Virtual Coaching Conversation Benefits & 5 Key Areas for working with Virtual Groups | By Jennifer Britton (UPDATED)

Group of Businesspeople in front of world map

How much time have you spent online or in the virtual space in the last few weeks or months?

A 2015 poll by Gallup found that 37% of employees had telecommuted compared to the 9% who did in 1995 1. And in another recent study, only 22% of the virtual teams surveyed had participated in virtual training 2.

And then COVID happened, and everyone who could began working from home!

So it's there are a large number of people who are under-served in the virtual space. And this means there is a compelling case for virtual one-on-one as well as virtual team and group coaching work for coaches today.

So whether you're meeting with individual clients via a streaming platform like Skype or Zoom, looking to offer virtual group programs eg. webinars, online courses, conference calls, or perhaps working with virtual groups or teams, the options for virtual learning and conversations abound!

And while organizations continue to question whether virtual working is effective for teams (in 2017 IBM "brought in" their workforce, returning to an in person co-located model), for many organizations, virtual and remote teams remain a global reality. Therefore, having the best virtual conversations possible is essential.

Benefits of Virtual Conversations for Coaches can include

  1. Scaling your work and serving a wider market place. It's not always be feasible to meet clients in person, so virtual conversations expand our business opportunities and help our coaching voice get out into the world. This is especially true if you serve a global audience.
  2. Creating opportunities for daytime sessions. In larger urban centers, traffic and commute times can hinder the ability for coaches to have in person sessions during the day.
  3. When coaching groups, bringing together a wider cross section of clients. Part of the beauty of coaching groups is the diversity of new ideas and approaches that can be sparked. Coaching groups virtually increases these opportunities.
  4. The flexibility of being able to work from almost anywhere, any time. Many coaches want to incorporate a more mobile lifestyle. Working virtually provides this flexibility and make it easier to be present for clients at times which are more convenient for us.
  5. Reducing your carbon footprint. As an environmentalist by training, I continue to be inspired by the opportunities technology affords. Britain's Open University, one of the pioneers in the distance learning field found that e-learning consumes 90% less energy than traditional courses. They found that the amount of CO2 emissions (per student) is also reduced by up to 85% 3

The Benefits of Virtual Conversations for Clients can include

  1. Different timezones and virtual technologies offer more options for meeting with their coach outside of regular hours eg. early in the morning or later at night.
  2. Expanding options for people living in remote communities where face-to-face coaching services aren't available.
  3. Just-in-time learning when clients need it, rather than having to wait for a specific training session to come around.
  4. Virtual group program clients may enjoy connecting with peers from a wider cross-section providing anonymity, expanding (positive) vulnerability and boosting engagement. In addition, our clients also have the opportunity to learn from people from different cultures whom they might not otherwise have the opportunity to meet.
  5. Finally, for clients in highly competitive industries, virtual groups allow them to connect with others from the same industry in different parts of the world and provide an important peer network and learning experience.

5 Key Areas to Consider as You Get Started with Virtual Programs:

Many coaches are curious about what they need to consider as they grow their work virtually. Here are five things you will always want to keep in mind, whether it's your first or thousandth virtual session:

1) Get comfortable in the virtual realm yourself

Take time to explore what is possible. What style or virtual meeting "room" do you want to create for yourself?

View others in action. Notice what you like, and don't like. And consider what platforms you think will be best suited to your clients. New technologies and options are always opening up for connecting to others.

2) Expand your own learning

There's always opportunity for learning more and improving your virtual group facilitation skills.

In addition, as the world comes to our doorstep, expand your understanding of different cultures and how people from different cultures may wish to be supported.

3) What's the context you want to create?

While technology allows us to bring large groups together, consider who you want to work with - and how.

Are you the type of person who wants to deliver a virtual 500 person keynote or are you more comfortable in convening a more intimate 8 person group coaching process?

This will allow you to set things up the way that works best for you - and your clients.

4) Consider how you will build trust and connection

While many platforms exist, those with video streaming services can be more useful in boosting trust - and helping feel clients feel more connected to you and each other. At the same time, video can create a barrier for participation if people don't have good enough internet service.

5) Set expectations and create ground rules early on

One of the most tempting traps in virtual work is that your clients may be multi-tasking and not fully engaged during your coaching conversation.

So it's important to bring people into the virtual "room" early on and get them involved in the dialogue through chat, breakouts or using annotation.

TIP: Annotation, where people use their own virtual pen or keyboard to draw and comment on the screen, is a virtual facilitation strategy that is often overlooked.

Wrap-up

In closing, integrating more virtual options for you and your clients can offer many benefits. As for other industries, technological disruption (and the pandemic) is reshaping how work and conversations are undertaken.

Online or virtual platforms are important vehicles for building relationships, accelerating results and expanding conversations, especially as most coaches are solo entrepreneurs working from home.

What are the reasons you might add virtual coaching into your mix? What opportunities do you want to create for yourself and others?

Check out the different virtual options and see what's a good fit for you. And think about what's going to work best for your clients - what creates an "enabling" space rather than a "dis-empowering" space.

In my 2017 book, Effective Virtual Conversations, I explore some of the reasons why having virtual conversations makes a compelling business case, and how they can be done differently to avoid "Death by Conference Call". For example one of the risks of virtual events is creating a one-way monologue from a "talking head". Being talked at doesn't work when people are "in the room" - and it doesn't work virtually either.

So, it's important to consider how you will create an engaging learning context. A tip is to invite people to consider "What's in it for me?"(WIIFM) at each and every call. For example you could ask, "What's important about today's topic for you?" or "What benefit would making a change in this area bring to you?"

Pick up an autographed copy of Effective Virtual Conversations here

1 http://www.gallup.com/poll/184649/telecommuting-work-climbs.aspx (accessed 2/26/2017)
2 http://cdn.culturewizard.com/PDF/Trends_in_VT_Report_4-17-2016.pdf Study by R3, Culture Wizard
3 https://elearningindustry.com/top-10-e-learning-statistics-for-2014-you-need-to-know  (accessed 2/27/2017)

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Jennifer Britton

Contributing Author:

Jennifer Britton's book Effective Group Coaching was the first book in the world to be published on the topic of group coaching. Celebrating its 15th year, Jennifer's Group Coaching Essentials and Advanced Group and Team Coaching Practicum programs have become known as the must-do training in the area of group coaching. Focused on providing coaches with best practices in designing, marketing and implementing group coaching, the program has helped hundreds of coaches launch their own group and team coaching programs in a wide variety of settings. Together both courses are approved for 18.75 CCEs with the ICF - learn more here.

Learn more about Jennifer here >>

Image of Businesspeople underneath world map filled with powerful words by Robert Kneschke via Shutterstock

3 Comments

  1. Taylor Anderson

    It's nice that virtual coaching allows clients to get help when they need it, rather than waiting around. One of my friends may be interested in getting some coaching, so its good to learn about virtual coaching and its benefits. What are some tips you have for finding a great virtual coaching service?

    Reply
    • Emma-Louise

      Hi Taylor, glad this article was helpful!

      So, when you say "virtual coaching service" what do you mean? Perhaps Zoom or Skype? A video and audio system that allows you to see and coach your client?

      Reply
  2. Alice Carroll

    I like that you mentioned that there is still a level of anonymity involved in coaching service. I'm planning to look for women's executive coaching practitioners soon because I'm considering to start my own company in a few years. Making sure that I develop my managerial skills will surely bear fruit in the long run.

    Reply

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