At MURAL, we empower our collaborators to facilitate meetings that are fun, effective, and accessible. In this article, we’ll walk you through a high-level overview of some best practices for facilitators.
The goal of this article is to inspire and guide you as you create meaningful and accessible murals and sessions for your participants.
Note: The following tips are meant to give facilitators a quick start on increasing the accessibility of their sessions. Do you have best practice tips you'd like to share for facilitating accessible and inclusive meetings? MURAL’s Design System & Accessibility (DS+A) team would love to hear from you. Please contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Before a session
Hey, we’ve all been there. There’s a meeting right around the corner and we know we can throw together B+ material last-minute. But, what about folks whose experience navigating MURAL (and life!) is different from yours? What if what's clear to you isn’t clear to them?
This is why it’s imperative to make the time to prepare for your session. Notice we said “make the time” and not “take the time.” We know you’re busy; so are your participants! The main focuses are clarity and preparation.
Be clear with your message
At MURAL, we’re all about having fun and being silly. That being said, one of the responsibilities of a facilitator is to focus more on clarity than cuteness. What does this mean? Let’s look at a few examples of how to build a mural with a clear message:
We all like to sound smart. But, trust us here: it’s better to use simple language. Aim for 8th-grade level language. This increases the chances of a wider audience being able to understand and retain your message.
Use titles and headers with clear, accurate descriptions. Organizing your content semantically and intentionally (using clear titles) will improve the experience of navigating content.
Use an accessible sans-serif font (such as Proxima Nova, which is MURAL's default font) for ease of readability.
While we encourage you to spice up your murals with images, also be mindful of avoiding input overload when participants view your mural. GIFs can be challenging and overwhelming and participants can’t pause them! So consider avoiding those in your mural. Also, make sure to add captions and descriptions to images.
Preparation is key
Accessibility takes effort. And, it’s worth it. Here are some examples of how to plan ahead and set you (and your participants) up for success:
Limit the toolbar in your mural so it only shows the tools needed for your session.
Create a clear outline. Use the outline function of your mural to make it easier for collaborators to follow along with your journey.
For links in your mural, use descriptive language to explain what a link does. For example, “click this link to take the survey” instead of “click here.”
Select colors that have a proper color contrast ratio with their related text. You can even verify your color selection using a color contrast checker.
Send the mural link out ahead of time to the collaborators. Also, send an agenda. This helps people prepare themselves for the meeting and know what to expect.
In the email you send out before your sessions, consider adding a sentence like, “If you need additional support during this session, please reach out to me so we can do our best to provide it.”
During a session
So, you’ve prepped your mural, personalized it for accessibility, and sent an email out to your attendees. Great work. It’s time for the fun part: facilitating a session! Take a deep breath; you’ve got this. The main focuses here are on consistent guidance and simplicity.
Act like a tour guide
Your attendees may not be as familiar with MURAL as you are. So, take the time to introduce them to important features and site navigation. For instance, how to zoom in, in case the font and images are too small. Also, the Help link in the top-right corner of the screen shows keyboard shortcuts. These can make navigation easier for some.
Oftentimes, saying this information once isn’t enough. Remember: you’re the only one inside your mind! To prevent cognitive overload and increase the chances that folks are following along, give these tips a try:
As you move through your session, check in regularly. See if anyone has questions, remind people where you are in the outline, or point out again how they can follow you.
When doing a timed event, add more time than you think necessary. Also, ask collaborators if they want or need more time before a session ends.
For larger sessions, we recommend that you have a co-host for your meeting. They can help support your facilitation while also helping collaborators.
Keep it simple, silly
Most likely, you’re a bit of a subject matter expert on your meeting topic. A lot of what you’re sharing may seem common knowledge to you. Or, perhaps you have a personality that works with abstractions and large concepts rather than clear, concise examples. In either of these situations, you can find yourself halfway through a meeting, thinking you’re doing a great job. Meanwhile, your collaborators are a mix of deer-in-headlights or simply have stopped paying attention.
Here are some ways to keep collaborators engaged with your content while you facilitate:
When verbally explaining something, stick to a short and clear description.
Rather than floating around on a cloud of abstraction, use concrete examples. Don’t assume everyone knows the same references you do!
If there are terms that have different meanings, make sure to define the terms as they relate to your meeting. Also, spell out acronyms and abbreviations.
Admittedly, it can be fun to watch everyone’s cursors dance around the screen. But, especially in larger meetings, you can hide the cursors and even disable reactions so there’s less distraction.
If you have definitive response choices for a survey or form, it’s helpful to add an option for "N/A" or "don’t know".
After a session
You did it! Pat yourself on the back and put on some cozy socks. It’s time to celebrate your wins and learn how you can do even better in your next session. While there’s no way to run a 100% perfect meeting, we urge you to be mindful that other people’s experiences are different from yours. Facilitating a session is less about you and more about the participants. So, what’s next?
Be open to feedback
What’s obvious to one person may not be obvious to others. By removing distractions and invisible barriers, you can improve the experience for your collaborators. By creating an inclusive environment, they may even be more likely to share honest feedback with you!
We can only get better by learning what’s working and what isn’t working. Consider following up with your collaborators. You can have a feedback section of your mural where they add their notes. Or, you can reach out via email to open a line of communication that way.
On that note, know that MURAL is just scratching the surface of accessibility with our product. We’re excited to add more accessibility features to help facilitators and collaborators have successful meetings!