Online Facilitation tips by Steve Pratt

Online Facilitation Tips By Steve Pratt, VP Operations, Support & Training at Aleph Hospitality


In today’s dynamic and diverse work environment, online meetings have swiftly evolved from a convenient option post-pandemic to an indispensable pillar of business culture, and have emerged as the lifeblood of modern collaboration.

As organisations navigate the complexities of the future of work, the ability to conduct online meetings effectively has become vital. In my role as a learning & development professional I spend much of my time as a faciliator – both in-person and online. In this blog, I would like to explore the nuances in facilitating virtual meetings and training to optimise communication and engagement in the workplace.

1 – Prepare Yourself

As an online facilitator you don’t have as much information about your delegates as you would in person. You have fewer clues as to how the content is landing, it’s harder to feel the energy in the room, and it’s more challenging to grasp who may be struggling to understand or is distracted. Therefore, if we can intentionally try to increase our self-awareness and enhance our ability to notice, or to quote Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: ‘be in the zone’, then this can help.


Preparation is key. Take the time to calm your mind before you start that Zoom or Teams meeting, just like you would before walking into a room of people. This could be a minute of focused breathing or a meditation exercise to help you be more present.  A short mental preparation can raise your awareness and put you in a better state of mind to facilitate an online session.


2 – Make the Audience Connection

With in-person meetings or training there will often be an icebreaker or warm up exercise at the start of a session, which is often overlooked when it comes to online facilitation. In the same way that you need to prepare yourself before the start, it will also be beneficial to prepare your audience to be ready to listen or learn. This could again be a breathing exercise, a meditation style minute or two, or even some stretches that cross the midline of the body to help stimulate neural pathways.

Online it is also more important to continue connection throughout the session – here are some tips to help:

  • Request that cameras always be on
  • Remove distractions – ask delegates to close other windows on their device, place phones on silent and/or turn off notifications, etc.
  • Use the chat box and other interactive tools such as online polls
  • Change something on the screen at least every 60 seconds
  • Look for opportunities for humour and laughter

Bringing more focus to audience connection will enable them to be more open to learn and absorb the content more effectively.


3 – Positively Influence Relationships

With any training session there are many interrelationships at play – especially between the facilitator, the delegates and the content. There are many practical things we can do to influence these relationships to help people learn. Here are a few suggestions which can help in online facilitation:

Use breakout rooms – just as in a face-to-face training many people feel more comfortable sharing their ideas in a smaller setting.

Use a real whiteboard that the audience can see on your camera – some people feel uncomfortable typing onto a virtual whiteboard due to concerns about spelling etc., especially when working with people where English is not their first language.

Tell more stories – its one of the most engaging ways to communicate, try to add more storytelling into your online sessions.

Adopting the right mindset, preparing the delegates to learn, and using the right tools and methods to influence the inter-relationships will help to foster connection in an online environment.

I strongly believe in lifelong learning and as leaders and facilitators we can learn from every online meeting and training we facilitate. I look at the interrelationships that take place in each session and how I could have positively influenced them. This has led to the discovery that content is no longer king, but it’s the connection that’s paramount for success. Through heightened noticing in my own training practice, I changed elements such as the tools I use, my mindset as a trainer, interaction with delegates and the way I consider each new context. My value is not so much in the delivery of content, but more as a facilitator that creates an environment to allow relationships to develop and collaboration to thrive.

About Steve Pratt

Steve Pratt is a VP for Operations, Support, and Training at Aleph Hospitality. His responsibility is to devise and execute learning solutions for fostering the growth and development of our teams. This entails working closely with the Aleph team to administer training and coaching programs, conducted both online and through routine visits to our hotels. Additionally, Steve has recently attained a Master’s degree in Transdisciplinary Practice. As a facilitator himself, Steve’s insights on online facilitation are valuable for professionals in the workplace seeking to enhance their skills in this area.

About Aleph Hospitality

Aleph Hospitality is a leading hospitality management company specializing in the development and management of hotels across Africa and the Middle East. With a focus on delivering exceptional guest experiences and maximizing owner returns, Aleph Hospitality offers a range of services including hotel management, asset management, and consulting. Through strategic partnerships and a commitment to operational excellence, Aleph Hospitality continues to expand its footprint and set new standards in the hospitality industry.