Sunday, April 10, 2011

Facilitate … virtually!

Chat tools, pods, VoIP, asynchronous conversations … it’s enough to make my head spin! I am venturing into the wonderful world of on-line facilitation and training. What an exhilarating learning experience! To date, I have facilitated about ten on-line meetings and delivered about six training webinars. I am using Adobe Connect virtual meeting software through the courtesy of ACE Communities, an initiative of Alberta Recreation and Parks Association and TrendSpire Canada Inc.

What have I learned? Wow! Here is a start.

Just do it! I was anxious, nervous and a little bit scared during my first online facilitation session. Those feelings quickly dissipated as I interacted with the participants. While I couldn’t see the participants, I felt their energy as we talked, typed, used images, and took part in polls. I can’t wait until I facilitate with all participants having web cameras!

Research the many wonderful resources about virtual meetings and webinars. Google “virtual meeting software” and you will find a treasure-trove of resources. Join virtual facilitation groups through online communities.

Practice, practice, practice! I started my adventure by participating in as many free webinars and online meetings as I could find. You will see the tremendous variation in online training and facilitation sessions, and you learn what you like and dislike.

Prepare as you would for face to face facilitation and training sessions. Think of purpose, participants, process, pleasure … and design to help the participants achieve their desired results and have fun.

Involve the participants. In a training session, I think that every five minutes, the participants should interact. In a facilitated meeting, I design so that participants are holding conversations like they would in a face-to-face meeting. Use on-line polls, games, and drawings - the software allows these activities. Use interesting questions. Go “around the phones or computers”, as if participants are in a circle, and ask for input.

Move, move, move! Every 20 minutes during the online session, I lead the participants in a physical energizer. Stand up at your desk, stretch, do the Wave, juggle imaginary balls.

Have a technology host. I find that facilitating the session and dealing with technological aspects of the online session is too hard for me! I need a techno-wizard.

These ideas only skim the world of facilitating online! I am eager to continue my journey into virtual training and facilitation.

My facilitation blog question is: What experiences have you had as a participant or host or facilitator of an online session?