When I’m teaching remote facilitation, whether my students are trainers, coaches or facilitators, our focus is on real-time or ‘live’ remote interactions. They might be called online meetings, or events, or workshops. The essence is that two or more people are able to interact directly, at the same time, while not in the same physical space.

The technology people tend to use for these nowadays is video conferencing (I strongly recommend Zoom for a bunch of reasons). And most of what we cover will also apply to real-time meetings using other technology, such as phone conference calls and even live text chat sessions.

These remote facilitation classes don’t focus on ‘asynchronous’ interactions, in which people interact from different physical spaces at different times. This blog post is an example of that kind of interaction: you can comment below, or send me an email, tweet or other message and I’ll do my best to answer within a few hours.

But when you’re actually facilitating remotely, it’s wise to pay attention to this asynchronous part.

Whatever event you’re facilitating, there’s always a before, there’s always an after – and they always matter.

Before

What happens before the event is crucial.

All over the world, awful online meetings are the norm. But careful communication ahead of time can help people to understand that your event will be different. My invitations tend to say something like this:

THIS IS NOT A STANDARD ‘WEBINAR’! It’s a live call with real human beings.
To ensure the group makes the best use of our time together, and to respect your colleagues, make sure you:
– call from a quiet place,
– use a headset (to reduce echo as well as background noise)
– switch your camera on.
To make the call as conversational as possible, the expectation is that everyone will use their video camera.
I’ll also aim to connect participants to each other, as well as to me, before the event, but privacy rules can make this complicated. Getting everyone into some kind of text-led space – maybe Slack, or a Facebook group, or an email group – where they can introduce themselves and talk about their hopes and fears around the event is great.

After

When a remote facilitator does a good job, participants don’t want the event to stop! They’ve met a bunch of wonderful people and found the conversations inspiring. When they stay connected, they can help each other to maximise value from the event – for example, by practising together whatever they were learning, or by sharing stories of applying it.

And of course I want to stay in the loop, too. I want to know what happens next! And my students tend to be my greatest advocates, making connections to other people who need my services.

Make sure you get permission to connect people while they’re with you, live.

Ongoing Communities

When you’re organising events and connecting participants, be careful!

In my experience it’s quite easy to ‘accidentally’ end up moderating lots of Facebook groups, Slack channels etc. The value can be massive, both for you and the members, but it doesn’t often work out that way.

The thing is, turning a handful of interested people into a buzzing online community isn’t a trivial undertaking. It’s a specialist skill, and it can be extremely time consuming. So, consider limiting your involvement and encouraging participants to organise themselves.

 

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