Preparing for online mediation in 5 easy steps.
With the COVID pandemic showing no signs of abating any time soon, it looks like we'll be continuing with virtual mediation for the foreseeable future. And this doesn't have to be a bad thing: after conducting most of my work over the last few months via Zoom, I've actually become quite the convert — it has plenty of advantages for both the mediator and the client.
That said, I know that virtual meetings aren't for everyone and you might be feeling a little apprehensive about your own online mediation session, especially if you're not a big fan of new technology.
Of course, if you are currently seeking help with conflict resolution, you already have enough on your plate without the worry of starting (or continuing) your mediation journey via a brand new medium. So I've put together a few handy preparation tips that'll allow you to enter your Zoom mediation room with confidence.
Create your account.
You can sign up for a Zoom account here https://zoom.us/. When you access the site you'll see that there are free options and paid options. The paid option is essential if you want to hold meetings of more than 2 parties for more than 40 minutes — but it's the mediator's job to worry about that! As a client, you just need to sign up for the free account.
Practice logging on.
It's a good idea to sign up for your Zoom account and practice logging on a day or so before your mediation appointment. It's generally an easy program to use but taking time to familiarize yourself with the login process and troubleshoot any issues without an imminent deadline hanging over you can really take the pressure off.
Boost your WIFI.
There's nothing worse than sitting down to an online meeting and seeing the "unstable connection" notice pop up. To help boost your connection, try to avoid the things that typically drain the bandwidth, like having your phone connected to the internet (unless that's the device you're using for the meeting) or having the kids streaming a movie in another room.
As with in-person meetings, I take confidentiality incredibly seriously during virtual mediation. And, of course, it's always a good idea to take additional steps to stay secure online. Luckily Zoom is equipped to handle sensitive meetings and allows you to operate a closed session, which is only available to those who have been invited.
To join your meeting, you'll need to enter the ID number and password provided by your mediator and you'll be added to the virtual waiting room until the mediator is ready to start the session.
Break out rooms.
During in-person mediation, your mediator will usually make good use of break-out rooms where you can go if you need to take a time-out or consult with your attorney in private. Thankfully, Zoom offers a virtual version of this. You'll likely begin your session in a breakout room, where you'll be able to talk to your counsel and get yourself settled before being admitted to the main meeting room. The breakout rooms are available throughout the session so if your mediator needs to talk to the parties separately, or you need some time alone to gather your thoughts or discuss options with your attorney, you can do so in confidence.
And, if you need help from your mediator at any point while you're in the breakout room, you can use the "ask for help" button on the toolbar which will alert let her know that you'd like to talk to her.
Getting to grips with unfamiliar technology can be daunting, but I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by your Zoom mediation session — not only is the program fairly intuitive to use, it also boasts so many features that allow us to (more or less) replicate the key features that make in-person mediation such an effective method of conflict resolution.
If you'd like to find out more about online mediation or to check my availability, get in touch. I'd be happy to help.