I’ve noticed in the last week or so, an upsurge in the number of witty videos around showing people returning to office life. Some are better than others of course, but they all seem to run along the same theme; how do we readjust to being in-person again?

At the same time, we’ve been planning our first event since Covid for The Business Buyers Club members and wider community. We trialled a couple of virtual events during lockdown, with varying degrees of success, and this is the first time we’ve been ‘back in the room’. We always ran quarterly events in the past and they’ve been a great forum for past and present members to get together, share experiences and best practices, engage with live guest speakers and be the community we always wanted to create.

The shift in focus, plus the planning of some new services within The Club, has thrown up an interesting question about the learning programmes we run, and coaching in general. Is online coaching or in-person coaching better?

How much of our time is blended now between online relationships, zoom calls, teams etc. and regular calls, as opposed to the work which must be done face-to-face?

We just signed heads of terms again on our next deal, and that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t had two face-to-face meetings with the seller. I think the ability to be in a room, to talk to people face-to-face and get all the nuances of body language is difficult to replicate online.

Similarly, when you’re coaching a group live, you pick up on so much more. You can see someone who looks like they would like to ask a question, but for whatever reason, they hold back. And often the ones who hesitate offer greater and more considered insights than their louder or more confident group member. You just don’t get that with an online session.

There’s also something to be said for in-person accountability. If you’re doing an online course for example, where you control how and when you access the materials, are you more or less likely to complete it? Or are you more likely to do offline tasks when you’re reporting back in a live group the following month or week? There can be a temptation to hide when the programme is delivered online, to find excuses or just allow other life influences to get in the way.

I’ve seen that in our own programmes. When we ran monthly Elite courses our members were set tasks to complete for the next meeting the following month – setting up an acquisition vehicle for example or creating their website. We ask the same of members who follow our online programme. Nine times out of ten, the Elite members completed their tasks for the next session while Blueprint members seem to take longer. Live coaching drives momentum.

But you can’t ignore the convenience. No traffic (although I enjoy time in the car to listen to an audio book or soak up some music) no parking, no blocking out swathes of diary time, no late returns home.

Keen to investigate this issue a bit more, I asked one of our Elite course members about his experiences. His take on the coaching format was noteworthy;

“If you’re not interacting, you’re not really getting involved,” he said “You’re more passive, although it does depend on the individual. If you have interaction, and you’re participating, especially in a smaller group setting, it helps to lock in the content because you’ve actively had to think about it. You have to think;  does that make sense to me? You can ask questions and have an immediate response, which makes it a richer learning experience rather than watching something on an online.

“In a small group setting you start to get to know the people, you start to get to understand their thinking, their approach, their characteristics, and everything else. And naturally you gravitate towards certain people because they’re like-minded.”

This was interesting. Ased found people in the group he was in who he bounced off really well. So well, that he partnered up with two of them and they bought a business together. Would that have happened with an online only group?

Pre-covid I would’ve said probably not. But we recently had two members of our online course, who’d only ‘met’ on the monthly zoom sessions, who decided to join forces and JV. So maybe, as we’ve all become much more comfortable with interacting on video calls, we now find it easier to develop relationships that way too.

Ased finished by saying, “I’ve maintained some really good friendships through doing the course. You wouldn’t get that in a large auditorium style event or online. I’ve got friendships now that will probably last me a lifetime.”

This is hugely rewarding for us to hear. The whole concept of The Club was to build a community of like-minded people wanting to do deals and change their lives. This was an in-person group, but they used online between sessions to stay in touch and support each other.

Perhaps an influencing factor is numbers. Once a group of mentees goes beyond twelve or so, the opportunity to form close relationships with everyone in the room starts to dissipate. People focus on those sat physically closer or conversation splits off into smaller huddles.

The journey matters too. On an educational programme you’re more likely to have the end in mind, whether that’s a qualification or diploma of some kind. In a mentoring group, there could be an end goal; to buy a business for example. But more often the focus is on development, and the individual goals of people in the group will be different, even though you’re on the journey together.

Online coaching has had a significant impact in the health and wellbeing sector. A friend of mine who is a mental health practitioner, has seen a huge increase in online sessions. She attributes this to the more intimate nature of a one-to-one video call, especially when discussing sensitive subjects. The separation can be less challenging and confrontational, which often encourages people to be more open. Understanding this dynamic, perhaps through using online calls in other areas of their life, has meant more people have sought help and treatment. During and in the wake of covid, mental health has become a key focus for many of us.

From a marketing perspective, online coaching opens up new markets, and opportunities to do business on a national or international level. It can drive down costs in some instances too, which makes coaching accessible to people who may have previously been excluded – more on the whole pricing debate in next weeks blog!

Perhaps a hybrid of the two coaching styles provides the ultimate experience. We’ve all got over seeing ourselves on screen now, and no one can argue it’s often the most convenient solution when you need a quick meeting. But can you really beat the experience of being in a room and bouncing off others?

What’s your view? Do feed back your thoughts in the comments.


If you’re interested in our next live event, click here for all the details.