Everyone is talking about it, but here are just 10 things you can do to improve your virtual facilitation.
- Think about what you CAN do online that you cannot do face to face
Quite often we try to translate what we would do face to face into the virtual world and it feels like a compromise. So, think about what you can do online that is really hard face to face. For example, getting many ideas in 1 minute becomes easy when you don’t have to give space to individual contributions one after the other. Chat, whiteboard and online tools like LINOIT and MURAL make gathering thoughts easy!
- Be yourself, get chatty and encourage as much interaction as possible
Think about how you will introduce the event and welcome people. In the same way that when you are face-to-face, you would say hello as people come in, do the same, make small talk and get people relaxed and ready to contribute. It’s not so much breaking the ice but settling people in and getting them over that initial screen of faces staring at them (if they have their videos on). Ask them to say where they are calling from in the chat and what the weather is doing. Or maybe get them to share “One thing that…..” which is relevant to the topic of the day.
- More slides, more pictures, fewer words
Don’t use the slides as a teleprompter. Use notes on your desk if you need a prompt and make the visuals appealing with pictures, questions and interesting statistics (if appropriate). Change the slides more frequently than if you were face to face and think about how to engage people by inserting questions. They can chat while you speak in the chat box.
- Think about group size
If it is a small group (<12) you can invite personal thoughts and contributions on microphone whereas this should be managed more carefully for larger groups. By all means invite people on microphone but get them to raise their hand and make it clear you are looking for just 1 minute, 1 thought etc. You can still make it interactive if the group size is large but you may have to use tools like MURAL or LINOIT to capture thoughts and ideas.
- Consider having a host for larger groups to deal with the tech and chatter
A good host will take the pressure of the facilitator and keep an eye on the chat as well as take over in case of any technical issues. Communicate what support you would like from the host: from adding in questions, spotting who might want to contribute to injecting a controversial question!
- Belt and braces
If anything is likely to go wrong in the virtual world, it can and it will! So always have a back-up plan. Send your slides and session plan to the host just in case your internet connection goes down. They can keep things going while you get back in. Some activities may take too long or go too quickly – what will you do to “fill” or avoid that “we have run out of time….” announcement. Can they continue adding their thoughts on an online platform? Consider having a tablet as an extra screen so you can see what your participants can see.
- Change pitch, pace and tone every 3-5 minutes. Keep them engaged.
There are lots of ways to keep them engaged and here are just a few:
- Use workbooks and worksheets to help cement the learning
According to the Harvard Business Review, hand writing your own notes has been shown to be more beneficial that typing them in. So encourage it!
- Learn about digital body language – you can see if people are engaging
Just because you can’t see everyone does not mean you cannot gauge the level of engagement. Click to learn from the experts like Jo Cook, about how you measure engagement.
- Be smiley, happy, energetic, stand up!
People can hear if you are smiling even if they cannot see you. Enjoy the experience
If you and your team could do with some inspiring help in the virtual arena, Krystyna has been developing trainers, facilitators and subject matter experts for many years.
Take a look at her latest programme success.
Should we in L&D be focussed on improving job performance and hence all learning is focussed on that or should we be looking for people to be inspired to learn more and be more self-directed?
I spent some time in July 2018 writing my book, “How Not To Waste Your Money On Training” and during the week I had a few philosophical moments. One was about the difference between education, training and learning. I often speak to L&D professionals about the difference between a training needs analysis and a learning needs analysis. How the former always leads to training whereas the latter leads to something broader than just training; it could be learning in many different forms.
In a similar way I was thinking about how my degree in chemical engineering and fuel technology was a good education. It prepared me for the world of work and also began a lifelong desire to learn more. When I moved from engineering to IT training with IBM we were called “instructors” and I worked in the IBM Education Centre in St. John’s Wood. Was what people received when they came to us there, an education? I am not so sure. I would hope the delegates were more prepared for their world of work and that they were inspired to learn more. But how broad was that inspiration? Did they become self-motivated learners keen to go beyond the traditional training course to further develop themselves?
This leads me to the present day; my title changed from instructor to trainer to L&D professional/facilitator. How do I define though whether I am educating, training or helping people to learn?
A few years after I gained my Certificate in Training Practice, I began working with trainers, delivering the CIPD Certificate in Training Practice, then the Certificate in Learning and Development Practice. Through my accelerated learning programmes, I further worked with L&D professionals to help them learn more about an approach that has been taking shape over many years. An approach that helps me focus on organisational needs as well as learner requirements. Programmes that took 8 months of weekly 4 hour sessions, were delivered in 8 one day sessions moving to a well-known learning provider. Now I deliver a 6-week programme, which includes a 2 day workshop and I cannot possibly ‘cover’ all I used to.
Leading by example and walking-the -talk have been driving forces in our organisation “How to Accelerate Learning”. Facilitation is practiced and runs like an invisible thread through the programmes. Inspiring resources and innovative ways of learning through gamification, create a different feel to the programme, leaving many people “inspired” – their words not ours. Even hardened trainers with years of experience under their belts talk of how different it feels.
This has not always been a deliberate intention, but a on occasions, a happy and accidental one. One that we persist with because of the results we achieve and the feedback we get. We put effort into:
- Drilling deeper into needs to see if learning is the appropriate course of action
- Delivering learning via a blend of activities not just training
- Helping people to gain confidence in stepping out of their comfort zone – to experience new ways to help people learn
- Using unusual materials and resources to inspire a different approach
- Following up the learning so it is not just a one-time event
So, I don’t feel like it is training in the traditional sense; not like when I was a VM Instructor. Nor do I feel that it is just learning because of the feedback we get. So are we educating and is that now the remit of L&D?
Yesterday I had the honour and privilege to stand amongst giants in our industry. The place was Olympia, the CIPD L&D Show and it was the final session of the day – the IGNITE LAB. For those not familiar with this format, each person presents 20 slides in 5 minutes, with the slides automatically advancing every 15 seconds.
Having settled on a topic, “How to be Agile in L&D”, I created some hand drawn slides and I pretty much thought it was going to be a doddle. The nearer it got to the day and the more I practised, the more I realised how hard it was. Give me a day or half a day to facilitate some learning and that’s not a problem, but 5 minutes to just present! It felt very unnatural and forced and the nerves were starting to kick in.
As the line up for the IGNITE LAB was revealed, we engaged in an exchange on Twitter where we shared similar feelings and the nerves were apparent. Some suggested they were going to use prompt cards, which I had ‘discarded’ as an idea, but when Julie Dryborough assured me I could “distill” the essentials in this way (I was waffling quite a bit in my practice runs), it convinced me to to do the “practice, tweak, repeat” advice offered by Niall Gavin.
Having tweaked, distilled, honed and transferred my notes to prompt cards , I was set. It felt much more comfortable knowing I would have the right words to fit the 15 second maximum for each slide.
So here is how it the event unfolded for me (in order) for me:
Niall Gavin – opened beautifully, with a heart-felt (see what I did there?) story relating to redundancy. No cards just him some slides and a great story.
Sukhvinder Pabial – followed. Confident, articulate and ever the professional, spoke about marginal gains and how we in L&D could take the lead front eh British Cycling team to improve L&D’s performance.
Krystyna Gadd – once I was up there and looking into the whites of their eyes (there were so many lovely people that I knew there!) I couldn’t look at my prompt cards. The slides progressed and it all came flooding back to me. Note to self next time – ditch the cards and fly solo!
Andrew Jacobs – popped his IGNITE cherry and did a sterling job beginning with learning not being built on firm foundations
Marco Faccini – amazed us all that he had rewritten his presentation that afternoon, making it real and showing us the money!
Amanda Arrowsmith – was unfairly plagued by the PowerPoint gremlins and Julie Dryborough volunteered to advance them but not before “ghosting it”. My hat goes off to Amanda who was neither shaken nor stirred by all that seemed to happen (or not) – a veteran deliverer presenting an engaging and memorable session!
Blake Henegan – rocked his first IGNITE, challenging us to be kinder to ourselves by reflecting and connecting more and thus reducing overwhelm
Julie Drybrough– wowed us on creating a thriving culture by lighting up the shadows and understanding our git self. Sounds like good advice!
Phil Wilcox – what an amazing ending to the session with a poem about “Who am I?”- you are officially awesome Phil, be you!!
What was lovely, was being amongst these L&D giants, sharing our vulnerabilities, cheering each other on and applauding the achievement of “just” speaking for 5 minutes though 20 slides… easy eh….. we did good!
And we are all available for future speaking engagements at a very modest fee…..lol
Storify of the tweetage care of Donna Hewitson
I have great pleasure to introduce the lovely Kirsty Lewis of the School of Facilitation as a guest blogger. She is an expert in facilitation and so I thought it would be cool if she gave us her take on what it means to be a facilitator rather than a trainer (the second of the 5 secrets of accelerated learning)
What is the difference between a trainer and a facilitator?
This was the questions posed to me by Krystyna Gadd earlier this week and it got me thinking, is there a difference? What is it? What are the different skills, behaviours even beliefs that the two roles have?
Here are some simple definitions:
A trainer =’a person who trains a person or an animal’
A facilitator = ‘a person who makes an action or process easier or easy’
Trainers often have more knowledge than the learner, have a pre-prepared agenda, hold a clear path to be followed, use exercises to enable the learners to connect with the content and grow their knowledge. There may be a test to check understanding
A facilitator is not a content or knowledge expert, they hold the space for the group to evolve and grow through a topic or question they are examining. A facilitator will know how to move a group through the decision-making processes, will enable problem solving and intervene when appropriate.
A quote I found suggests:
“A trainer brings the participants from unknown to known. A facilitator brings the participants from known to unknown.”
This resonated for me as there are times I am in training mode (when running coaching and sales workshops) and other times I am holding a space for a group to discover something new (at the SOF gatherings). Is there a space and place when we have both hats and they are interchangeable? In this day and age of learning, creating motivating and engaging events I believe there is a place for both capabilities.
I noticed I shifted inside when I started to facilitate. I learnt to trust the process I had designed. I listened to my intuition, the signals I received from the energy in the room to move the group. One of my biggest surprises was that I had to hold the outcomes lightly. No longer could I grasp these tightly in my hand and say this is what will happen. I have learnt to craft the sessions outcomes, use them as a guide and then let them go to hover in the space as the facilitated session unfolds.
Here are my thoughts about some of the skills, behaviours and beliefs for a facilitator:
- Creating a container that is safe, enables people to express their ideas and opinions, learn
- Fantastic questioning skills to create engagement and probe understanding
- Listen to what is and isn’t said
- Sense into the energy of the group to adjust, move or continue
- Innately understand people ie EQ
- Decent flipchart creations!
Behaviours & Beliefs
- Open and curious to what is
- A deep belief in what they do
- A passion for their role in the room
I think there are common skills, behaviours and beliefs that both roles share. If you are starting to shift your way of working and become more facilitative maybe think about what you already do as a trainer think about how you can transfer these into the new setting of facilitation.
The 2nd of my 5 secrets of accelerated learning – double click to see more detail
In February this year I attended my very first unconference in Manchester, organised through an online community @LnDConnect and I loved it so much, that I attended my second this September. “So what on earth is an unconference?” you may be wondering…. so I will use bits and pieces gathered from here and there, as well as some graphics to try and describe what I have experienced and why I think they are marvellous!
Firstly there were some great people to network with in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. There was no agenda, which was a little curious (I have been to a few conferences, so this meant I didn’t know what I was in for) but also a little exciting. We were going to co-create the agenda together as a group.
Of course there had to be some initial instructions on how the day would pan out, otherwise it would have been chaos. The facilitation team guided us and informed novices like myself about the process. There is something about skilled facilitators that create a great open space, that really draws you in and gets you thinking right from the start.
As we were invited to come up wth topics we were interested in exploring, it sparked off thoughts about which sessions I would like to attend, which I could best contribute to and what I would like to explore myself. Topics were then grouped and an agenda emerged: 4 time slots and roughly 3 or 4 different topics per time slot. Quite a choice in a very short amount of time.
So what was it actually like? Apart from the initial nerves because it was new, we had some great discussions. Rather than one “sage on the stage” to draw from, there were many views, which made it a really rich and thought provoking experience. I took from it some real nuggets, which had really disrupted my thinking. I left having made some new friends and explored ideas from a rich pool of talent. I heard real life stories and experiences from many practitioners; successes as well as failures (you don’t often hear about those in a conference!) I went away feeling listened to, encouraged and uplifted, having listened to many experts (though they may not be widely seen as these).
In the graphics I have tried to summarise briefly, what an unconference is like and what happens. What I would really urge you do to is go and attend one; be prepared to listen, share and learn! You won’t regret it!
I am not often impressed so much by a speaker that is prompts me to blog about them, but this is the case with Dominic Colenso, who was keynote speaker at the CIPD Northern Area Partnerships conference at York Racecourse June 17th-18th. Dominic’s presentation (though it was much more than just presenting!!) was engaging, enlightening, involving and informative. I can honestly say that I was not bored for one minute….. and I learnt some good stuff, well enough to be able to tell my husband about it all.
Now anyone who knows Dominic also knows that his specialist subject is communication and the subject of his presentation was in fact about 5 key elements to great communication, using his acronym “SHINE”. It stood for:
When someone puts themselves up as an expert in any field, it does open them up to deeper scrutiny and he definitely delivered! 100% . So it made me think…..on any stage, forum or public arena, we all need to ask ourselves “Are we doing, what we are asking others to do?”
If we are falling short, will our message have less of an impact? Will the message get lost as people scrutinise our own behaviour? So if you are a leader and that could be in any number of arenas, not just a work context, when you “Talk the talk”, do you follow up by “Walking the talk” so everyone can see?