Phone based programs continue to make up a large percentage of my programming, especially in the winter months. I also really enjoy working with group members all over the world, and this is often one of the consistent pieces of feedback I receive after running teleclasses, virtual retreats and group coaching programs by phone. It is encouraging to see more virtual programs being offered, and being filled.
I've got many posts on what makes phone based program work well, including:
Group Coaching By Phone: 4 Things to Keep in Mind
Virtual Program Tips
Teleclasses and Teleseminars: 5 Tips
So what gets in the way with phone-based (and virtual) programs?
1. Technology - Technology does not always work. Case in point, a new group I started running last week. Everyone except for myself and one other participant dropped off at the hour mark, with no other warning (such as bells indicating that people had left). It was only through the posing of a question to the group, and a email that came in from one of the participants that
Solution: Have a back-up and always let group members know in advance what they should do if they get bounced off the line *i.e. try again and check email for instructions if an alternative bridgeline needs to be accessed.
Don't panic as a facilitator, and keep in mind you may still be heard or visible. I was on a virtual call as a participant a few weeks ago and the faciliator thought that they had lost us. Little did they know that we could in fact hear their swearing and reaction. Do not panic!
2. Lack of connection felt by the group - It is surprising how facilitators overlook how important it is to build connection amongst group members. Connection is an essential ingredient for group coaching, and is an important foundation even with a telesemianr or teleclass which may be more content focused. Engagement levels will be impacted if group members do not feel connected with the host and/or others.
Solution: Consider how you can build connection (as appropriate) amongst group members. If it is an extended program are you giving air time for everyone to speak? Are you encouaging that people send out a bio/photo between calls? For one-off engagements are you posing questions to the group which they can respond to verbally, by email/chat or by using their key pad?
3. The multi-tasking mindset - The multi-tasking mindset can be common place for many of us. What can you do to capture people's attention and keep it focused.
Solution: Consider these questions: Are you making a request for people to disconnect from other technologies? Are you changing the pace frequently (ie. every 5-7 or 10 min)? Are you creating opportunities for individuals to pause and engage at their desk?
What other pitfalls may exist for you in your phone-based program? What can you do to avoid them?
Have a great week,
Jennifer Britton, PCC, CPCC
Author of Effective Group Coaching (Wiley, 2010) and From One to Many: Best Practices for Team and Group Coaching (Jossey-Bass, 2013)
Host of the Group Coaching Essentials program (6.75 CCEs starting Friday May 3 at 10:30 am Eastern) and the Mentor Coaching Group (starting Friday May 10 at 9am Eastern)