Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Welcome to Facilitation Stories, where we discover how facilitators ended up in the profession, and how facilitation methods, principles and techniques are used more widely. Brought to you by IAF England and Wales. For more information on our chapter, click here.

May 11, 2021

In today’s episode, host Helene Jewell talks about returning back to face-to-face facilitation after a year spent moving facilitation online due to the pandemic.

Helene first talks to Camilla Gordon, freelance facilitator, trainer and consultant, and a winner of an IAF Facilitation Impact Award, about her experiences about face-to-face facilitation in the past year.

Camilla talks openly about her need to be with clients face to face, as she wasn’t built for an office job, or to be stuck behind her desk. She also talks about how ensuring people keep distanced in sessions goes against everything she believes in as a facilitator who is bringing people together.

During their conversation Camilla talks about the practical steps that she took to ensure that the space was covid-secure. That included having the right materials for each person, as well as ensuring that the workshop was delivered in the most appropriate space. She also talks about the need to design the process around people who are distancing, for example you need to redesign your usual activities when you can’t have people huddled round a table writing things all together, but you still need to achieve a feeling of collaboration. Ideas that Camilla shares include having a line 2m from the flipcharts, so that whoever stepped into the area had a safe space to speak. Doing pair work seated to ensure the physical barrier helps to maintain the necessary distance. Taking people outside for group work.

When it comes to responsibility Camilla talks about how this is shared between herself and the client. Her role was to ensure that she sets out the minimum expectations, and how she will direct the group to ensure they follow the rules. Whilst the client is responsible for ensuring that the group are comfortable coming back together in the room, and that they understand the need to follow Camilla’s direction whilst in the space. Camilla also makes sure that the group know that if they have concerns that they should bring them to her, and she will then make the necessary adjustments.

Helene reflects that this is an extension of the usual role of the facilitator of making sure that you are keeping an eye out that everyone is psychologically safe and that they’re able to participate equally in the process.

Helene asks Camilla what she has learnt, what she is bringing back from virtual facilitation to face-to-face and the advice that she would give other facilitators. Here's a summary of all those tips

  • Trust your gut – know what you are and aren’t comfortable with, and if you’re uncomfortable then say no
  • Be prepared – both physically (as you are going to be exhausted) as well as with your process. Wear your trainers and take plenty of chocolate. Have more frequent and longer breaks for both you and your group. Think about different learning styles and make sure you’re accessible and inclusive.
  • Reach out to other facilitators for their advice – there is a great community of IAF Facilitators & Friends that you can speak to.
  • Be playful – by moving sessions online Camilla reminded herself that as long as she is having fun with a creative exercise, her groups will have fun with it too. And she’s bringing that back with her to face-to-face sessions.
  • Make sure you’re ok with it before you go to your clients with a plan


Camilla has written a blog about her experiences, which you can read on her website: and you can connect with Camilla on Twitter


Next, we have an audio clip from Barb Pederson, a Certified Professional Facilitator from Canada, where she shares some of her experiences from the last year, along with her top tips.

Barb speaks about her experiences in November 2020 of facilitating a mixture of face-to-face and hybrid events. In preparation for the events she read various articles with top tips for managing the space, but in Canadian winter they weren’t always options for her!

Barb focuses on the steps that she took before the sessions. Firstly, she would recommend speaking directly with all the participants beforehand, to ensure they understand the covid protocols which will be followed during the session.

Secondly, she developed a contract for her clients that identified each parties’ responsibilities when it came to all the required protocols. It is important to confirm these at the start of each day with your participants, as they can become relaxed during the sessions and need a reminder.

Thirdly, she talks about the importance of ventilation and having windows and doors open where possible. Barb also talks about the need to be prepared for surprises when you do go to the venue and it isn’t as you expected.

Finally, Barb talks about having visible signs to indicate the relevant distances, and that her group didn’t have any issues being heard through masks and at distance.

You can connect with Barb on Twitter.

Our co-host Pilar Orti pops in at the end to share a few pieces of information that we received when we asked our community to share their tips.

Replying to our Facilitation Stories tweet Martin Gilbraith talks about being happy to keep his work online, so turning down face-to-face work. From the IAF Global Slack Pinar Akkaya talks about doing small group work with less than 6 people and following the guidelines issued by the venue which the sessions were held in.

If you’d like to contribute to a future podcast, talk about one of the recent IAF Meetups then you can find all on contact information on our website: