Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0283, December 19, 2006 ....

Dear friends,

As a virtual university, FacilitatorU is particularly interested in, and part of, the growing trend in training and meeting in "virtual" mode. In this week's article, "Balancing Technology with Touch," we look at some of the drivers of this trend, challenges, benefits, and limitations of virtual meetings, and some tips for effectively facilitating them.

And as the year comes to an end, I'd like to thank you for your continued support of I hope that you have an energizing, engaging, and rejuvenating holiday season and that you facilitate it to the highest and best good for yourself and your loved ones. In appreciation for your support and in honor of this issue, I'm offering a 50% holiday discount on the self-guided version of "Leading at a Distance: The Core Essentials of T/VM Facilitation." This offer is good through Friday of this week.

Warmest regards,

Steve Davis
Publisher and Founder of


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The Point

Balancing Technology with Touch
Use teleclasses and virtual meetings to reach out and touch your participants
Group Process Skill

Virtual Training and Meeting Trend

There's a growing trend in providing training and meetings in a "virtual" mode in addition to Face-to-Face (F2F). Classes and virtual meetings are being run via teleconference, with or without video, self-guided training via workbooks and CD's, a wealth of online meeting technologies, and in many combinations as the occasion dictates.

While the simple fact that technology now exists to enable us to train and meet virtually is likely the biggest driver in this trend, there are others too. The trend toward virtual meeting is also fueled by the globalization of the workforce calling for decentralized command and control of corporations who can no longer afford to send people traveling across the globe at the drop of a hat. Nor do they need to with the technology that exists today.

Further, over the past decade or more, universities have been converting many of their classroom courses to "online" courses. In fact, the world's largest university, the University of Phoenix, boasting well over 200,000 students, offers the majority of their courses, leading to undergraduate and graduate degrees, online.

Let's briefly review some benefits and limitations of virtual meeting and training.

Benefits to Teleclasses and Virtual Meetings (T/VM's)

  • No travel time and no travel costs.
  • A clearer focus than many lectures.
  • Ability to pick and choose what sessions to attend at the last minute.
  • Comfort of working in your own space.
  • Downloading notes and handouts from the web site.
  • Easy to record and offer to those who couldn't attend real time.
  • No visual distractions or biases.

Limitations of T/VM's

While T/VM's offer many benefits that F2F interaction can't, they also have their limitations...

  • Missing senses. T/VM's are often audio only, visual only, or at best, audio/visual mediums. This offers challenges to the attention of some learning styles.
  • Participant interaction with each other is limited.
  • Missing body language that enhances communication.
  • Limited in the use of visual demonstration and information.
  • Easy to be distracted and tune out or multitask.
  • Serial Communication. T/VM's primarily allow only one person to talk at a time to the entire group. This can be either a disadvantage or an advantage depending on your purpose. For example, in a situation where it's important that everyone really hear individuals in the group, a T/VM environment that requires people to speak only one at a time can enhance this process, providing of course that it is effectively facilitated.

The benefits of T/VM's may outweigh the costs depending on your purpose and perspective.


Information Aging

The technology enabling us to train and meet virtually comes on the heels of the information age. We all love information, especially information that we need right now. But over indulging in information can leave us feeling mentally bloated and overwhelmed. Current virtual meeting technologies make it easy to generate and disseminate a great deal of information rapidly. This can be both a blessing and a curse.

When we look at the most pressing problems we encounter in organizations, they are seldom lack of information. Instead, they continue to be the challenge of people communicating required information so that it can be used effectively. While you're meeting, whether virtually or F2F, use this time, not necessarily to share information, but to collaborate, to solve problems, or to enhance working relationships.

Balancing technology with touch

There is abundant technology available to facilitate meetings and conferences using Internet and voice. Often however, too great an emphasis is placed on the technology at the expense of effective communicating and relating. Just like F2F meetings, T/VM's offer you the opportunity to employ facilitation skills to make them more effective. While the majority of T/VM leaders employ very limited methods, primarily that of lecture and discussion, there are at least 10 different modes of interaction available that we can draw from to enhance the results of T/VM's. Here's a brief description of each of them.

  • Lecture. The most frequent form of oral communication used in T/VM's. It’s an easy default mode that demands very little skill from the leader. Though there are times when lecture is appropriate, it is often overused because it's easy.

  • Experience. Experiential activities are used in T/VM's to generate creative thinking and new insights.

  • Story. Everyone loves a good story. A story can simultaneously entertain, inspire, and recast old problems in a new light to create breakthrough thinking.

  • Role-plays. Role-plays are particularly useful in teleclass training situations where techniques and situations can be acted out and practiced in a safe environment. Largely aural in nature, they lend themselves well to the T/VM environment.

  • Sharing. Most adult participants have significant knowledge and experience to share that can benefit any group if given the opportunity.

  • Dialogue. There are times when dialogue unfolds between participants in a T/VM that can bring wonderful new insights and discoveries to the group. Dialogue is not something we can make happen, but we can be sensitive to when it’s trying to occur and allow it to happen.

  • Metaphors. Metaphors are effective tools to communicate complex feelings and ideas. Once converted to a clear metaphor, they become conscious. Once conscious, they can be expressed, and through expression comes learning.

  • Coaching. Many people conduct T/VM's to coach groups on a common area of interest such as business development, marketing, personal development skills, etc.

  • Discussion. The best reason for getting a group of people together in the first place is to share ideas. Therefore, discussion is the mode you’ll likely want happening most of the time during your T/VM’s.

  • 3rd Party Sources provided by colleagues and experts to add content, variety, and expertise.

For more detail on these modes of T/VM facilitation and a thorough treatment of the essentials of T/VM Facilitation check out our live or self-guided teleclass, "Leading at a Distance: The Core Essentials of T/VM Facilitation."


How can you use T/VM's to your benefit as a facilitator or meeting leader? What challenges do you have with these types of meetings that you need help with? Please click reply and tell me. I'd love to hear from you.
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Facilitating at a Distance... the Essentials of Teleclass & Virtual Meeting Facilitation.
This class is for those of you wanting to offer a teleclass but don't feel you have all the skills and knowledge you need to do so, or for managers working with distributed teams that require you to facilitate virtual meetings. See details at the end of this issue. This class will teach you methods, skills, and processes to employ this inexpensive way to train, collaborate, and problem-solve using Teleclasses and Virtual Meetings. Remove the fear and uncertainty of teleclass/virtual meeting design and facilitation. Click here for details.

Random Acts of Facilitation-- Self-Guided Real Audio Version
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Secrets to Designing Dynamic Workshops from Scratch
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Putting Out Brush Fires... How to intervene in difficult group situations
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