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Virtual Facilitation

It has been about eighteen months since Covid-19 changed the way we interact and connect with people. While the option for phone, email, and video existed before, the pandemic significantly influenced our use of virtual communication. Perhaps the biggest change has been the increase in the use of video to connect one-to-one, for group interaction, for educational and training purposes, and for both personal and professional reasons. Independent facilitation has also been impacted by this shift to virtual interaction.

Virtual independent facilitation is not for all people, nor does it work in all situations. This can be said about all virtual interaction and connection.

Some of the positive things I have heard from those engaging in virtual independent facilitation include:

  • greater opportunity for shorter but more frequent connecting,

  • all people being more focused,

  • can be easier to do some things together like sharing a screen to search the internet or written an email,

  • able to more easily connect with people who do not live close by,

  • finding new things to do together such as virtual games or puzzles, and

  • helping people gain computer and technology skills.

Virtual connecting also comes with challenges, such as:

  • needing to learn new skills to be able to connect,

  • ·potentially less awareness of the larger picture (e.g., the place someone lives), and

  • difficulty connecting with people who have communicate with gestures or by pointing at objects, or a picture book.

Before March 2020, most people were not using virtual independent facilitation. And I will guess that in March 2020, most people would have said virtual facilitation would not be their choice. Yet when the choice became virtual facilitation or no facilitation, people gave virtual a try. My hope is that now people see that virtual facilitation is an option worth exploring, at least some of the time. That a blended approach to facilitation that includes some virtual and some in-person has the potential to be highly effective and offer the best of both options. That instead of assuming all interactions will be in-person, there is an intentional decision, and ideally discussion, about when and with who facilitation sessions might be done virtually.

What have been your experiences connecting with people and interacting over the past eighteen months? Have you identified situations when virtual facilitation has been positive? What factors lend themselves to choosing virtual facilitation? What factors lend themselves to choosing in-person facilitation? How do we move ahead to ensure we take the best characteristics of both in-person facilitation and virtual facilitation?

May we not go back to just doing things the way we used to without considering what we have learned over the past year and a half and what was good about the things we were forced to try.

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