Tips for Coaching in the Virtual World

The different challenges of online vs face to face meetings

Working online provides different challenges than face to face meetings. The principles below create a form of contracting, that is intended to be helpful:

Individual Work

  • Ensure you are familiar with the technology platform you will be using so that you can provide guidance to your client.
  • Have a clear system whereby clients know how to access the platform you are using i.e. MS Teams or Zoom and whether you need to invite them to connect beforehand or provide them with an invitation link
  • Ensure you both have a good broadband connection and that you are in a private space. It is also ideal to have a professional backdrop when your camera is on; no one wants to see your wet washing in the background!
  • Use a PC rather than a phone and sit close to the computer facing the camera at eye level; not looking down into your laptop as others experience you looking down a hole at them.
  • Notice the lighting. Maybe check with the other person that they can see you and you are not too dark. Sometimes sitting in front of a window is not good.
  • In Zoom you can change the settings so that your client will be on screen immediately by camera, however you may want to help them discover this for themselves so that they learn how to take themselves on and off camera in case they ever need to.
  • Arrive for your session online a little early so you can ensure your technology is working on that day. This will also give you time to be grounded and present ahead of the session.
  • Sometimes it is helpful to wear headphones to minimise background noise. Alternatively, if you do not have headphones then using the mute button occasionally may be helpful. Close off all other internet applications during the session to manage your presence and to ensure that this does not impact the transmission speed of your connection.
  • If you do have to look at other documents, then let clients know that’s what you are doing. i.e. In coaching you may be taking notes and breaking eye contact and unlike real life they cannot see you doing this.
  • If you have problems with your connection during the session you may want to try muting your audio, keeping your camera on and dialling in by phone at the start of session or during your contracting have an agreement with your client about what you will both do if technical problems begin.
  • Check with your client whether they want to record the session and what the protocol is for saving the recording, sending of the recording, and eventual deletion.
  • In Zoom, the saving and downloading of the recording will occur as soon as the meeting has ended this will take time to format, however you can then send the link to your client.

Working with Groups

 Working with groups online may require more structure and guidelines than one to one sessions although most of the above tips are relevant:

  • Start on time. It is even more important than face to face meetings otherwise people are literally left hanging and will start to do other things.
  • Some platforms allow you to control the settings of your participants and you may want to have their cameras available and open from the moment they join, so that people are not spending too much time trying to find how to start video button.
  • If anyone's connection becomes too problematic and it is distracting for other members of the group, then you may have to ask them to leave the session. It may be helpful for them to disconnect and then try to reconnect for a better reception, however as the group leader you might reserve the right to make the decision (about not continuing and possibly watching the recording) on behalf of the group if it is affecting the experience for all
  • Latecomers on groups should be advised in pre-session guidelines to settle themselves and ensure camera and audio are working first. You can welcome them as and when there is an appropriate break in the conversation so that there is not too much disruption for everyone.
  • You may want to set a rule that suggests how late people can be before forfeiting the session.
  • Have a clear policy on recording of the session and what the group can do with that recording. e. is it just for personal use?
  • Some platforms allow syndicate or breakout rooms. However, for example Zoom does not record breakout rooms. Again, ensure you know fully how to do split participants into the rooms beforehand, so you do not lose any of your participants in a telephonic abyss!
  • Advise your group that if they need to disengage from the session for any reason, to leave the connection open, place themselves on mute and turn off the camera so that everyone is not looking at the empty room, while they are gone
  • Take breaks if these meetings are longer than 90 minutes but leave the connection open so people will come back to the session at slightly different times so like real life, they can chat to each other until everyone arrives
  • Use settings where you can see everyone at the same time on the screen gallery.
  • Create a rule where everyone keeps themselves on mute unless speaking as microphones pick up a lot of background noise. This avoids putting up with irritating low-level noise such as squeaky chairs, necklaces, clicking pens, barking dogs, coughing and sneezing.
  • If a large group, they may want to raise their hand when taking themselves off mute so that they are easily seen by the facilitator. Some very large groups will require the use of the chat button so they can type in questions to be answered later in the session or even after the session. Zoom will automatically save the chat conversation for the host.

Please contact Julia, if you'd like to discuss any aspects of online coaching further.