How to make the jump to virtual facilitation

Make the jump to remote facilitation
Make the jump to remote facilitation – Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

Almost a year ago, in March 2020, I was still very much in denial. “No, my clients aren’t cancelling on me. Nope, my in-person training classes and workshop events will come back at some point in 2020.” As we all know, that didn’t happen. External circumstances have forced us as training professionals to transition from classroom-based training to becoming remote facilitators. Slowly we have realised that online learning experiences can be so much fun AND, most importantly effective. So many of you reading this have successfully made this transition from in-person to virtual and even hybrid facilitation.

For those of you who have yet to be convinced, here are my top 5 tips on transitioning to virtual facilitation:

  1. Prepare mentally, load on the empathy
  2. Get as much hands-on as possible
  3. Give to learn and grow
  4. Observe other facilitators and trainers
  5. Virtual facilitation is highly iterative work

1 Prepare technically and exude empathy

We both know that moving online, from a lifetime of classroom teaching and facilitation can be daunting. When we are training people online, we are missing out on so much human connection. In the absence of face-to-face interaction, you now have to learn to more empathetic than ever before. You have to try extra hard to exude empathy and care for your learners.

As if that wasn’t hard enough, you have to double your technical preparation. It’s easy to read from a PowerPoint deck, but to create an interactive space will require an effort to understand real user experience. But the amount of effort and time required to pull off a successful online experience using something like Miro requires at least double the prep time of your typical in-person session.

Tools like Miro make your job of remote facilitation so much easier. Here’s an example of a Miro board for the classroom that I created. By way of explanation, the Miroverse is a virtual marketplace where people can share their Miro templates and projects.

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2 Get hands-on as much as possible

Ok, so there’s really no shortcut to learning your choice of virtual facilitation tool. You have to get hands-on as much as possible. You have to be really comfortable with it because your learners depend on you to be the expert. They also need you to lead them through a technically fuss-free and fun-filled virtual learning environment.

There really is no shortcut for learning to use a virtual facilitation tool like Miro. You just have to get as hands on as possible @ismantanuri

I always hear this lamentation from trainers who have to learn to use new tools: “Oh, but there’s a steep learning curve!” It’s natural to feel this way. But stop and think for a moment. There’s a learning curve for every new experience, isn’t there? Whether it’s riding a bicycle, using Microsoft Word, navigating a smart phone, taking a great selfie, etc.

My advice here is to practice in a safe environment where you can get some feedback and make mistakes with non-paying clients. That’s why between March and May 2020, I ran a bunch of free sessions for my peers and and some trusted clients. This gave me the confidence to practise my mastery of Miro and demonstrate the value that my remote training would offer with this tool.

There is a learning curve for every new experience. The learning is in the experience.


3 Give to learn and grow

One of the fastest ways to accelerate your journey to remote facilitation mastery is to join online learning communities and make a commitment to sharing what you learn. When you know that you have to teach others, you are going to be motivated to learn faster, right?

I have sought out communities where I can deepen my expertise and, at the same time, build my reputation as a thought-leader. I began knowing nothing about Miro. I simply started learning as much as I could then contributed my expertise and stories to the Miro Online Community. Today, I’m recognised as the all-time No. 4 contributor to this global community.

When you know that you have to teach others, you are going to be motivated to learn faster @ismantanuri

So if you haven’t joined a remote facilitator network, I suggest you do so. Apart from expanding your professional network, you could quickly be offered opportunities from clients around the world. You have no excuse. You have to learn master remote facilitation now. If you can work from anywhere, anyone anywhere can do your work. Just think about that.

I’m proud to have been asked to contribute my expertise to the Miro Academy. If you’re new to designing a workshop for a virtual audience, click below for a really quick fundamentals course on designing an effective online workshop

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4 Observe other facilitators and trainers

Let’s be honest. You cannot become better without constantly self-reflecting and improving yourself. You have to take time out to ‘sharpen the saw’. This means that you have to invest time in improving your business’s No 1 asset – you! You should be investing between 5-10% of your income in developing your skills particularly if you are going to be charging others for learning those skills from you.

A very effective approach that I’ve always taken is to learn from my peers. In the process, I pick up so many great ideas from other facilitators. Right now, there are dozens of training courses and workshops that you can book yourself onto. There are virtual summits and free courses available to you at the click of a mouse. You are surrounded by trainings from training experts so there is no time to waste!

If you need some place to hang out and learn with like-minded peers, I personally invite you to the Asia Pacific chapter of the Miro User Group. Last December, Joshua Davies (another contributor to and I roped in a group of facilitators to share our work with the Miro community. Check the video out below!

LEARN MORE: Listen to Joshua Davies share his ideas on how you can make your remote training radical here on the TrainingBusiness podcast

5 ABL – Always be learning

You charge others to teach them new skills, right? Therefore, you must be the kind of person who tries out new tools. You have to take risks and seek out new ways of doing things. You have to boldly go where no one has gone before. Virtual training and remote facilitation is really the new frontier of learning. Now is the time to cross that frontier.

Remember that professionals constantly build new learning on top of current capabilities. Every virtual session you deliver will bring new knowledge for you as a facilitator. This could be insights and feedback from participants. But the best ones are when others highlight your blind spots. You need to make mistakes and accelerate your knowledge.

So my challenge to you is to make the jump to virtual facilitation today. By that, I don’t mean that you simply copy your pre-2020 classroom training material and paste it online. That’s a recipe for disaster. Facilitators who have tried that are being left behind. Decide today to learn new tools like Miro, join a remote training community, share what you learn, observe other trainers and never stop learning.

What are your thoughts on making the jump? Share your thoughts below!

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