The year 2020 challenged all of us as we had to move from one day to the other – with more or less experience – to remote work / remote training / a remote learning environment. Most of the trainers, keynote speakers, coaches added “virtual” to their profile description or webpage, sooner or later throughout 2020. But, how do we really know that they developed the necessary skills for virtual facilitation?
The following blog post summarises our discussion about hiring an external facilitator for your team’s workshop and/or your company’s training with Robert Kienzle (Senior Consultant Knowmium & Director The Giving Speech) and Barbara Covarrubias Venegas (Founder #virtualspacehero)
Senior Consultant at Knowmium
Table of contents
How and where to find the right virtual facilitator?
The offer of virtual facilitators seems nearly endless. So how can you make sure to choose the right one in the jungle that is the world wide web? Here are some useful tips that also apply when searching for a facilitator for a face to face event:
✅ Recommendations: As most of us know, networking is essential in today’s business environment. This is also very relevant when looking for a virtual facilitator or any other external service provider. Talking to colleagues to find out if/what experiences they had with certain facilitators, or checking the recommendations on the trainer´s LinkedIn page can be very helpful.
“During my LinkedIn coachings and advisings, I notice that the recommendations function is usually one of the tools that people do not utilize. My suggestion is to actively use this feature and regularly ask for and give recommendations.” (Robert Kienzle)
“Specifically in 2020, we saw the value of having a big and reliable network. Especially when it comes to sharing expertise and the referral of clients.” (Barbara Covarrubias Venegas)
✅ Check thoroughly what they offer: Ideally when looking for a facilitator you already have the desired goals of the workshop or training in mind. Make sure that the facilitator´s offer matches these goals and the expectations you have. A good starting point to establish that, are websites and/or business social media profiles. Usually, the offers will be listed there. Sometimes you will even find examples of activities or detailed contents of workshops/training. But ATTENTION! If you find the program/the contents appealing they still might be incomplete or fabricated (especially when it comes to new(er) companies). That is why a personal conversation is necessary to find out the important aspects about the offer and the person behind it. Only then you can decide if it is compatible with your expectations and goals for the workshop or training.
✅ Listen to your gut: Do not forget that you will be in contact with this person for quite some time. So finally also make sure that you are compatible on a personal level as well. The chosen facilitator should be enjoyable and effective to work with.
What information do virtual facilitators need from you and the participants?
Every effective business (or private relationship) is based on good communication. This specific case is no exception. Completely open and honest conversation is needed during every step of the process to ensure the success of the workshop/training.
💡Needs, wants and goals: For the online training or workshop to be successful, it must be tailored specifically to the participants. This can only work if the team´s needs and wants, as well as the goals of the training/workshop, are communicated thoroughly. The desired outcome needs to be clear so the program can be designed accordingly. But it is equally important that the virtual facilitator is honest with the client if their needs, wants and goals can not be met by him/her. The best way forward would be a referral to a specialized colleague or another organization that can provide the needed expertise.
“Finding the right facilitator for your virtual training requires collaboration. Particularly in the beginning when it comes to establishing the goals and needs of the participants. You know your team best. The facilitator does not. Only if the client is 100% honest about their needs, goals and problems, and the facilitator knows what questions to ask to find out exactly that, everybody gets what they want.” (Robert Kienzle)
💡Logistics: This point is especially important when it comes to online trainings and workshops. Additionally, to the logistics that need to be handled for an in-person event like date, time or the number of participants, technical details need to be considered. If the technological subtleties are not handled properly, they can easily lead to severe problems. One of the most important factors here is the platform that will be used for the event. The safest bet would be to let the online facilitator work with the platform(s) that they are used to, as their activities most likely work best with them. Even, if possible, let them use their own accounts. If that is not possible (e.g. because of IT security policy), make sure to give them a technical run-through the platform that will be used. That gives them the opportunity to see which activities might need to be changed or adapted to guarantee the best outcome for everyone.
Once you found an online facilitator you trust and all technical details are discussed, let them do their work and try not to interfere too much to allow for everything to run smoothly.
Follow up & feedback after a virtual training
The work of an (online) facilitator is not done after the workshop/training is over. That is where proactiveness is needed from both parties.
🔊Feedback: As mentioned above, recommendations and reviews are irreplaceable in today´s virtual business world. So, if you as a client had an enjoyable experience with the specific trainer, go and leave a short recommendation on their LinkedIn page or a review on their webpage. Also, as a trainer you should not hesitate to ask for a short recommendation or review if everything went well. In the case that it did not go well, personal communication is very important to ensure that certain problems do not happen again. Honest feedback also contributes to the general improvement of the offers, which in turn again benefits everyone.
“Virtual training and development is getting more and more competitive. This makes recommendations, either on LinkedIn or personally, and reviews even more important than they already were.” (Barbara Covarrubias Venegas)
🔊Follow up: After some time, it is important to know if the techniques/learnings from the training are being incorporated into the daily business life. If they are: AMAZING 👍, great job of everyone. If they are not: 👎 there has been a problem somewhere and it needs to be solved. After the problem is found, usually another training or workshop is organized to resolve it.
So to conclude: Yes, finding the right virtual facilitator might seem like a challenge. But taking enough time to find them really does pay off in the end. And if you follow the tips above, this undertaking should be a piece of cake! 😉🍰
Robert Kienzle (2020): 7 Tips for Hiring a Facilitator (and a Chef)
Barbara Covarrubias Venegas (2020): What is the future of training in the virtual space?
Barbara Covarrubias Venegas (2020): How to use objects/props in your virtual training?
Barbara Covarrubias Venegas (2020): Interact & Engage: How to create Spectacular Live Online Training?