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Event Highlights: Understanding the Differences Between Face-to-Face & Online Virtual Facilitation

Thursday, May 23, 2019 9:20 AM | Kevin Smith

On Thursday May, 16, 31 Madison-area learning and development professionals gathered at CUNA Mutual Group for the May meeting of ATD-MAC. Lee Johnsen, CPLP led a workshop titled “Understanding the Differences Between Face-to-Face & Online Virtual Facilitation.”

Johnsen is the founder of Partners in Development, a firm focused on closing gaps in workplace performance, and the author of Literally Virtually: Making Virtual Teams Work.

“If our goal is to improve performance, we need to do more than provide resources,” said Johnsen. “Many don’t realize that live, online facilitation takes more planning, more practice, and more purpose. It’s more complex than in-person facilitation.”

The workshop began with a discussion on the differences between face-to-face and live, online facilitation. Attendees shared stories of bad virtual learning experiences, often the result of low quality technological connection or a lack of two-way engagement.

Effective virtual facilitation requires well-planned logistics. It also requires participant interaction, which can be as simple as participant chat. Several workshop participants attested to the value of a “workshop producer,” in addition to the role of the facilitator. A workshop producer “supports the facilitator during the session by handling the technology as far as creating polls, moving participants in and out of breakout groups, and troubleshooting technical issues.” After the session, the producer also evaluates the effectiveness of the technology and the learning itself.

Many saw the highlight of the workshop as an activity on vocal techniques to engage participants. In a virtual setting, audio quality and techniques like volume, pitch, and inflection are incrementally more important than in a face-to-face session. Everyone in attendance recorded a brief soundbite of a workshop introduction, receiving feedback from other learners.

ATD-MAC will continue the conversation on virtual learning this November at the “All Things” Online event. Look for more information in the coming months - and please save the date for ATD MAc’s annual summer social, a picnic at Token Creek Park. Join us on Thursday, June 20th for networking, food, drinks, and fun in the sun! This event is free, but advanced registration is required!

The slides from the session will be posted to the Members Only section of ATDMAC.org. While there, be sure to check out the Ascendis Leadership Academy! As a valued ATD-MAC member, you have complimentary access to the Ascendis Leadership Academy for 2019. Use this site to develop your skills whether you are a current leader, hope to move into a leadership position or want to simply develop yourself.


By Ryan Panzer
Ryan Panzer is a trainer and instructional designer at Zendesk's Madison office where he is currently working to launch a coaching program. Prior to working for Zendesk Ryan trained sales and customer support teams at Google's Ann Arbor office. Ryan is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has recently completed ATD's CPLP certification. He is passionate about Badger football and building cultures of learning.

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