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Virtual facilitation #9: Why turn-taking is so important online

Turn-taking was and is a prominent part of a meeting, whether off-line or online.

When we used to meet face to face in the same rooms with each other, we all knew whose turn it was. It was always the turn of the next most confident or senior speaker – unless the meeting was facilitated to allow others to step in as part of the process.

Establishing a talking order is an even more prominent consideration in virtual spaces than when we are off-line.

There is always an order (of turn-taking), which is probably best made explicit. It may be the order for a single round of contributions, or you could be setting up a sequence to remain the same in subsequent rounds.

It’s easier for a facilitator in a real room to make and communicate quick decisions. In Zoom, it’s a bit more troublesome. You could, for example, create a fixed order by sharing your screen and asking people to speak – from left to right, top to bottom – in the order that everyone now sees in common.

Physical prompting and cueing can also help us bridge the delays (the latency) that make a significant difference in virtual communications. How about agreeing specific signals early in your meeting for ‘move on’, ‘I’m confused’ and ‘I’m enjoying this’, etc?

When everyone sees that order, and turn-taking is established, and knows how or when they are invited to contribute, then it’s much easier to attend to the content, which means a better discussion all round.  

For the facilitator, these aspects take a touch more care online, because the back-and-forths are slower. And, for the participants, their new confidence and knowledge about a fair and transparent process mean they’ll enjoy a more productive, enjoyable meeting.

See previous post…Include quick warmups – Virtual Facilitation #8

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