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Four Perspectives on Facilitating Virtual Conversations

Four Perspectives on Facilitating Virtual Conversations

The Virtual Collaboration Campus is an intensive, immersive four-day workshop that will give participants the tools and knowledge to work in and lead digital teams.

It is, of course, held virtually, and is made up of individual sessions with 35 experienced facilitators.

In preparation for this exciting and timely event, Myriam took the time to speak with four of its contributors – Yannis Angelis, Tanja Murphy-Ilibasic, Tina Meckel-Wille, and Mary Alice Arthur.

Each guest has their own specialism, their own take on virtual collaboration, and their own valuable contribution to the conversation. What follows are some snippets from their conversations with Myriam, but the full episode of the podcast contains even more great ideas and nuggets of wisdom.


Conversational Intelligence and the need for visual connection, with Tanja Murphy-Ilibasic

Have you heard of Conversational Intelligence before? It is a fascinating approach to coaching and communication.

Tanja Murphy-Ilibasic is a corporate coach and communications specialist who specialises in Judith E. Glaser’s neuroscientific Conversational Intelligence® (C-IQ). Exactly the person to speak to about conversational intelligence, then!

“It’s based on neuroscience – understanding the impact that you’re having on other people, the impact they are having on you, and how to regulate this.”

Understanding these impacts is difficult for most of us in normal conversations, but for Tanja it is not hard to “imagine that this is even more tricky when we move conversations to the virtual world where we miss the clues from body language.”

“It astounds me, daily, how many organisations run conferences the entire day remotely with no video… It leaves me speechless.”

Myriam and Tanja shared in their astonishment. “Why on earth would I reduce my conversation to a voice with nothing else?”

All conversations – of which there are three main types – are impacted by a lack of physical communication. Those three types of conversation are:

  • One-directional: where one person is learning something
  • Confrontational: where neither party is open to compromise or to listen in a way that allows them to reprocess or reanalyse why they hold their opinion
  • Co-creation: where you collaborate and share your ideas freely and positively

The least we can do to help our interlocutors share in productive conversations is to show our faces!


The need to invest in the personal, with Tina Meckel-Wille

Tina Meckel-Wille is an international change facilitator who helps organisations uncover innovative solutions for a sustainable future.

With a focus on helping organisations and their people make connections via digital media, Tina is somewhat of a specialist when it comes to virtual collaboration – and she is waging her own personal war on the perceived limitations of digital media.

“People have a very narrow image in their mind about what virtual collaboration is – and I think sometimes our language plays a part in that. When people hear ‘webinar’, I think most people have the association of listening to people talk over slides.”

So, what does Tina believe to be key to effective virtual collaboration and how does she believe we can breathe new life into virtual collaboration?

“We can connect in a deep way – I’ve been on calls with people where I’ve felt tears coming… You can exchange with somebody who’s on the other side of the world and experience intimacy and humour.”

  • Bring each person’s physical space into the virtual – get them to draw or pick something up from their desk that represents their feelings

  • Be aware of cultural and linguistic differences – from giving participants time to present themselves appropriately (wearing headscarves or clearing their workspace) to thinking how idioms and aphorisms might be lost in translation

  • Make time to chat – the five-minute catch-ups in the corridor before a meeting are where people engage themselves with fellow participants and clear away the cobwebs, so to speak. Build some ‘off-topic’ time into your virtual workshops to replicate this


Going slow to go fast, with Mary Alice Arthur

There are few people who can espouse the importance of stories, connection, and hosting better than story activist and TEDx alumnus Mary Alice Arthur. Mary Alice has played a key role in organising the Virtual Collaboration Campus.

For Mary Alice, the importance of a check in and check out is amplified in a virtual meeting. We can take lessons from our in-person meetings to inform this – such as when someone arrives at a meeting physically but not mentally. “It’s like their body arrives but their whole brain takes about 10 minutes more to finally show up.”

“If we just launch into the task, then we haven’t actually aligned ourselves to purpose and why we’re here. We haven’t brought our whole energy, presence, and focus to something.”

This is why we need to pause and check in at the start of our meetings. It has a huge impact on building our “relational fields” – something essential as we are conducting so much of our working lives in virtual spaces now.

“It’s not that you have to pour your heart out for 20 minutes each, it might just be one word of how you’re feeling right now. It could be sharing what’s on top for you right now that you need to leave at the virtual door so that you can be fully present in what the group is doing.”

Just as important as the check in is the check out. You can hold a brilliant meeting, from which participants leave with a feeling of energy and inspiration, but what Mary Alice calls “the fraying effect” can soon begin – “like the edge of fabric that is starting to fall apart or unravel.”

Making what Mary Alice calls “a clean closure” allows you to leave the meeting in a way that you can move on to your next task with full focus. This can be done by asking questions such as:

  • How are you leaving this meeting?
  • What are you taking away with you?
  • What’s excited you the most from this conversation?
  • What have you learned?


Being a good story-listener, with Yannis Angelis

“Storytelling requires and engenders presence”, according to Yannis Angelis, a story practitioner and consultant.

A good storyteller captivates their listeners and embodies the story they are sharing. Whether you are telling the story or listening, “you get in a flow… you’re losing time and the feeling of space.”

The virtual and physical spaces become backgrounds and secondary when they are occupied with storytelling.

“What becomes visual is the story itself”, notes Yannis, “and how it is communicated between the storyteller and the story listener.”

This liminal space of storytelling cannot be created alone, the process is bidirectional. As Yannis stressed to Myriam, “the way a person listens to a story can drag a better story from the storyteller.

So, what does it take to be a better story-listener? Yannis will explain in detail during his workshop in the Virtual Collaboration Campus, but shared a few possibilities with Myriam, including:

  • Think how a child listens to stories from their grandmother – mouth half-open, wide-eyed, with full immersion and dive deeply into what you’re listening to
  • Speak in a quiet environment and avoid other distractions
  • Ensure your digital devices are working properly (good audio and video quality, for example)


Want to know more about virtual collaboration?

You will most certainly want to join the Virtual Collaboration Campus, then.

Not only will you be able to hear more from the four contributors interviewed here, but from 31 others – including Myriam herself!

The Campus is in session from 30 March 2020 – 2 April 2020, so sign up to take part as soon as you can.

And if you would like to hear more from Tanja, Tina, Mary Alice, and Yannis, you should check out the episode of the Workshops Work podcast from which these interviews have been transcribed.

You can listen to the show on your favourite podcast player, searching for “Workshops Work” or stream the episodes on


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