Most career coaches agree that we should always be prepared for job interviews.
Sometimes, a promising opportunity presents itself as a new LinkedIn connection or a referral. You may not have time to prepare for an interview or find yourself chatting with an important decision-maker at a social occasion or having a proverbial “elevator conversation”.
It is always a good time to practice more BA interview questions.
This time, let’s tackle managing remote workshops and virtual meetings.
Business analysts must be skilled facilitators. They lead discovery sessions, requirements meetings, problem-solving and modelling workshops.
It’s often challenging and requires a lot of emotional energy, and significant effort to prepare. It’s even more challenging in a remote environment. This is why you should definitely expect a question about facilitating virtual meetings at your job interview.
It may go like this:
How would you facilitate a virtual requirements workshop?
What do you usually do to prepare for a remote workshop?
What facilitation tools can you use?
What are your strategies for keeping stakeholders engaged in a long requirements session?
To answer this question, your best preparation is the actual experience of remote facilitation.
It does not have to be a requirements session. Even if your current title is different, just about any virtual meeting will benefit from the same techniques we would apply to business analysis workshops:
1. Have a clear objective and agenda.
It is easier to get sidetracked and lose control of the meeting in a virtual environment.
In a face-to-face meeting, people may be more vocal when the conversation goes off track.
When virtual participants are not clear about where the meeting is going, or the topic does not hold their interest, they may just shut off their video, tune out, and turn to the games on their phones.
The facilitator must share the objective of the meeting and its agenda, and then manage the meeting accordingly.
2. Prepare materials in advance
When you are prepared, it helps you hold everyone’s attention and use the virtual discussion time productively.
Don’t make everyone wait while you search for the right version of a file or look for the right place in a spreadsheet. If you need others to be prepared, ask them in advance.
3. Consider the invitations carefully.
In virtual meetings, managing large groups is more challenging. If you plan to analyze a difficult problem, minimize the number of participants to only those that will play an active part.
Taking turns speaking can be tricky – how about a virtual debate?
Virtual meetings make it easier for you to limit the number of participants since you can create video recordings easily.
This means that anybody who doesn’t have to contribute but needs to stay informed can simply watch the recording, or part of it, later. However, this does not excuse you from capturing notes.
4. Plan meeting activities.
Have a clear idea of what you want to do in the meeting e.g.:
- Present new material.
- Review feedback on the material distributed in advance.
- Present a new problem and start brainstorming solutions.
- Create an artifact e.g. a diagram, process flow, or storyboard.
- Provide a status update (if that’s all you want, think carefully whether a meeting is needed?)
5. Facilitate the meeting
The most important job is running the meeting efficiently. That’s what you need to highlight when you answer this interview question.
What does it mean to run a virtual meeting?
- Manage those who are speaking or presenting: define speaking order and make sure those that want to contribute are heard.
- Manage resolving questions: will a question be dealt with right away, should it be parked, will you assign it to someone to take away?
- Make it easy for everyone to see what’s happening in the meeting and keep up with it by sharing the notes or visuals on the screen.
- Facilitate making decisions.
How do you do that? You use both the tools and your skills.
The tools are your video-conferencing applications and the collaboration software: becoming proficient will help you keep the meetings smooth. Learn how to share screens effectively, and use chat, polls and whiteboards to engage participation.
The skills are your ability to watch, listen, and react to the participants.
Is the discussion on track?
Are you getting responses?
Are the faces still engaged?
Has the meeting stalled on one sticky point?
Is one voice overpowering others?
Doe the meeting need redirection?
It may sound scary, but you have to learn how to do it. And to learn it, you have to experience and practice it.
If you are not yet a business analyst, practice taking turns leading your team meetings – doesn’t matter what your team does. Have best practice sharing huddles, or new skill learning workshops.
Try to facilitate a family reunion online – sometimes this can be as much of a challenge as a requirements workshop.
And then in your interview, talk about your best tricks, your facilitation successes, and what you learned by practicing. Focus on how you contribute to making the meeting more efficient and productive.
This is what your interviewers want to hear.
6. Don’t forget the meeting follow-up
Facilitator’s job continues after the meeting. You must share a meeting recap or notes, action items, and the agreement about the next meeting(s).
Each meeting must represent a beneficial result or at least a step forward – otherwise, who will want to attend your next one?
And finally, remember that the job interview is a test of your communication and facilitation skills.
Listen carefully to the questions you are asked, and adapt your answer to the question. Being a good listener is part of being a good communicator.
Demonstrate your facilitation skills in an interview to:
- Smooth out any awkward moments.
- Offer additional information if your interviewer is stuck.
- Ask clarification questions.
- Adapt your answer based on how you read the reaction of the interviewer.
- Use humour appropriately.
Are you still anxious?
Schedule a virtual meeting with a few people – friends or co-workers. Go through the steps, and try to run it efficiently. Then, write down what went well and what didn’t, ask others for feedback, and keep practicing.