If you have your group agreement, make sure it`s displayed for everyone – ideally, have it written on a whiteboard, paperboard or overhead projector. As with the various peer support groups, the moderator is always an equal member of the group with the additional task of opening up the group, directing the group towards technology, seeking equal opportunities for sharing during the group and closing the group. And don`t forget that newcomers or infirmities didn`t agree, so take the time to explain and ask for their consent to the agreement (you can always do it in one break). If you want to change it, you have a discussion with the whole group until everyone agrees. There is a lot of information about online technology and online “business meetings,” but not much about facilitating online support groups. Then a group of us came together and said, “Let`s write this together, as friends of our age, based on our lived experience, to facilitate these groups.” We met every week, we had conversations about what we learn, and we added this list of “advice” through a collaborative and reciprocal learning process. Take advantage of hope, humour, inspiration, positive affirmations, a sense of communion and carefronting (as opposed to confrontation) to address differences and pass on questions to the group, to promote collaborative learning that comes from the wisdom of the group members rather than trying to be the “expert”. This gives everyone the opportunity to contribute and learn together. Before the end of the group, ask yourself if people came up with something they were hoping for.
If there is an urgent need, save other topics for the future. When exploring the use of language with the group, ask people not to take it personally. It is an opportunity to learn from each other and gain a richer understanding of different points of view. For example, the lead facilitator can open the group on time, welcome everyone, provide direction to the format and support agreement, and encourage participation in group discussions. The second moderator can direct the technology and keep an eye on video and telephone lines in case of background noise that can be manually mutated if the co-host has host/co-host privileges. This can be very important, as echoes sometimes occur when people join multiple devices (phone and computer at the same time). The second moderator can also manage the process of creating breakage spaces when the size of the group becomes too large and the group decides to divide into small groups. The objective of the group should be clear to all participants, including timelines and expectations for participation. As with groups of people, online groups can be chaotic if you don`t have an agenda or plan. At least make sure you know how to open the group, align users with the technology, allow release during the group and close the meeting.