Toby’s Virtual Facilitation Toolkit

Facilitating Virtual Training and Workshops?

Here is a collection of exercises, techniques and approaches in my toolkit.

Hope it helps you!

Facilitator Techniques:

Agile Games:

Take a seat in the virtual classroom

A simple technique to create a sense of physical space in the virtual space. Add a selection of chairs to your virtual board and ask participants to place a post-it note with their name on the chair as they arrive. A great icebreaker at the start of the session to create personal connection.


Thank You Steve Hoyler for the inspiration

Organising Virtual Teams

When facilitating multi-day, multi team sessions on a board like Miro, create “team zones” with all the exercises relating to that team.

I’ve found it makes it easier for teams to find their exercises and creates an identity for the team. Colour coding makes it clearer and can also be used for team name “Red Team”

You can also use the Frames selector to quick move between the team areas.


Virtual Ball Toss using Wheel Decide

Ball Toss is a great way in person to get insights from people in the room. To recreate this experience i’ve used Wheel Decide. Add all the participants names to the wheel. In a debrief discussion, spin the wheel and ask the person it lands on to share their insights.


Scrum Roles and Responsibilities Game

Easily facilitated in Miro!


Large Scale Scrum (LeSS) Principles Card Sort

A simple card sort exercise i’ve used to help participants get familiar with the principles of LeSS. Participants match the title of the principle with description. Miro is great for any kind of card-sort exercise


Systems Modelling (Causal Loop Diagrams)

I’ve used Miro extensively for systems modelling and can be used easily in a training setting too. You may want to ask folks to get familiar with connection lines prior to the exercise: 



This can be a great way to see how people relate to different topics. In this example with Miro, you place a topic in the middle, e.g conflict, and ask people to position their post-it note in relation to it. Closer to middle = comfortable with handling conflict, Closer to edge = uncomfortable with conflict


More on constellations


Scrum Myth or Fact

Myth or Fact is a great connection activity when exploring any topic. I use it regularly in agile training sessions to tap into the wisdom of the crowd. Can be scaled up to many people.

Kahoot is my favourite form any quiz activities such as Myth or Fact.

You can find an example to my quiz here


Workshop Preparation Canvas

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” 
― Abraham Lincoln

I have run many workshops and by far the most important part to a successful workshop is the preparation. From my experience a one day workshop requires at least three days preparation and maybe more if it is a workshop i’m running for the first time.

How do I spend that time?

To help prepare for workshops I created the Workshop Preparation Canvas.


The Workshop Preparation Canvas contains the 6 P’s you should consider during your preparation:

  1. Purpose – Why is this workshop happening?
  2. Practicalities – What will be required?
  3. Participants – Who needs to be there?
  4. Products – What are the inputs and outputs?
  5. Process – What is the agenda?
  6. Principles – How do we want to work?

This canvas was inspired by the 5 P’s of Michael Wilkinson and the awesome facilitators that have inspired me over the years, especially Ellen Gottesdiener and Jean Tabaka.

I hope this canvas helps with your next workshop!





Scavenger Hunt – Training from the back of the room

Can you remember the childhood adventure of a scavenger hunt?

I remember a field trip we took in school. We were tasked to find different types of wildlife in our local park. It was a fun way to learn.

You might be surprised that scavenger hunts can be a great way for adults to learn too.

Last week I facilitated a scavenger hunt during an “Introduction to agile” workshop. Each group was tasked to find a set of agile items around the office and then prepare a presentation to the other groups on their observations. The scavenger hunt items were:

  • Kanban Board
  • Definition of Ready/Done
  • Agile Manifesto
  • Story Map
  • Impact Map
  • Team Agreement
  • Kudos Card

Many of our teams visualise their work so these items were already scattered around the office. To give the teams a little extra help I put colourful signs near each of the items and arranged for colleagues nearby to be on hand to answer questions. The groups were given an observation sheet to help capture their notes and to help prepare their presentations back to the workshop audience.

huntAs soon as I finished explaining the Scavenger Hunt everyone literally ran out of the room to find their items. When they returned to present their findings it was amazing to see how much they had learned in a short period of time.

Scavenger hunts are a great demonstration of “Training from the back of the room” which is an approach to accelerated learning. A scavenger hunt is a fun way to let the learners teach each other by sharing their observations. It also helps bring energy to workshops and get the learners moving. There are plenty of other techniques in Sharon’s book to help you step aside and let others learn.

Learning Maps are another Training from the back of the room technique i have used in the past too.

So what are you waiting for? Get the scavenger hunt planned!

How to supercharge a workshop with Learning Maps

I’m sure we have all been to many workshops and the first thing a facilitator presents is the agenda for the day. If you are lucky this might be on a flip chart or even worse its powerpoint slide 1 of 100. Your initial thoughts, this is going to be a long day.

Introducing Learning Maps

Learning Maps are an interactive and metaphorical way to present your agenda. People learn best through experience so a learning map creates an instant connection to the workshop topics.

Here is a Learning Map I used at a Coaching workshop:

file-1 (1)

This Learning Map consists of the following elements:

  1. A metaphor, in this case an island, which allows learners to connect to the topic in a simple way. The agenda is represented by the different places on the island (Coaching Caves, Lagoon…..)
  2. A mixture of words and images which engage different parts of the learners brain.
  3. Blank space for the learner to record their thoughts before and after the workshop which is good for reflective practice. Also enough blank space for the learner to make the map their own.

My inspiration for Learning Maps comes from Sharon Bowman, author of Training from the Back of the Room. In the book she explains that through Learning Maps learners will:

  • Create visual images of important concepts
  • Engage in a variety of ways to learn: visual/spatial, linguistic, logical/mathematical, and kinaesthetic.
  • Use both hemispheres of their neocortex or thinking brain
  • Lengthen long-term retention of important information
  • Remain involved and engaged throughout the entire direct instruction
  • Leave the training with a visually interesting reminder of what they learned.

So next time you are facilitating a workshop why not try out using a Learning Map. They are a really simple but super powerful tool to help boost your learners experience!


Facilitation using Ritual Dissent

I recently read Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed. In the book one of the topics Matthew explores is brainstorming. He talks about how an idea should be exposed to lively debate and challenge in order to refine the idea. Here is an extract from the book:

Perhaps the most graphic way to glimpse the responsive nature of creativity is to consider an experiment by Charlan Nemeth, a psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, and her colleagues. She took 265 female undergraduates and randomly divided them into five-person teams. Each team was given the same task: to come up with ideas about how to reduce traffic congestion in the San Francisco Bay Area. These five-person teams were then assigned to one of three ways of working.

The first group were given the instruction to brainstorm. This is one of the most influential creativity techniques in history, and it is based on the mystical conception of how creativity happens: through contemplation and the free flow of ideas. In brainstorming the entire approach is to remove obstacles. It is to minimize challenges. People are warned not to criticize each other, or point out the difficulties in each other’s suggestions. Blockages are bad. Negative feedback is a sin.

The second group were given no guidelines at all: they were allowed to come up with ideas in any way they thought best.

But the third group were actively encouraged to point out the flaws in each other’s ideas. Their instructions read: “Most research and advice suggests that the best way to come up with good solutions is to come up with many solutions. Free-wheeling is welcome; don’t be afraid to say anything that comes to mind. However, in addition, most studies suggest that you should debate and even criticize each other’s ideas[my italics].”

The results were remarkable. The groups with the dissent and criticize guidelines generated 25 percent more ideas than those who were brainstorming (or who had no instructions). Just as striking, when individuals were later asked to come up with more solutions for the traffic problem, those with the dissent guidelines generated twice as many new ideas as the brainstormers.

Today i facilitated a brainstorming session where we applied this principle using an approach called Ritual Dissent. Here is how it worked:

Context: We had 3 Groups. Each group had an idea which they felt would solve a particular problem we are facing.

  1. Each group nominates a Spokesperson
  2. Spokesperson rotates to one of the other groups which now becomes the reviewers
  3. Spokesperson presents the idea to the reviewers (~3 Minutes) (Silence from the reviewers)
  4. Spokesperson turns around and faces away (Silence from Spokesperson)
  5. Reviewers attack (dissent) or improve (assent) the ideas (~3 Minutes) (Whilst this happens the Spokesperson records the feedback)
  6. Spokesperson returns to their original group
  7. Group decide what to do with feedback (~6 Minutes)
  8. Repeat 1 – 8 until ideas suitably refined or ditched

Some feedback points from the session were:

  • “It was good to present my idea without getting interrupted.”
  • “When we were reviewing the idea it helped that the person turned around, it made it feel less personal.”
  • “We got lots of feedback on our idea.”
  • “Our ideas are in a much better position.”

You can read more about Ritual Dissent here