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5 Ways I Design And Facilitate Online Groups Differently Compared to Face-to-face.
The pandemic has taught me that works in person doesn't work online
When I made the sudden switch to virtual facilitation 2 years ago, I thought that I would do what I did face-to-face, only online. I tested out some ideas with some facilitator friends before my first online session. My first attempt was a total flop😅.
I quickly learned that what I did in person was not going to work online. I needed to design and facilitate my sessions differently. When I started designing my sessions specifically for online, participation skyrocketed.
Here are 5 ways I've learned to facilitate differently online:
1/ Connect People. People engage more when they are comfortable with each other. In the virtual space, you can't rely on spontaneous interaction like you can face-to-face.
💡Tip: Invite people to introduce themselves in the chat, give them a prompt question, organize breakout groups early so that people can connect.
2/ Mix Up Your Methods. They say our attention spans are about 15 minutes in person. I'd say it's about 3-5 minutes online. So you need to switch up your method every 3-5 minutes.
💡Tip: Pose a question in the chat, organize breakout groups, launch a poll, use interactive whiteboards.
3/ Cut Your Content in Half. Packing your online sessions with too much content makes it difficult for group members to pay attention and stay engaged.
💡Tip: Write down everything you want to cover. Then cut the content in half and deliver it in bite-sized chunks.4/ Check-in Often. It's harder to read body language and non-verbal cues online.
💡Tip: Pause and check in regularly with your group to see if they are still engaged through the chat.
5/ Treat live sessions as sacred. Some things are best done in live sessions. The rest can be done offline.
💡Tip: Use live time exclusively for connecting, ideation, working through challenges, and learning experientially.
How do you facilitate and design differently for online sessions?
Gwyn Wansbrough is a Facilitator and Experience Designer based in Barcelona, Spain. She empowers people and organizations around the world to create dynamic and empowering learning experiences online and in person. She runs an online cohort-based course called Breakthrough Facilitation. She writes about facilitation, creativity, and learning in a weekly newsletter called The Quest. Subscribe here or visit www.gwynwansbrough.com to learn more.