Declaring Winter Break on the Virtual Facilitation Guide

2020 has been a rough eleven years. Among infinite sources of roughness, this year forced many of us to pivot to virtual facilitation. It also forced us to get comfy with the word “pivot,” even to the point of using it ourselves (unironically – how dare you, 2020!). As the exhaustion mounts from pivoting and using the word pivoting, we thought it best to take a break.

Until 2021, we’re going to take a break from saying the word “pivoting.” Oh, and we’re also pausing the updates to the Virtual Facilitation Guide. That latter one is what I’m actually here to say.

When we launched the Virtual Facilitator Cards Facilitation Guide a few months ago, it was a learning experience for all of us, on every front.

We wanted what we created to be helpful to all of you, of course. But more importantly we endeavored to create platform where you could respond, contribute, constructively criticize, and we could all learn from one another.

Like you (I assume), virtual facilitation is still new territory for Meg and I, that we’re actively exploring. We learn an uncomfortable amount every time we lead another workshop on Zoom.

It took about a decade of in-person facilitation, leading hundreds of workshops (thousands?), before I felt comfy facilitating train-the-trainers. Knowing I could anticipate the needs of most of the would-be facilitators in the room, identify the gaps in their abilities and knowledge, and competently guide them to the other side of the ravine, building a bridge together.

I don’t have anywhere close to that much experience in virtual facilitation. Most of us don’t. So we need to make up for individual years of experience with collective insight.

When we publish a new virtual facilitation activity, like this 10/10/10 Analysis on Zoom I wrote up a few weeks ago, we’ve tested it ourselves. It worked. For us. In our setting. With our people.

Without hearing back about the activities we’re publishing, we can’t be confident they’re helpful for you. Or more broadly, for most facilitators in most settings (which is the bar we set for ourselves to clear). We don’t even know if the app itself is at all useful (we have traffic numbers, but no story to make sense of them).

Since we launched the guide, we’ve gotten zero activity submissions and zero replies to the activities we published. No constructive criticism. No stories of resounding success. No anything. Now, I’m not sharing those stats in the spirit of pressure or shame or even negatively-valenced encouragement – but merely as an I get it.

Because what we have heard back, lots and lots, is a chorus of, “I’m not putting anything new on my calendar until 2021.” And oof do we feel you on that.

Hence the declaration of a winter break (summer break for our friends in the Southern Hemisphere – I’m looking at all you new card-carrying facilitators in Australia and New Zealand!). No more activities will be added until 2021. No ask or even want for community feedback and submissions.

There’s already a good bunch of activities there for you to use if you’re Zoom facilitating in the meantime. Whether you’re looking to surface emotions, brainstorm ideas, get clarification from the group, or execute on decisions, you’ll find abundant inspiration.

I’ve also written up a couple of agendas stitching together a few of the published activities with detailed instructions you can use. There’s one agenda that’s great for facilitating deep introspection, and one that sets your participants up for a decision the whole group will feel invested in.

But no more will be published.

Let’s direct whatever energy this godforsaken year has left us with toward quality time with loved ones (socially-distanced as it might be), wonderful spicey scents (get those right up in your face), and glittering lights.

If you don’t hear from me again, I wish you a happy Hanukkah, a wonderful Winter Solstice, a festive Kwanzaa, a joyous Three Kings Day, and a “merry Christmas, you filthy animals – and a Happy New Year!"

We’ll be back at it over at in January. And we hope to see you there, then. But not until then. No pivoting, we promise.