes” communication method. We used WhatsApp as a team and with the client. It worked fabulously before and after the sessions.
- Debrief as a team and with the client at the end of each day and the event.
- Celebrate together!
Contact me if you wish to discuss ways of effectively working with facilitators, Tech Hosts, and Notetakers as a team.