Discussion Forum - Mediator Maneuvers: Flexible Skills to Handle Challenging Moments in an Online Platform

Mediator Maneuvers: Flexible Skills to Handle Challenging Moments in an Online Platform

Program’s Description

Mediators must bring in a great communication skill set and have the ability to flex and move with the parties in face to face sessions. They become competent in their ability to ask questions, shift parties' thinking, observe body language and listen for tone. The myriad of mediator skills ultimately supports parties to move through resistance to resolution however defined by the disputing parties. Now, place the mediator in an online environment with an emphasis on using new technology tools to facilitate the same discussions. Watch the mock mediation video conducted by Arbitration Resolution Services (ARS) and engage with us by reflecting on these questions and sharing your thoughts, experiences and AHA! moments.

Moderators’ Bio

Pattie Porter is an adjunct faculty for the Southern Methodist University's Dispute Resolution program teaching conflict management coaching. She earned her facilitator certification through Soliya and the United Nations Habitat program to engage in differences with individuals from various countries through facilitating cross-cultural dialogues in a virtual environment. Pattie is also the Founder and Host of the Texas Conflict Coach online radio program educating the "everyday" person about conflict and conflict resolution. The radio program has engaged in Cyberweek for the last 5 years educating consumers how they can easily gain access to justice and resolve their disputes no matter where they are in the world.


George H. Friedman, an ADR consultant and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Arbitration Resolution Services, Inc., retired in 2013 as FINRA’s EVP and Director of Arbitration. In his extensive career, he previously held a variety of positions of responsibility at the American Arbitration Association, most recently as Senior Vice President. He is an Adjunct Professor of Law at Fordham Law School. Mr. Friedman serves on the Board of Editors of the Securities Arbitration Commentator.  He is also a member of the AAA’s national roster of arbitrators. He holds a B.A. from Queens College, a J.D. from Rutgers Law School, and is a Certified Regulatory and Compliance Professional. He is admitted to the New York and New Jersey Bars, several federal courts and the United States Supreme Court.

Mark Norych manages the operations of Arbitration Resolution Services, Inc., and oversees the experienced litigators, judges, and magistrates who make up the panel of arbitrators. He is also responsible for managing the company’s Arb-IT™ arbitration system.

For more than 30 years, Norych has been involved in the collection, litigation, and arbitration of claims on behalf of insurance, car rental, and other major industries. He has also coordinated and supervised litigation on a national and global level.

Norych is a frequent lecturer and sought-after professional speaker. He has provided seminars and workshops at several Fortune 500 companies on topics ranging from best practices for corporate operations to specific topics related to federal and state regulations and laws and their effect on company models and procedures.


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Hello Cyberweek Participants!

Welcome to this year's Cyberweek. We encourage you first to watch the mock mediation and engage with us in this online discussion forum. Here are a couple of questions to kick off the conversation.

1. After reviewing the mock mediation video, what might mediators need to be aware of that they might not have considered when facilitating in an online environment?

2. What mediator maneuvers did you observe and what different kind of skill set might a mediator need to bring to the virtual table?

3. How might the visual placement of parties in this online environment impact party perceptions?

We look forward to your responses and the engagement.

Pattie Porter


Hello Ms. Porter and participants,

1.) Ensuring that the caucusing has stopped when switching into full session to ensure confidentiality.

2.)Much of the skills sets were same expect explaining the technology

3) I was concerned about this because it gives a false visual appearance how parties are grouped together by the order they appear. It would be great if there was a software that gives a false conference room.

 I have a question to participants, is it recommend to have a moderator to assist in the technology to be used for the mediations? Why or why not?

Thank you - Angela Fox

Hello Angela,

Thank you for taking the time to watch the mock mediation and share your thoughts. In terms of caucusing, yes, an absolute must to ensure the extra time for transitioning so no breaches are made.

Interestingly, for this platform being used, a tech moderator, was involved the entire time. In terms of confidentiality and disclosure, the moderator must be bound by confidentiality and the parties need to know up front about this party's role. Not one that you would normally see in a mediation.

In terms of visual placement, when we recorded the mock mediation, each party has the capacity to move the visual screens. In this recording, the parties initial reactions were "I am not next to my attorney." This caused initial concern and impacted perception.

I found doing this mock mediation that there were definitely new skills needed or an adjustment of skills. For example,

1) New language such as "we are now going to merge together from caucus to main room"

2) Employing patience and managing anxiety for self and others when the technology was not working such as when Mark's video disappeared. Instead of waiting for everything to work, move on in a calm manner assuring everyone that all is good and they can continue to talk.

Angela, was not sure what you meant by a "false conference room." Please clarify.

And, finally, I did find having a moderator or a tech support person very helpful. They could focus on tech challenges and I could focus on the conversation.


Hello Patricia,

False conference room I was referring to more of a simulated room or an avatar approach. That way feel like you are in the room with someone and not in your own setting talking through a computer screen.


Hi! Angela,

I was looking into your initial thought about a "false conference room" approach. Someone was sharing with me the other day about how they use Second Life http://secondlife.com/ for teaching, training, and providing services. This not the first time I have heard about the use of Second Life.

Question for Cyberweek Participants:

What would be the advantages and disadvantages of using a platform like Second Life (I am sure there are others) where you can create your own "false" mediation room space and an avatar to engage in the conversation? I could also see the asynchronous text and engagement work well in this type of platform for Millenials.


As a mediator, my preference is to have a moderator serve as the "technical director" of the online mediation. I want to concentrate on being a mediator and not worry about the technical aspects of the online mediation,  Also, if there are technical questions, participants can engage the moderator to answer them (or resolve problems) 

Pattie Porter:

Your simulation gives Cyberweek participants a very good example of how online mediation works and looks like.

Those participants who are interested (or simply curious) to try online mediation by themselves can also do so for Free. Our Virtual Mediation Lab, a project sponsored by the Association for Conflict Resolution Hawaii Chapter, offers mediators from around the world the opportunity to participate in 5 free online mediation simulations of commercial, family or workplace disputes, playing the mediator’s role or the role of one of the parties.

That way, mediators can:

>> See first-hand how they can do online everything they are used to do face-to-to-face: e.g. joint and private meetings with the parties, breakout rooms for shuttle diplomacy in multi-party disputes, information (pictures, documents, worksheets, videos) sharing and annotation, writing up the parties’ Memorandum of Understanding or agenda for their next mediation session.

>> Realize that the success of online mediation depends mainly on the mediator’s skills and experience. True, learning how to mediate online takes just a few hours; but becoming a good mediator takes several months, if not years.

>> Discover that online mediation and face-to-face mediation are not mutually exclusive: they can also be blended depending, for example, on the parties’ specific case, their mediation stage and, more importantly, their preference.

Simulations like yours are also useful to make another important point: online mediation gives mediators the opportunity to offer their mediation services to more people - outside their city, state or country.

Thank you for posting your video.

Giuseppe Leone

Thank you Giuseppe for posting.

The flexibility aspect you mention not only gives mediators an opportunity to expand their practices anywhere in the world, but it gives access to consumers in an easy, fast and affordable way.

In terms of mediator maneuvers, flexibility and patience are key. For those mediators who are use to face-to-face mediations, there is definitely a transition to working in an online environment. Technology has its challenges and this can really cause a lot of anxiety for mediators not use to working in this way, and consumers who might be frustrated with being disconnected, video cam not working, or hearing the mediator but the parties not hearing them.

So, the question goes back to something Angela Fox asked earlier. What would be the advantages/disadvantages of using Tech Support during the mediation and/or a Moderator?


Can you give a website or how to connect to the virtual mediation lab? I have not online mediations and anxious about it.

Thank you


Angela, the address of our Virtual Mediation Lab is https://goo.gl/dnc0Y

Mediators who are interested to try online mediation by themselves by playing the mediator’s role or the role of one of the parties in 5 free online mediation simulations of commercial, family or workplace cases with other mediators - can fill out this online registration form - https://goo.gl/qq4v9

The main goal of our 1-hour simulations is to experience and understand the participants’ (mediator’s and parties’) behavior online. For example,

>> Mediator’s Experience/Behavior
How did being online affect the mediator’s decision? If the mediator had mediated the same case face-to-face (instead of online) would he or she have done anything differently? Was the mediator still able to establish a personal rapport with each party, despite the limited body language?

>> Parties’ Experience/Behavior
Were the parties able to fully express their thoughts and feelings online? How did it feel for them being in the safety and comfort of their home or office, instead of being in the mediator’s office, across the table from the other party?

Not surprisingly, during the 15/20-min debriefing session that follows our 1-hour simulations, it always turns out that the effectiveness of that online mediation had mainly to do with the mediator’s skills, experience, and decisions (e.g. to have joint or private meetings with parties). And it had very little or nothing to do with being “online” (the Zoom video conferencing software we use for our simulations works just fine).

Considered the goal of our simulations (experiencing/understanding the participants’ behavior), the mediator and the parties don’t need to “click” anything - their Coach takes care of that.

If those mediators/participants like what they saw and learned during our simulations, and want add online mediation to their practice (or start their own online mediation business), they can then attend our 2-hour “hands-on” training, which not only answers all questions that have been asked so far in this forum, but it also shows them step-by-step how they can do online everything they can do face-to-face.

I hope the above info helps.

This is great information. I am developing a ADR program for a federal agency that has seven regions. Using ODR is the only way I feel will address all the Agency's needs. I will be looking into this further. Thank you -Angela

I have undertaken a number of online mediations, some using asynchronous text exchange on a platform and others using web conferencing as in this  demo. 

As to the question here though, some tips for web conferencing I set out on my ODR  course are:-

 * The mediator should carefully prepare the layout of the room, position and range of camera  and background- preferable a plain one to avoid distraction  

* Have a pre-session a day or two beforehand to make sure everyone is comfortable with the technology

* Test out where to look - usually into the camera but depends on exactly where that is situated,In in-person mediation we look people in the eye but the camera may show you looking away which gives a bad impression especially if you seem to be reading something off screen

*If you do need to read something then state that is what you are doing and the document you are reading

* Check to ensure, and for others also, that there will be no interruptions and everyone in  the building knows you are not to be disturbed .If you are at home, make sure the dog does not come in to jump on your lap or start barking at the postman 

*Ask everyone to confirm there are no others in the room and indeed show round the room

* ensure all screen alerts (eg email coming in) are turned off 

* Ensure your laptop etc is plugged in and charging

* Ensure screen recording is turned off by everyone.


By the way, its important to not limit the scope of 'online mediation' to web conferencing.  Asynchronous text exchanges  can bridge the time zone gap in those at a distance and all offer other tools and time for reflection.  



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