Virisila Buadromo is a Co-Lead in Strategic Partnerships and Resource Mobilisation at Urgent Action Fund for Women's Human Rights Asia and Pacific.
Virisila recently attended SPRING’s 3-Day Virtual High Impact Facilitation Intensive. She spoke with us about how the course made her appreciate how people have to invest in intensive planning for virtual engagement.
SEVEN ‘AHA’ Moments From HIFI-Virtual
1) A really good virtual meeting is not about the online tools. It’s about how the group steps into the space and connects with each other.
I came into HIFI-V thinking all I would get out of it were new tools and new hacks I could use.
This facilitation training is different because it is so much more than that. To become a fully effective facilitator, you also have to learn you are going to become a changed person. It’s your role to show up and create a brave space where people are open.
2) You can still get meaning from ‘body’ language in virtual meetings.
You just need to look harder for it. Face-to-face communication has always been my default and my method of recognizing engagement. Body language and social cues can be seen and interpreted: you have to concentrate more to notice them in virtual spaces.
3) Over plan and over-prepare
Plan, plan, plan. Over plan, over-prepare and know that you’re not going to use everything you prepared for. Make sure there is an equal balance to make sure that everyone’s needs are met. It’s so important to frame everything in the beginning: show a road map and show progress markers.
The training made me appreciate the amount of time it takes for me to prepare for any kind of engagement that I have virtually. And after all that planning, it’s still possible to come to a fork in the road and we will have to collectively decide what we need to change, and what direction to go next.
4) Prepare your body too
I recognize the importance of why you have to prepare, why you have to prepare your body, your mind and you have to come into that space almost like a full glass. I wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t attended the training. I would have just tried to transition everything to a virtual space without making any changes to how I approach meetings and probably burned out by the end of the year. It was through this training that I realized not to take this for granted, on your soul, on yourself physically, as well as methodology and your work.
5) People show up differently in virtual space. I need to think about how they see me.
I learned how I show up and how that helps or hinders the meeting process. The quadrant tool presented in the HIFI training was really useful as a means to understand and facilitate multiple viewpoints.
I have always seen myself as action-oriented. But I realized that what I do first is evaluate many situations from purpose and meaning: how I interpret what they mean to me. Sometimes I have a lot of difficulty explaining what I’m working towards and why I take risks. I have a gut feeling but I have great difficulty explaining it. I don’t necessarily connect to people just for relationships. In a way, having to understand that has been uncomfortable to learn about myself. I realized to help people understand what I am thinking, I need to use the structures quadrant and write things down. Writing will give me more structure connected to what I see. I’m beginning to use that quadrant a lot more.
6) Virtual time is precious for everyone.
When you have a virtual engagement, there needs to be an action that comes out of it. There needs to be a follow-up, you can’t just have a conversation for the sake of having a conversation. Always state the purpose of the engagement.
This has also made me rethink how we do our work and how I communicate. How many meetings are really necessary? I realized it’s worth thinking about how much time we should really spend online. And how much work you can actually do by email or by chat? Or just picking up the phone and calling someone?
7) Virtual space needs to be created together.
Since the training, I tried to facilitate some virtual meetings. It was a disaster because I was tired and took on too much. The meeting turned into working off a laundry list agenda, and I wasn’t engaged in the conversation. My energy levels kept dropping and dropping, and so did the team’s. I realized I’d set an agenda that took the energy out of the space and made it hard for anyone to fill.
I learned we need to work together to find ways to make our virtual engagement still fun and regenerative rather than spirit depleting, and that can’t happen with just one person holding that space. We all have to contribute if that’s what we want. Because this virtual way of working is indefinite, we don’t know how long this will go for. So we need to start co-creating the kind of spaces and co-energizing each other in different ways. So I said all that and I think that it just felt so good, to be able to say that, and not feel guilty, as everyone was putting in new ideas.
We are all very conscious of each other. We all have access to each other’s calendars, so sometimes we suggest fewer meetings. That spirit of generosity and empathy is important: we aren’t just talking about it, but we’re making an effort to practice it. I wouldn’t have gotten there if I hadn’t done the training.
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