Reaching through the Screen – Online vs In-Person Coaching

I don’t know where you are based, but I must say that in the weeks leading up to Christmas, I was so happy that I have an online coaching business, rather than seeing clients in my office.

The traffic all around town was horrid. And I live in the tropics, where the only way that traffic gets back up by weather is in the case of a tropical downpour, which might last an hour or two. The moment it stops raining, unless it just happens to be high tide at exactly the same time, the rain water drains off and runs out to sea in minutes.

Today, I was reading that in some town in Minnesota, there were some 400 car accidents caused by the ice and snow. Needless to say, businesses were considering whether or not to close. This would be one of those days that I would also be happy to have an online coaching business rather than seeing clients in-person.

But weather is not the only deciding factor in how to set up your coaching practice or choose your coach. It’s only one of the conveniences to consider.

Advantages of online coaching

One of the biggest advantages of choosing to get an online coach, rather than in-person, is that it opens up the scope of choice. I don’t know where you live. Perhaps you have a lot of choices already available to you, within a short distance. But ask yourself this: how far are you willing to drive to get to your coaches office?

At a time like Christmastime, it’s great to be able to simply avoid the traffic altogether by having sessions online, rather than in person. You also don’t have the risk of missing the appointment or arriving late because of a flat tire or another inconvenience.

If you have early morning or late evening sessions with your coach, you could be in pajamas for all they know. You could also squeeze your session in during your lunch break, since you don’t have to drive there, or adjust it to your schedule as best suits you.

These are just some of the advantages of having an online coach.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t disadvantages. Consider these:

Disadvantages of online coaching

You might be missing out on having a change in scenery or environment by staying home or staying in your office. This could also mean that you have less privacy, because you don’t necessarily have a silent space for the call. Additionally, if you have kids, you might find that the ignore the request to stay out while you are on the call and you get interrupted.

Other legitimate concerns could be about online privacy, irrespective of the platform being used. Can it be hacked? Will the session be recorded? What happens if your internet connection is unstable and the call drops off part way through?

Another potential disadvantage to online coaching is that it is harder to build rapport online than it is when you meet in person. So, it could take you longer to build the confidence and relationship with your coach.

Finally, when you are online, the coach can only see that part of your body that is showing through the camera. If they are relying on body language to assess your responses – are they getting the full picture? They will not be able to see whether you are tapping your foot nervously or fidgeting with your hands. How important are these cues for the coaching environment and your feedback?

How to choose your coach

While it might be easier to decide in person whether or not there is a rapport with the coach, you can still review and vet an online coach in pretty much the same way. Irrespective of whether you go for online or in-person, you still want to look at their references, read their materials (online or brochure) and get a sense of their values.

Depending on the type of coaching you are looking for, their professional background before becoming a coach might be highly relevant. What is their full professional background? Do they have Human Resources or management experience? Do they come from a finance or health background? What are the skills you are looking for and how does their background complement this?

Be willing to explore the coaches life a little more. Do they live up to the values and philosophy they espouse? Can you see congruence and alignment between their message and their life? How does their personal experience measure up to the results they are promising you?

Take a moment to check their social presence and references. Do they have testimonials? When you are reading their testimonials, are they specific with detailed examples? Or just character references? Can you see that they are results oriented towards what you are looking for?

Your coaching setting

Once you have a coach, it’s time to start the coaching sessions. If you have chosen to meet in-person – make sure you are comfortable with the setting. Does it offer the privacy that you expected?

Just because you have an in-person coaching session does not necessarily mean that it has to be in an office or conference room. You could meet in a coffee shop or even have a walking session (which I have heard are really great sessions, although I have never personally experienced one). I’ve even had a friend that had an amazing coaching session while out paddle-boarding.

Talk about guaranteeing privacy and stretching you beyond your comfort zone!

Where ever the session is, whether in-person or online, make sure that you can insure that you are free of interruptions. Can you speak freely and hear each other well? Is background noise limited? What distractions might you expect? There is nothing more frustrating that an unstable internet connection and being unable to hear the other person because they keep breaking up as they are speaking.

There are many options for a coaching setting:

  • Dedicated home office
  • Conference room in a shared office
  • Coffee shop with a secluded area
  • Hotel conference room or meeting room
  • Office sharing spaces where you can rent a workstation or conference area

Whatever you choose, make sure that you feel safe and comfortable with the space, the sound quality and the camera (if online).

Remember the purpose of coaching:

At the end o0f the day, the real question is whether the coaching session provides you with the experience you expect, to get your expected outcome. The outcome you are looking for might be:

  • Raising your standards – whether in your personal life, spiritual areas, business and entrepreneurship or your professional life
  • Improve your motivation and output
  • Correct performance issues
  • Overcome personal obstacles
  • Focus on new career goals and challenges
  • Establish goals and take consistent action toward achieving them.

Whatever your purpose, the coaching sessions should help you gain perspective and receive independent feedback from someone that is detached from the situation. Your coach will typically be an independent third party that provides you with a personal awareness of your blind spots.

As such, they can help you with assessment and planning for improvement. Your coach will support you as you improve specific skills, provoke you to think and reason differently, as well and change and modify your behavior as a result of self-awareness.

Finally, your coach will provide you with accountability – someone that is holding you to the standard of keeping your word and promises to yourself.

It doesn’t matter whether this is in person or online – coaching can be equally effective in making sure that you reach your goals.