In recent months, inclement weather has paralyzed multiple regions across the United States, forcing the shutdown of businesses and schools and widespread travel cancellations. Wayne Pendle, a facilitator at Leadership Strategies, was unable to travel to Austin, TX, due to the severe weather. This impacted his ability to deliver onsite training to a division of Emerson Electric Company – a leading, multi-national manufacturing company. Through the use of effective engagement strategies, Wayne and the training sponsor of Emerson successfully carried out the training without Wayne’s physical presence.

“I’ve delivered several virtual facilitation training classes,” Wayne commented, “but this was the first time I had done something like this – where I was the only person remote with everyone else being together in the same room. This made it unique.”

Wayne and his 16 training participants at Emerson managed through the storm (figuratively and literally) to conduct the four-day training course, The Effective Facilitator. The sponsor worked collaboratively with Wayne to find solutions – the primary one being the use of a webcam, which allowed him to engage with the participants without being physically there.

Wayne explained, ““The sponsor had a video camera, which was very helpful. I was still able to instruct as normal and guide the group through exercises –  like the rotating flip charts, and I was able to zoom in just fine to watch the teams in the breakout group activities. I could also see if anyone raised their hand.”

The webcam made the training seamless enough, that the participants sometimes forgot that Wayne was “there.” He said with humor, “I even was able to see dysfunctional participants texting or multi-tasking and just simply reinforced our ground rules that I taught in the training. Not only did I model what we teach about managing dysfunction – I was able to model it virtually too, which many of the participants appreciated because they lead virtual meetings too.”

The use of a helpful, onsite person to help Wayne run the technology and assist with the facilitation setup was also a key factor to the training success. The sponsor, who had previously taken The Effective Facilitator, was able to act as Wayne’s physical proxy in preparing the flip charts, distributing course material, being Wayne’s “eyes and ears” onsite the session, and communicating with Wayne before the scheduled training on their contingency plan given the changed format of the training.

Wayne and the Emerson participants completed the training finding benefits to the virtual delivery. Wayne explained, “While there normally can be more heightened engagement in in-person training, I actually found this training to be more engaging. I think due to the circumstances, the participants were more willing to cooperate with the dynamics, and I was able to get their buy-in to help me facili-train virtually. Classroom buy-in, in fact, is something we teach, so this became a real-life model for what to do in that circumstance. Also, the participants got somewhat of a bonus by being able to get training in three different layers – the in-person training since they were all together, the part of training seen where only the facilitator is remote, and some hands-on practice with what to do if everyone was remote. We did virtual simulations.”

Wayne and the participants realized the importance of always having a contingency plan when it comes to facilitation. Today’s technology allows for facilitators and trainers to conduct sessions from anywhere, but virtual engagement is often lacking, causing less productive meetings and training. As a result, the need for facilitators and trainers to be more adaptable and equipped with skills to maximize the use of virtual tools is an emerging and important need.

Learn how to engage your remote participants with virtual facilitation training.