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Online Co-Creation: moderators on steroids

When the Covid pandemic hit in 2020, we were all forced to retreat behind our laptops. Only on account of widespread high-speed internet and the availability of online meeting tools were we able to continue to work.  What did this do for co-creation? Did all brainstorming sessions grind to a halt? Did we cease exploring new avenues and creating new ideas? No. We continued doing what we as human beings enjoy best: interacting with each other and being part of a group doing meaningful work.

What is different in online co-creation?

We have by now, all experienced that meeting online is not the same as meeting live. Not even close. It is believed that the bandwidth of an in-person meeting is a hundred times that of an online meeting. Meaning: there is a hundred times more information channeled through body language, facial expressions, and other signals during a face-to-face conversation than there is when meeting through Zoom. If we step back and look at the entire process of co-creation remains the same and is all about creativity and hi-energy, hard work with a deadline. Moderating a live session requires a clear mind, a rested body, and an open and relaxed attitude.

We could almost say that ‘Trust the Process’ is even more valid during online sessions. Offline you have a lot of room (literally) to maneuver and improvise. Live, it doesn’t take much to keep everyone on track, and you can use your energy to playfully engage everyone. Online is radically different, as you must constantly check that everybody is still on the same track and that they haven’t taken a diversion to god knows where. In addition to being a conductor, you are a wildlife guide; always on the lookout for danger and continuously doing a headcount. For exactly this reason we advise you have at least three and better still, four moderators for an online session. The fourth moderator is especially needed if you have four subgroups.

Online versus offline: the key differences

  • From paper sticky notes to virtual ones: the right online tools will make your workshop

  • From ‘two highs and a pivot’ to steady energy levels: the art of keeping momentum online

  • From making new friends to online brainstorming: the lack of real human interaction

  • From teamwork and body language to backchannels: the constant communication via chat

Online co-creation is a completely different ballgame. The flow is the same, but the moderator’s focus is entirely different. The participants are left feeling great, but for the moderators, it is like you have just produced a live concert for Beyonce. Perhaps as a last remark: do not attempt two sessions in one day. We even advise against doing more than three a week of these online sessions. You need time to cool down – and enjoy the great outcomes that you and the team helped create.

Want a step-by-step guide on how to moderate an online co-creation session? Check out our book ‘Collaborate or Die’, available here.


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