Shift Perspectives

woman holding a paper sign with yes written

I miss CONNECTING with participants!?

Apr 23, 2021

  • By Sukran Balaban and
  • By Moe Poirier and

Connection. A shared experience. Acts of generosity. A string of light bulb moments. 

Connection. A shared purpose. Acts of service. A source of satisfaction and fulfillment.

Connection. It’s what many facilitators are craving. More than anything else, many have told us it’s they have missed most since making the great leap to virtual in 2020. 

There’s a glimmer of hope. A courageous few have refused to accept Connection’s absence. Boldly, some facilitators are challenging the assumption that it will never be the same. 

The secret to finding Connection virtually, as we’ve witnessed it, starts with being honest about the fact that you miss it and why it’s important to you. 

After that’s out in the open, then you have to decide that Connection matters enough to you that you’re willing to reimagine and relearn it. 

Next, you engage in the process of experimentation – noticing when you have Connection, and shaping it into a set of reliable habits.

Ready to kick-start Connection in your virtual facilitation practice? Here’s a few pro tips to help you accelerate your progress.

Shift your mindset.. tell yourself it’s possible…

  • Don`t be fooled by the perceived limits of your tools. Get creative with the basic repertoire! Use Chat-storms. Unleash a wave of Stamps. Start an epic Giphy competition.
  • Trust your instincts. What are your Connection superpowers in a face-to-face experience? How might you reimagine bringing those strengths to life in a virtual room?
  • Experiment. Improvise a little. Let go of making it exactly how it used to be. 

Strengthen your virtual presence… 

  • Use your webcam to help the audience feel like they have eye contact with you. 
  • Check your lighting, camera angle, posture, and background. Make it as easy as possible for your participants to see you and feel connected with you.
  • Don`t let the technology make you sound like a robot. Make it as easy as possible for your participants to hear the energy in your voice and feel connected to you. 

Create some room for Connection to happen… 

  • What if the seeds of Connection were planted before the session started? Reach out. Say hello and introduce yourself. Open a discussion or chat.
  • You have to invest. How are you prioritizing Connection? What time and effort will you need to give it a chance to grow?
  • Show some empathy and make the participants’ experience and insights relevant. Step into their world. See what they see. Feel what they feel.

Give your participants a chance to use their voice…

  • Make room for dialogue. Connection requires a two-way conversation. 
  • Be vulnerable. Share ideas, interests, feelings. Invite participants to do the same.
  • Be open. Invite diverse perspectives. 
  • Be specific. Ask a focused question on a specific topic or theme.
  • Erase the boundaries of the classroom. Collect inputs, examples, scenarios, questions and encourage discussions before and after your sessions. 

Use virtual tools as your Connection advantage…

  • Purposefully stop sharing slides for group discussions and move to gallery view to increase the feeling of connection participants have with you and with each other.
  • Know the strengths and limitations of your tools. Whenever possible, choose the platform and apps that best support the audience, interaction, and outcomes you want to achieve. 
  • Something will go wrong. Relax. Be flexible. Even laugh and have some fun with it if you can. Grace under pressure earns you trust, respect, and strengthens connection.

We’re cheering for you. Good luck. Connection is definitely worth all the effort.

And for those of you already making a strong virtual Connections, what tips and best practices would you share for other facilitators to experiment with?

About The Authors:
  • Sukran Balaban is naturally curious. She combines a creative spirit with an anlaytical mind in her work as a learning consultant and facilitator. On client projects, she is known for applying her rich interdisciplinary experiences to simplify complexity and transform theory into practical applications.

  • Moe Poirier is the Founding Partner of Shift Facilitation. For over 15 years, he has honed his craft as a facilitator and a designer of training. He is on a mission to have corporate trainers reinvent themselves as change agents and value creators for the people and organizations they serve.