Tips on virtual Coaching practice

In my emerging experience, both phone and video can work well for coaching. One isn’t better than the other, but they are different. One of the key things from a Coaches perspective is to approach virtual coaching work positively, rather than it being seen as a substitute for face to face work. Many Coaches in today’s world work internationally and exclusively via virtual means.Because of the recent coronavirus crisis, I, like many other Coaches have had to move to working exclusively on a virtual basis, and hand on heart it has certainly challenged my pre-conceptions about virtual coaching.

Many people assume that face-to-face coaching must be better than virtual coaching. A recent coaching study found no difference in the reported level of problem resolution for face-to-face and distance clients.  The strength of the working alliance between Coach and client was found to be especially helpful for problem resolution in virtual coaching, and Coaches self-reported strong levels of working alliance in both face-to-face and virtual approaches.

At a recent virtual Coaches network I attended (virtually of course!) there were many reasons given about why virtual Coaching is a positive and enriching experience for the client and Coach. For example:

  • The client might be more comfortable and at ease in a space that they know well
  • Both the client and the Coach are saving time from what could have been a long and protracted commute; this allows flexibility in the timing for the session and a broader range of options in how to run the session
  • There is the opportunity with most virtual coaching conversations to record them that the client can go back and listen to reflectively afterwards (whilst being cautious about data protection aspects that might arise)
  • Many Coaches actually prefer coaching remotely – paradoxically they are more able to be present than worried about their own capabilities as a coach (Do I look the part? How am I being perceived?)
  • The core components of coaching include things like presence (how we relate to others) and impact (creating a shift in the room): these can be achieved in both face to face and virtual coaching

Practical tips; before, during and closing the session

Before the session

  • Check out the technology for both you and your client to make sure it’s going to work! It’s important to make sure it works from both sides and you understand the functionality of the medium whether its Skype., Zoom or other platforms like Team Viewer; these all have their positives and challenges
  • Bear in mind your clients’ wi-fi may be glitchy (as various family members may be accessing entertainment at home!) What’s your back-up plan if this keeps happening? (e.g. revert to phone: ensure you have your client’s telephone number in case you need to switch to a telephone)
  • Log in to platform 10 mins before a session starts. Close off all other internet applications during the session, to manage your presence and also to ensure that this does not impact the transmission speed of your connection
  • Adjust your environment to help keep your focus.  Move phones and other potential distractions out of the way
  • Ensure that both you and the other person are in a private, comfortable space where you won’t be interrupted
  • Think about what you already know about your experience about connecting well on line as a “pre-session boost” to help get you ready for the session
  • Think about your energy levels: if you are a morning person it may be better to avoid booking a session later in the day and vice versa
  • To support any exploratory work, you can ask your client to have a journal, paper and pens ready

During the session

  • Create a chance to settle in opening the session for the client so they have the opportunity to get settled before you start on the work; perhaps questions like “where are you?” and “how are you arriving today?”
  • Contracting aspects: Whilst you are going to cover all the usual aspects of the session contract — confidentiality, time, how you will work together — you will also need to contract for the things that are different when you are working online (e.g. security and confidentiality)
  • Challenge your own assumptions around creativity in the coaching session; it’s different from face to face but you may well be able to find ways of working differently with clients; e.g. asking the client to use pen and paper to jot down some meaningful words for them, using the “whiteboard” facility that most virtual platforms have to share a model/framework
  • Effective coaching in any setting requires focused attention on the other person. That can be tough when we’re coaching virtually, because of the pervasiveness of multitasking. A virtual coaching conversation is a special kind of interaction — very different from a typical conference call or online meeting, where we can often just partly tune in and still get the gist. When we’re coaching, the most important details are easy to miss, so its about focus, and perhaps thinking about how many sessions you book in a day as it can be very intense

Wrapping up the session

  • Coaching conversations tend to be wide-ranging, which makes them more meaningful and valuable. But this also means you’ll want to leave some time between the end of the session and the next event on the calendar. This enables both you and the person you’re coaching to reflect on the conversation and deepen the learning
  • As you would normally do with a client informally at the end of a session, it would be good to check on how they found the coaching session, especially using the virtual environment, and any changes you might want to make for next time

Security and confidentiality

  • Absolute security in the digital world does not exist
  • Carefully considered decisions need to be made by: ensuring that the virtual coaching platforms are accessible and acceptable to clients, taking reasonable steps to ensure adequate levels of security for the type of service being provided, and being vigilant in avoiding new threats to security as they arise in a rapidly changing field of practice and technology
  • Threats to security typically arise from technological failures, the behaviour of people involved, or unauthorised intrusion by third parties. Having some awareness and mitigating these potential threats is important


Remember: we are wired to connect, and just because you are working virtually does not mean you will not attune to your client. My experience is that, once you relax and are fully present, you will be in flow with your client. The virtual approach may well be where the future of mainstream Coaching lies, even if some Coaches are already there.