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So You Want to be an Online Facilitator?

Nancy White
Last edited 1/02

I think we are at a "cusp" time where there are opportunities, but they are rarely found in job listings. They are found through relationships. With the pullback of the commercial "online community" sector (commercial) it may look scary, but I see opportunities to use online communications tools for a wide variety of purposes and many need good facilitation. Thus it may be more of an internal job (increase capacity within organizations to facilitate their online interactions) or a consultants field. We shall see.

Corporate: Teams/events

Some companies and organizations have recognized the value of the online facilitator. Not many are yet willing to pay for it. Some are creating jobs and training folks internally. Others just want to stick the job on someone's already too-big to-do list. Yet others bring in consultants to help with initial deployment of online interaction spaces or large, time-delimited events. One way to gain some visibility with these organizations to post on the onlinefacilitation, emoderators, community_managers_hosts, and com-prac lists on Yahoogroups. Some of the key corporate insiders read these lists. They are a good place to be visible and demonstrate your knowledge and intuitive online skills!

Some of the roles in this environment are:

  • Online interaction strategist
  • Consult on tool selection and deployment
  • Create and maintain online environments
  • Facilitate teams
  • Coach other facilitators
  • Train

Online Events

Another set of opportunities I'm seeing are online events. For example, I'm both producing and facilitating small events for non-profits. Right now they are all at the "one person band" level, but I suspect they will grow and people like me will be needing to find more peopleto work with. Other folks in this arena are: Rheingold and Associates http://www.rheingold.com , Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine at http://www.SocialAlchemy.com, Lisa Kimball at http://www.GroupJazz.com, and Mihaela Moussou at http://www.Knowise.com. Cultivate relationships with them. It is a small circle!

Some of the roles in this environment are:

  • Online event strategist
  • Create and maintain online event environments (design and technical)
  • Facilitate events
  • Coach other facilitators
  • Train others to design/build/run online events

ELearning (Corporate and Academic)

I have a small contract to provide online facilitators to an e-learning company. If they make it through this tough, competitive period, they may need more. Right now it is probably painful for them to pay, but they have made the commitment to a facilitated model. We'll see what the market says. Again, another "cusp" point -- but look at e-learning companies for opportunities. The subset is universities adding e-learning. There is a LOT happening in this area. Following the emoderators list on Yahoogroups and getting the daily http://www.elearningpost.com e-zine is how I keep up with this market segment, plus I keep in touch with people who train online tutors and educators. Another interesting group!

Some of the roles in this environment are:

  • Online education strategist (with grounding in adult education)
  • Create and maintain online learning environments
  • Teaching assistance
  • Teaching
  • Train and coach other teachers


Working Through/For Software Vendors

Some online interaction software vendors often provide facilitation to clients and thus either hire or sub out for facilitators. Some provide training.


For documented experience, a strong volunteer gig is worth its weight in blood, sweat and tears. When you do a volunteer gig, ask if you can write up and share your experiences. Include quotes and screen shots as appropriate. Tell a good story. This is real work. It counts! And it does some good along the way for the world as well as for you.

Building Your Skills Inventory

Check out http://www.fullcirc.com/community/facilitips.htm -- catalog your skills. Cite examples and experiences in your resume. Get testimonials. Also, build on your general facilitation experience and expertise. There are many folks doing "online facilitation" who lack grounding in offline group facilitation. Having that experience can be a huge advantage.

It's a Small World After All

Finally, hanging out in online interaction conversation spaces and being visible. For example if you are interested in the non-profit sector, hang at the forums on http://www.helping.org, http://www.techsoup.org etc. For corporate training, the trdev list on Yahoogroups, education lists -- there are a ton of lists and spaces. It is a "who you know' market, but it is small enough that you can meet and get to know people pretty quickly.

Then, when we get past the cusp, we are all going to be so busy our heads will spin! I believe!

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