Facilitation

[Part 1 of 3] Level up your home office set up for online meetings and facilitation

Since returning to Ireland in 2018, and forming This is Doing with all the wonderful trainers we have been facilitating fully online. There are many articles out there that outline that you can do this with just a computer and a webcam, and they are not wrong. You definitely can facilitate sessions online with just a computer and a webcam, but this article sets out to outline how to level up your game. How to bring that professional quality into your own home set up and the thinking behind each item.

I’ve been facilitating Design and Innovation workshops for over a decade, but in that time it has mainly been in person workshops. 

Since returning to Ireland in 2018, and forming This is Doing with all the wonderful trainers we have been facilitating fully online. There are many articles out there that outline that you can do this with just a computer and a webcam, and they are not wrong. You definitely can facilitate sessions online with just a computer and a webcam, but this article sets out to outline how to level up your game. How to bring that professional quality into your own home set up and the thinking behind each item.

In this three-part series, I will outline all the key gear that I use on a day to day basis.

Selection criteria

As a professional podcaster and former semi-professional, I have a pretty decent set up at home for audio recording that has happened organically over a long period of time. It’s important to mention this, as when people see and hear of what other people use, it can seem really overwhelming and out of reach. 

The majority of my equipment is multi-purpose, so it’s not just for online recording or facilitating. I use it for dabbling in music recording or video editing. In my experience, good gear is versatile and works with how you work.

All of my gear has been selected based on a few criteria, but the most criteria for me are ‘adaptability’ and ‘versatility’. Being able to use the gear interchangeably is so important for me.

Room layout

I have a small converted attic that I have used for the last 2 years and in that time I have had my desk in about 5 different places in this space. Why have I changed it so frequently? Well, initially it was for best use of the space, but over time my requirements shifted. I was speaking with Renatus Hoogenraad on the Doing Design Podcast recently about this, and we believe that office space requirements and moving closer to stage or production and this has been heightened in recent pandemic times.

My space has intentionally shifted to becoming more of a studio space that allows me to get that shallow depth of field with my camera (and look more professional and interesting for participants), and give me more room to stand and interact with people. For example, get closer to the camera when needed etc.

Natural light

One of the other key reasons for moving my space around was getting to understand how the light changes in my space that I didn’t really have to consider too much before. It’s really important to have access to light, and not feel like I am in a bunker or a basement for the entire day. 

Working online is isolating enough as it is, but I nearly always start my day off with the blinds up so I can see the sun (or cloud obscure the sun if you’re in Ireland). As I write this today, it’s a stunningly beautiful winters day with blue skies and snow on the rooftops, it’s not always cloudy in Dublin! 

When working fully online, I quickly realised I needed a way to ‘control’ this light, so invested in a semi-decent roller blind that I can roll down when needed. Typically this blind will be in use when I am recording or streaming as doing so allows me to control the amount of natural light that is entering the room. If I don’t do this, the natural light most likely will change during a session and could obscure my face and become over or underexposed - making a bad experience for people in the class. So if you are in a similar position, make sure you have this in place, as it makes choosing and controlling lighting much easier.

Desk

I have an “L” shaped desk at the moment, that works quite well. But if I was advising anyone else to buy a desk, I would always encourage them to get as big a motorised standing desk as you can afford. There have been many times that I wish I had the ability to stand so as to better extend my vocal range. It’s much harder to have that control of your diaphragm when seated, plus there are many benefits to standing and alternating your position throughout the day.

High quality chair

I spend the majority of my time, sitting down whilst working and presenting. I want to make sure that the chair I have can adapt and support me, and the best chair and investment that I have made has been purchasing the Herman Miller Aeron. The arms on the chair provide support to me whilst typing and are fully height adjustable. Easily one of the best purchases that I have made over the last decade. If you are in the UK and Ireland area, here is a good website where you can pick up some real bargains.

Speaking space

I’m not sure if this is an Irish thing, but typically, I speak quite softly and don’t overtly project my voice too much. But in saying that, it’s important to have a space that allows you to speak without too much natural reverb. Typically, spaces such as wooden floors or lots of glass would provide a really difficult space to work in, and also provide a bad listening experience for attendees.

So as a result, I have soundproofing on areas of the walls to help ‘dampen’ my space. I purchased blocked soundproofing foam and tested the space myself using trial and error, but you can easily do this by hanging curtains, blankets or cushions to your space to help dampen the natural reverb.

In the next article, I will cover off the technical hardware that I use. This will cover the mics, cameras, speakers, peripherals, lighting etc. All the fun stuff!

Gerry Scullion
Author

Gerry Scullion

Gerry Scullion is CEO of This is Doing and also Founder of This is HCD, a global podcast and global design community. This is HCD includes a large international design focussed newsletter, 10+ podcasts on topics to enable change, an international Slack community, 12+ global community chapters around the world, Design Conference and Online Events.

He has over 19-years professional design experience across a range of industries such as finance, healthcare, media, public services, social media and various startups. He contributed to the book ‘This is Service Design Doing’ (O’Reilly 2018) focusing on chapters about effective prototyping, and embedding Service Design teams within organisations alongside 200 service designers from around the globe.

His purpose is to help enable access to strategic design to a global audience.

Speak to Gerry about Service Design, Embedding Design into organisations and Human-Centered Design.