Use ACE (be aware, be considerate, encourage, and educate) to create great online experiences.
One year ago, I and many of my colleagues worldwide, entered the world of online (virtual) facilitation on a full-time basis. What an exciting, rewarding, and challenging ride it has been! This is not a retrospect of what I have learned during the past year; it is a description of what I am seeing now and that I will remember and use as I facilitate over the next year.
We are not all Zoom experts. Some people have yet to join their first Zoom or other online meetings. Others “live” online and love it. Others have extreme Zoom fatigue. Since I love acronyms as quick reminders, I offer “ACE: be aware, be considerate, encourage, and educate” as a way to remember the vast range of individual experience with online and designing appropriate sessions.
Over the past four months, I have paid attention to participants’ and colleagues’ experiences and comfort with online meetings and workshops. I realize that many of us, twelve months into the Covid pandemic, are at very different levels of online skills, experiences, competencies, and attitudes. Here’s a few examples of what I’ve observed:
- Colleagues who facilitated their first online (Zoom) session in November 2020 and February 2021; and did not start in the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic and continue throughout the year
- Colleagues who facilitate one or two online sessions a month and are not aware of the updates to Zoom, MS Teams, or other platforms
- Colleagues who work with organizations and groups with limited need for or interest in more advanced technological tools
- Colleagues who are familiar with one or two platforms, typically Zoom or MS Teams, and use tools like Jamboard and GoogleDocs
- Colleagues who are extremely adept at all things online: hosting various platforms, using tools like Mural, Miro, Mentimeter, gather.town, Aha Slides, GoogleSlides, Jamboard … and the list goes on and on.
- And colleagues who, like me, who are somewhere in between the last two bullets.
- Participants, often family and friends, who joined their first Zoom meeting during the holiday session in December 2020
- Participants who only go online a few times a month for business or social meetings
- Participants who have used Zoom or MS Teams for meetings for several years, yet, make use of only a few basic features such as share screen. They do not know how to use breakout rooms, annotation, polls, reaction feature, Chat feature, etc.
- Participants who revel in using the online tools and are up for any new app or platform
- Participants who are Zoomed-out.
As I move past the one-year territory of online work because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I will use ACE as I facilitate and host meetings and sessions online.
A: be aware and acknowledge each individual’s knowledge, confidence, and skill with online facilitation and participation.
C: Be considerate of where each individual is and empathetically validate where they are. Plan and design sessions to help them achieve the best results that they want, using their level of online competency.
E: Encourage them to use and experiment with online meetings and offer to educate them about the online world. Help them enhance their skills with the online tools when it is the best way for them to reach their outcomes for the session or meeting.
ACE is an acronym that facilitators, trainers, coaches, leaders, presenters, and, heck, almost anyone can use as a quick reminder how to approach the online delivery format. Think about ACE at any stage of the facilitation, training, coaching, and consulting process you use.
If you wish to talk about facilitation, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the contact page on my website.