The things we all need to do for a great online meeting

At Evolve we passionately believe that all of the engagement and facilitation principles that you apply in a face-to-face setting are applicable to any engagement and relationship building at a distance. With this in mind, in 2008 we partnered with the late Nigel Russell to form  NoMad Meetings to develop and teach these principles.

In 2015, with great sadness, we lost Nigel to brain cancer.

However he is still with us. And we can hear his call now in the current situation to step up, trust our process and just do it.

Online Meeting Tips

Having effective and powerful virtual events and engaging (e.g. by phone or online) with individuals and stakeholders who are at distance from you is both rewarding and challenging.  Rewarding because you can engage with people who would not usually have access to you because of the distance.  And challenging because most of us are more familiar meeting and interacting with people in the same place.

Often what is most critical is that the organisations we work for usually feel more confident running face-to-face events and, therefore, may automatically resist making the necessary organisational changes to allow potentially highly productive communications and engagements to take place at a distance.  .


NoMad 5-Step Model™ for Productive Virtual Events

Your ‘Starter’ Checklist

This starter checklist was developed by NoMad as we work with leaders in organisations to bring about changes to processes and skills to enable highly productive events, engagements and relationships to occur.  The checklist is deliberately a ‘work in progress’.  You will update the list to ensure that you add your own checklist questions that will make a difference to you and which will lead to your planning and running great at-a-distance meetings and events.

The technologies for meeting, collaborating and engaging at a distance may include: just phone; phone and web-based visuals; just web-based; instant messaging; email; online collaborative workspaces; shared drives, use of social media, simulations etc. This checklist focuses on planning and facilitating a live (synchronous) event, with asynchronous activities (such as emails) before and after the event.

The Why, Who, How, LIVE! and Action are the 5 Steps. The reason WHY you are having an event determines WHO needs to be there which determines HOW you are best to plan and run it. When an online event is LIVE someone needs to hold both the physical and psychological space and also take responsibility for engagement and ACTION during the event and beyond.

In our experience with organisations there are four common tripwires that can obstruct the process of engaging with people at a distance:

  • Most long-distance or online engagements break down because the WHY and the WHO are unclear, or they change or become unclear during the process of invitation and facilitation.
  • WHY – Why meet at all? What is the purpose of wanting to meet or engage? This question is often not asked and so it is assumed, sometimes incorrectly, that we all know and agree on the answer.
  • WHO – Who should be involved in this event or engagement? The person you are communicating with must be able to identify the WIIFM (what is in it for me). Virtual events often do not acknowledge or check the WIIFM for the participants.
  • HOW – How the event should be conducted will depend on the WHY and the WHO. Too often we see virtual events (e.g. a phone conference) try to deal with content that should have been dealt with in other ways (e.g. by email or face-to-face). And we see precious time taken in face-to-face events that could easily have been done by phone or email! Carefully check that the approach fits the content, and keep the costly live face-to-face event time only for those topics that must be or are better dealt with at a live event.

The Checklist that you develop here is applicable to planned events as well as emergency and ad hoc events too.  When any of the steps are not observed, the level of commitment, the effectiveness, the efficiency and the ability to achieve remarkable outcomes are diminished.


Why an event at all? Why now? Why this type of event? (The answer to this may mean that you do NOT need an event!)
What outcomes must be achieved for you to consider the event a success?
Why does achieving this topic need a meeting?
Add your own question:


WHO (given the WHY)
Who needs to be there?  Do you know that they know their WIIFM (What’s in it for me)?
Will those people who are needed to make the necessary decisions and provide the required information be present?
Have you considered who is accountable and responsible and who should be consulted and/or informed to achieve success?  Do they know that there will be actions and commitment to actions to achieve the purpose?
What are the roles of the different parties (e.g. facilitator, minute taker, special guests, and technology custodian)?
Add your own question:


HOW – When, Where, What (given the WHY and WHO).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     
What communications and activities before and after the event can be used to achieve success (e.g. surveys, plebiscites, pre-work, prioritisation, roles etc.)?
Does the topic need to be covered in a live event or can the outcomes be achieved asynchronously (e.g. email, sharing documents, instant messaging).
What type of event does it need to be to accomplish the purpose (e.g. decision making; information giving; reporting and presenting; brainstorming; evaluating etc.)?
When is the event scheduled? Check the time zones?  Check local events including public holidays?
What technologies do you and the participants need for an effective event and for communicating before and after (e.g. having a quick pre-event phone call; using a shared drive to develop the agenda, etc.)?
Add your own question:


LIVE! (Facilitation tips for the event)
As the facilitator, do feel prepared, present and centred?
Are technologies tested and prepared, including any Plan B or Plan C?
Can you, with the group, develop preferred ways of working together (or ground rules)?
Have you checked that there is clarity on roles (e.g. who is accountable for each topic, a timekeeper etc.)?
Have you incorporated ways to maintain enthusiasm and motivation during the session (energisers)?
Are you encouraging use of all senses (where appropriate) and personality and/or learning styles (auditory, kinaesthetic and visual learners)?
Are you reminding participants of the WHY and the WIIFM during the session (e.g. using signposts)?
Add your own question:
ACTION! (Pathways forward and the continued relationship)
Have you set up expectations for actions and commitment to actions?
How do you arrange follow up?
Will there be an audio recording of the session?
How do you account for on-going project responsibilities?
Add your own question:


Keep sailing Nigel Russel, you are still with us.


(c) Evolve Communities, 2020

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