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Five Principles for Virtual Facilitation
Whether it’s a conference call, webinar, or group coaching program delivered over the phone, virtual facilitation is becoming a “must-have” skill for many coaches, trainers, and consultants.
The next time you’re asked to facilitate a program over the phone, consider the following five principles:
1. Less is more. One of the major pitfalls for trainers, coaches and other facilitators, live or virtual, is that they try to include too much information. In a telephone or based environment without the standard visual cues and instant feedback, it may be more difficult to deliver content of the same breadth or depth. Rather than trying to “fill it in,” consider what the content should be for your call. What is essential and what is nice to have? If you’d like to get more insight, consider what you might assign as pre-reading or fieldwork after the call.
Ask yourself: What content is essential in your program? What’s nice to have? What pre-work or post-work could you create to enhance the learning experience?
2. Create opportunities for visual anchor points. One of the challenges with virtual facilitation is keeping people’s attention. Where possible, create opportunities for visual anchor points, so people know where you are and can see where you’re going or what you’re discussing. A visual anchor point can include: a short handout that is sent before the call, including the main points, with space for taking notes. It could also result in a more detailed PowerPoint slide that people follow along with or without the main points of the speaker notes.
Ask yourself: What visual anchor point would my group benefit from?
3. Reduce barriers to participation. There are barriers to participation in the virtual domain. It could be due to different technologies from attendees attending from different geographic locations or lack of familiarity in using the technology. Keep it simple in the beginning, provide opportunities for people to gradually get comfortable with technology and everything it offers. Make sure you provide clear instructions on how to join the call and what to do if something goes wrong.
Ask yourself: What barriers can exist with this group? What should I do to maximize participation? What additional supports, such as FAQs, will support participation? What problems might the participants encounter and what are the solutions?
4. Creating a supportive learning environment. Part of a virtual facilitator’s primary role is to create security and connectivity within a group that cannot see each other. Creating ground rules, providing a clear agenda, and talking about roles and expectations will be important from the start of the programme. Consider how it can create a sense of security and connectivity. As a baseline it’s important that people know what is expected of them, where the call is going, and how they can ask questions.
Ask yourself: What should I consider and do to create a safe learning environment? What strategies and approaches can I use to increase connectivity within the group?
5. Engage people on the call. Adult education practices emphasize the importance of engaging the audience every 8-10 minutes. In virtual domains this amount of time can be reduced to 5 minutes. Ways to engage a group can involve pausing and asking the group a question, encouraging participants to write their response for follow-up, or if you have the time, briefly sharing their response. You can also create a quiz that people can take using a handout if it’s a phone-based program or a poll if you’re using a webinar platform.
Ask yourself: What strategies can I use to engage people on the call? What activities should I incorporate?
The next time you’re faced with a virtual facilitation opportunity, consider these five steps to give your presentation more impact and increase engagement with your group.
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