Next level facilitation in an online environment

Today almost everything goes online and it will stay like that for a while. What does that mean for us as facilitators? What role and added value do we have during a digital meeting? And above all: how can we properly train people to take up that role ? Over the past few months, together with a few colleagues, we have developed an online learning trajectory that offers a step-by-step answer to this new reality.

From classic to online training model ?

Just rewind. In spring, I was asked to facilitate a training at BA&Beyond. A one-day workshop in preparation for a conference. Until the world suddenly came to a halt: because of covid19, the conference was first postponed and not much later transferred to an online event, just like the training.

What now?’, I thought. How do you move something that demands the presence and full involvement of people to the screen? How can you give sufficient structure in such a context, stimulate dialogue and deal with group dynamics? How do you transfer those skills at all to novice facilitators? In essence, facilitating is stimulating interaction in order to achieve better results as a group. Non-verbal signals such as movements and facial expressions are crucial. Moreover, a classic facilitation session is defined in time and space. In other words, there are outlines that every participant is aware of: you get into the workshop and then leave.

Online facilitation remains facilitation, with some extra points of attention

I thought long and hard, considered various options and played them off against each other. In the end there is only one conclusion: facilitating remaines facilitation, even if all contact is digital. It becomes more complex, yes, but there are always solutions. Over the past few months, I have been working hard with a number of colleagues on an online training program.

A number of insights can be adjusted quite easily. For example, we work with short, manageable modules. We offer extra possibilities for reflection and interpretation through reading material outside the sessions. We provide challenges that participants work with ‘at home’, after which they share their experiences in the next meeting.

Other insights are more difficult to map out. What are the needs of each participant? What is a beginner? How do you determine what ‘level’ people have? We have to dare to learn from these online experiences and from the participants themselves, so that we can look at our coaching from a different perspective.

Individual coaching in 4 steps

We are convinced of one thing: in this online context, an individual coaching approach is perhaps the most efficient. As a starting facilitator, you spend a lot of time preparing. In an online context that preparation time quickly doubles. Thinking about tools and techniques, digitizing and testing them, familiarizing yourself and your participants with them: it all takes time, a lot of time. But that is exactly why we are here to support you. Is there a digital workshop, training or meeting coming up in which you will act as facilitator? Then you can follow an online program in which we teach you all the ins & outs. The program consists of four steps and offers you the tools you need for a smooth meeting and preparation.