Our Virtual Session Support Materials


For use with The Virtual Session Design Canvas.

Before the session

Questions to ask of your participants

About their comfortability with tech:

  • What is your comfortability with online tools? What do you use most often?
  • How is your internet connection – are you able to use video/have your camera on? Any issues with using tools?

To inform your session design

  • For an interview with someone with a role in an organisation/institution/larger effort:
    • Tell me about the effort/organisation/institution, what is its goal? What is it trying to accomplish?
    • What is your role in accomplishing that?
    • What are the significant challenges you are facing in that role?
    • Where are you finding success?
    • What is critical for the group of people coming together for this session to be able to accomplish? What do you want to learn from others who are doing similar work?
    • How might this session be of value to you? How might it help?
    • Thinking about this group of people coming together for this session: do you have any concerns about participating? what might make this event fail?

Consider the Roles you’ll need

More than likely, you will need more than one host for your session. Big thanks to Heather Leson, Laurent Fernandez and the Solferino Academy at IFRC for starting this list of potential roles:

  • Technical host (s)
    • handles breakout room set up, breakout room Q & A
    • schedules the meeting
    • handles interpretation
    • assigns ‘ cohost’ duties
    • designs participates and coordinates technology and content with the team
  • Facilitator Host (s)
    • cohost
    • coordinates with business owner on content, format and guests
    • outreach and announcements for the event across networks
    • coordinates event production team
    • books guest speakers
    • runs the public part of the meeting (front of house)
    • relays messages from team
    • designs, participates and coordinates technology and content with team
  • Community manager/engagement (s)
    • cohost
    • moderates people – shut video, verify users, kicks out potential troublemakers
    • coordinates on potential problematic participants
    • coordinates questions across breakout and facilitator
    • Shares outreach and announcements for the event across networks
    • provides community engagement training
    • coordinates the back of the house communication channels and the front of house communications
    • answers questions in the chat
    • provides the collaborative documentation
    • recruits moderation, community helpers for larger events
    • coordinates technical and community teams with facilitators
    • manages waiting room with business owners (verifies participants when applicable)
    • designs, participates and coordinates technology and content with team
  • Technical Support
    • cohost
    • coordinates technical issues with the technical host and team.
    • direct messages people who need help with sound/setup, verified participants, changes people’s names to identify them correctly
  • Moderators
    • provides extra support for technology and community teams
    • cohost
    • can advise if there are potential problem makers
  • Analysts
    • review the outputs from the collaborate notes
    • creates summary and insights
  • Designers
    • puts outputs into usable, web or email-based content and formats for easy digesting and dissemination

During The Session

Things to keep in mind during the session

  • Make sure everyone feels welcome, comfortable and knows how to use the platform or tools.
  • Provide guidelines (below) for interaction
  • Take breaks when people seem to be getting tired regardless of when you scheduled them. 
    • Ask participants to turn their video on and off, rather than disconnect and reconnect. 
  • If people are dropping out because of low bandwidth, consider turning off video
  • Always stay calm and have a sense of humour if things go wrong.
  • Appreciate everyone’s participation and contribution often
  • Ask participants for (technical) help and advice if needed – it’s a joint effort! 

Sample ‘How to Participate’ Guidelines

These are standard guidelines we use at FabRiders, please feel free to use and adapt as you see fit.

The Zoomies

We are providing this example, not as an endorsement to use zoom, but as an example of instruction needed for any platform.

  • To operate in Zoom, move your cursor to the bottom of the screen and a menu bar will appear (please note that if you’re using a tablet or smartphone, the menu may be located elsewhere). In the lower left-hand corner, you should see a mic icon where you can mute and unmute yourself. We request that you stay on Mute, until you are invited to come off Mute to speak. Next to that is an icon for a camera where you can turn your video on and off.
  • Next to that is the more controversial video icon. If you can, please keep your video on, it makes a huge difference to see your face. No worries if you can’t, it’s not required but is recommended.
  • In the middle of that menu bar, you should see an icon of a figure, click on that and a list of participants appears on the right-hand side of your screen. You will note: there is a button at the bottom of that list that says ‘raise hand’ – you can use that to get our attention if you have a question or a comment you would like to contribute to the discussion. 
  • You are free to record this workshop for your own use only. If you were ever to share the recording, please contact relevant participants and get their okay.  

General Guidelines 

  • Be respectful – Please follow the instructions and the prompts, be timely. Respect that there are different experiences present and try to listen and understand. Don’t rush to solve other people’s problems instead, strive to build solidarity. 
  • Be Inclusive – Speak to the nth. The n being the number of people in the group. So if there are four people, speak a fourth of the time. Expand all acronyms, be wary of jargon, so everyone can understand. Share resources and URLs, so others can benefit.
  • Be Fully Present – Ask questions and get the most out of the small group discussions and in the large group. Minimise or close apps that you might find distracting! 

Google Doc tips

We are providing this example, not as an endorsement to use Google Docs, but as an example of instruction needed for any platform.

  • To the left of the document, floating towards the top of the white buffer is a grey three-line icon. That’s the Document outline. Click it and it will show subsections of the document, which you can then click on and travel right to that section instead of scrolling
  • If you want to go directly to someone’s cursor (where they’re writing) and they’d signed in (or you know which anonymous animal they are) you can click on the circle icon for their name/animal up top, above the document on the right side, on the same level as the title, towards where it says “Share.” If you can’t see that line, look for a down arrow (like an upside-down >) on the very far right up top and click that.

Sample Activities:

  • Silent reflection – ask participants to write down a response to a question, this can be done via an online collaborative doc. Write the question with bullet points underneath. 
  • Brainstorming and Organising – break participants into small groups to discuss the topic more deeply. Ask them to capture main points in complete understandable sentences in a shared collaborative doc.
  • Ranking – ask participants to break into pairs and discuss a list of techniques and ask them to determine most effective to least effective.
  • Gallery – Break people into small groups and provide them with a slide deck of visuals for them to review. Give them questions to answer as they review each example (i.e., for data visualisations ask: what is the message and who is it for?)
  • Spectrogram – In a collaborative doc, write a controversial statement followed by agree<——————->disagree have people put an X along the line based on their opinion. Ask “why did you put your x where you did?”
  • Scenario – create scenarios based on real-life problems that address the topic. Break participants up into small groups to review the scenarios and discuss how they would solve the problem.
  • Hands-on – give participants an opportunity to work directly with a tool.

More Silent Reflection Examples

  • Get final commitments by getting them to complete the sentences in a collaborative doc:
    • As a result of this workshop, I will… (task & name)
    • As a result of this workshop, we (this group of people) should…
    • Reflecting on what happened at this workshop, let us not forget to…
  • Get the group to imagine future interaction by completing “How about we…..”

After the session

Feedback questions:

  • How useful was this session? (1 star being not useful to 5 stars being very useful)
  • Was there anything about the session that surprised you?
  • Did you learn anything that you want to apply to your work?
  • Is there anything else you wish we had covered?
  • Is there anything else we could have done to improve this session?
  • If we offered this session again, how likely would you recommend it to colleagues? (1 star being not likely to 5 stars being very likely)
    • Why did you give that star rating?

See FabRiders’ Workshop Feedback Form