How engaging can a virtual meeting be? Join us to share and learn!

Our world and our client groups are increasingly moving online, so as facilitators we must be prepared move with them.  Virtual meetings can have advantages over face-to-face, but disadvantages too – not least, shorter attention spans and greater potential for distractions. How can we keep people engaged and focused when meeting online?

In this highly participatory, facilitated webinar hosted by IAF India, Martin Farrell & Martin Gilbraith of IAF England & Wales and Catherine Tornbom of the Virtual Facilitation Collaborative share some top tips and practical examples from their own experience and that of other professional facilitators, and invite you to share your some of your own experience and create your own top tips together. We also seek to demonstrate in the webinar itself just how engaging a virtual meeting can be!

Martin Farrell CPF has been facilitating international gatherings since his first assignment with the UN in 2002. Now entering his 6th decade of engagement with civil society organisations in the UK and internationally, he is in demand worldwide as a facilitator and moderator of conferences, meetings and groups large and small. He established his own consultancy, Get2thepoint, in 1999. He continues to play an active part in the vibrant worldwide community of facilitators having been Regional Director (Europe, Middle East, North Africa) of the International Association of Facilitators for three years to 2015.

Martin Gilbraith CPF CTF is an independent facilitator, trainer and consultant based in London. He is an IAF ‘Hall of Famer” and former IAF Chair and IAF Europe Director. He is former President of the Institute of Cultural Affairs International (ICAI), and an Associate and former Chief Executive of ICA:UK. He has been facilitating, specializing in ICA’s ToP facilitation methodology, since he began his career as an international volunteer with ICA India in 1986-87.

Catherine Tornbom CTF is a seasoned consultant, mediator, and Mentor Trainer with ICA-USA. She has successfully resolved issues involving management team conflict, poor communication, productivity roadblocks and stress in her professional work with clients ranging from government, business, nonprofits, education, and community collaboration. She is a partner in the Virtual Facilitation Collaborative supporting virtual teams to achieve their goals through effective online collaboration.


Thank you to the IAF India team for their invitation and to my co-hosts Martin Farrell of get2thepoint and Catherine Tornbom and Sunny Walker of the Virtual Facilitation Collaborative. Thanks also to all those who participated, and live tweeted on the #FacInd hashtag.

Session materials & additional resources shared include:


See also about mehow I workwho I work with and recommendations & case studies, and please contact me about how we might work together. Please do not delay before contacting me – the earlier I hear from you, the more chance that I will be able to help and the more helpful I may be able to be.

Register now on Eventbrite for my free facilitation webinars, and for my regularly scheduled ToP facilitation training courses in London and Brussels.

Another summer, another year of freelance facilitation

IAF India Conference, 2017 in Chennai - photo IAF India, facilitation Martin Gilbraith #ToPfacilitation #IAFIndia17 1

Another summer means another opportunity to pause and reflect, as in June I completed my fifth year in business as Martin Gilbraith Associates Ltd.  The image from last year’s IAF India conference in Chennai is of my plenary session subtitled “Reviewing the past to prepare for the future“. Like every good ORID process, a reflection or review must start with Objective level data.

The data tell me that in 2017-18 I have delivered 20 contracts for 16 clients in 6 countries, involving 20 face-to-face events and one virtual event and 10 facilitated processes and 11 facilitation training courses. Also that I spent 56 nights away from home, 3 in the UK and 53 abroad. That compares to 26 contracts involving 35 events in the previous year, and over the 5 complete years a total of 90 contracts to 53 clients in 18 countries involving 121 events – 109 face-to-face and 12 virtual, 69 facilitation and 52 training.  So it has been another busy year, albeit not quite such a bumper year as the previous, and a marked increase in the proportion of training to facilitation contracts.

Returning clients in the past year have included Amnesty InternationalGirls Not BridesLorensbergsOxfamWells for India and of course ICA:UK, and new clients have included the AlternativeArticle19CCLEdringtonEFFAEPIMGCFJMIC and NNC. So I have continued to work largely with international NGOs, foundations, associations, networks and alliances, largely in Europe and the Middle East and particularly in London and Brussels. However, the NGOs continue to include more campaigning as well as international development and humanitarian, the Associations continue to include industries as well as NGO networks, and new fields for me this year include Scotch whiskey, Danish politics and global catastrophic risks!

Somewhat fewer contracts this year has allowed somewhat more time for business and professional development.

In new partnerships with ICA:UK and ICA Associates I have extended my schedule of public facilitation training to include dates in London and Birmingham as well as Brussels and new courses of the new IAF-endorsed ‘ToP Facilitation Essentials’ programme, Meetings That Work and Facilitating Client Collaboration.

My networking and volunteering has been focused primarily on IAF England & Wales, where four regional groups totaling around 750 members are now hosting 5 or 6 meetups every month around the country, led by a virtual leadership team that meets monthly online. I finally joined IABC as a member this year, and became more active with IABC UK as well as presenting at EuroComm18 in Copenhagen, after collaborating for some years to build an informal partnership between IABC and IAF that resulted this year in a more formal MoU at the EMENA level.

I have also enjoyed opportunities to participate in and lead sessions at IAF conferences and events  during the year in Australia, Canada, France, India & Jordan, and at ICA regional gatherings in Nepal and Poland as well as in the UK.  I have been pleased to have been able to host five free facilitation webinars during the year, with colleagues of all of these networks that I respect very much. I am very excited to have begun collaborating with IABC past-President Michael Ambjorn and more than a dozen other IAF colleagues to co-author a book on the Power of Facilitation – for more as the project develops, follow us at @FacPower.

Since last summer’s 5-year review of participant feedback on my ToP facilitation courses, taster sessions & webinars I have been requesting post-course feedback 3-4 months after every training, so I hope to share some insights from that as well before long. Other substantial additions to this site during the year have included a series of cases studies on Responding to changing situations and needs with ToP Consensus Workshop, a new image gallery and (of course!) a Privacy policy.

With five public courses and half a dozen client contracts already in the pipeline for the autumn, another webinar and another IAF India conference and of course International Facilitation Week in Birmingham, it looks like there will continue to be plenty to blog about when I can find the time. Thank you for following!


See also about mehow I workwho I work with and recommendations & case studies, and please contact me about how we might work together. Please do not delay before contacting me – the earlier I hear from you, the more chance that I will be able to help and the more helpful I may be able to be.

Register now on Eventbrite for my free facilitation webinars, and for my regularly scheduled ToP facilitation training courses in London and Brussels.

Join IAF facilitators & friends – 20 October in Birmingham for International Facilitation Week, and more!

It’s the middle of summer holiday season in England & Wales so, if you’re not on holiday, what better time to be making plans for the autumn?

Our annual all-day Networking & Learning Meetup of all four of our regional facilitation meetup groups is now open for bookings – RSVP now, all welcome!

This will be a participant-led, peer sharing event – an opportunity for you to network, share and learn with up to 60 or more other facilitators and those who share an interest in facilitation. It will be one of dozens of such face-to-face and online events worldwide, promoting and celebrating the power of facilitation for International Facilitation Week. Sessions already confirmed include:

You are invited to share your own offers and requests for further sessions as well, and to bring a few of your favourite facilitation books and other resources to share with each other – for viewing only and/or for sale. We will provide free bookmarks! Also during the day we will celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the CPF programme, since the first CPFs worldwide gained their accreditation in Edinburgh in 1998, and we will celebrate the newest CPFs who gained their accreditation at the previous day’s CPF Assessment event in Birmingham on October 19.

You are also invited to learn practical tools to design facilitation approaches with your client in ‘ToP Facilitating Client Collaboration‘, one of three 2-day modules of the IAF-endorsed ‘ToP Facilitation Essentials’ training programme, October 18-19 with me and Bill Staples CPF at the same venue. Those arriving on Friday, or staying over from the preceding training and CPF assessment, are invited to gather to start their networking over dinner and drinks from 7pm.


It has never been easier to find a regular facilitation meetup near you in England & Wales. Ongoing monthly coffee meetups in Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds and London will be joined in the autumn by Warwick, in addition to our bi-monthly or quarterly afternoon learning meetups in each of the four regions. We are keen to support emerging local groups elsewhere as well, and are seeing interest particularly in Cambridge, Exeter, Manchester, Newcastle and Southampton already – so please contact me if you are interested to connect with others in these cities, or wherever you are.

For upcoming dates, and other opportunities for facilitation networking & learning, join our regional groups for London & SE, South WestMidlands & East & North, and connect with us online also on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Finally, IAF members in England & Wales are invited to nominate themselves or another member to stand for election to the chapter Board in 2018. Please contact me if you are interested to step up further to help to drive the growth and development of IAF E&W, to connect and support facilitators and to promote facilitation!


See also about mehow I workwho I work with and recommendations & case studies, and please contact me about how we might work together. Please do not delay before contacting me – the earlier I hear from you, the more chance that I will be able to help and the more helpful I may be able to be.

Register now on Eventbrite for my free facilitation webinars, and for my regularly scheduled ToP facilitation training courses in London and Brussels.

Facilitating a culture of participation in organizations: reviewing the past to prepare for the future with IAF Jordan

Thank you to everyone who participated in my session with IAF Jordan in Amman today – Facilitating a culture of participation in organizations: reviewing the past to prepare for the future.

In the session I demonstrated a participatory approach for a group to review the past, to prepare for the future, by applying the ToP (Technology of Participation) Historical Scan method to reflect and learn together from our diverse experience and perspectives on the past, present and prospective futures of participation in organizations and organizational change. We also considered practical ways that we ourselves can contribute to facilitating a culture of participation in our own organizations, and I shared some key insights, tips & tools that enable professional facilitators to engage people effectively in bringing about change and some practical examples from experiences of facilitating participation and organizational change in Europe and elsewhere.

Here I am sharing the slides (pdf) that I shared in the session, with embedded hyperlinks to case studies and further resources, and some of the feedback received via Facebook.

See also my ToP Historical Scan (‘Wall of Wonder’) overview in the IAF Europe Method of the Month, May 2007 (pdf) and Four steps to a universal principle of facilitation and learning.


See also about me, how I work, who I work with and recommendations & case studies, and please contact me about how we might work together. Please do not delay before contacting me – the earlier I hear from you, the more chance that I will be able to help and the more helpful I may be able to be.

Register now on Eventbrite for my free facilitation webinars, and for my regularly scheduled ToP facilitation training courses in London and Brussels.

Facilitator certification – what’s it like, and is it worthwhile?

Free facilitation webinar: Facilitator certification - what's it like, and is it worthwhile?Are you interested to learn more about facilitation, and ICA’s Technology of Participation (ToP) in particular – in a free, one-hour, interactive online session that offers an experience of virtual facilitation as well? Register now on Eventbrite for this next in my series of free facilitation webinars.


Facilitator certification – what’s it like, and is it worthwhile?

Wednesday 7 February 2018, 15.00 UK time 

In this session we will look at what it takes to achieve professional certification as a facilitator, and what are the advantages of doing so. We will explore the two leading and internationally recognised, competency-based certifications – IAF Certified Professional Faciliator (CPF) and ICA Certified ToP Facilitator (CTF).

I shall be joined for this session by Lindsay Sumner CPF, IAF Director of Certification Operations; Alexey Svetlichny CTF, Director of ICA Ukraine; and again by Sunny Walker CPF CTF of the Virtual Facilitation Collaborative.

Lindsay was among the first to gain the CPF designation, in the UK in 1998, and she has managed the CPF programme for IAF since 2006. ICA Ukraine is the first ICA in Europe to offer CTF certification, and Alexey became one of the first CTFs in Europe in 2014. Sunny is an assessor for both CPF and CTF programmes, a founding member of IAF and one of the founders of ICA’s Technology of Participation (ToP).

We will invite you to share some of your own experience of certification, and to respond with us to questions that are raised.

Each session in this series is hosted in Adobe Connect for a highly interactive learning experience. Each topic is addressed by a short case study or other presentation, with links to further online material for later reference. In the sessions we apply tools and techniques of virtual facilitation to help participants to engage with the material and the presenter, and with their own and each other’s experience on the topic. A short technical orientation directly before the session introduces the features of the virtual meeting room, and the tools to be used. A brief closing reflection at the end of the session invites reflection and learning on the facilitation process and virtual tools, as well as on the content of the session.

Register now on Eventbrite. To whet your appetite, check out this short 2014 video clip from US ToP trainer and CTF & CPF assessor Barbara McKay of Northstar Facilitators, and this new 2017 clip from IAF on it’s forthcoming, diversified ‘Propath’ approach to certification:


See also about mehow I workwho I work with and recommendations & case studies, and please contact me about how we might work together. Please do not delay before contacting me – the earlier I hear from you, the more chance that I will be able to help and the more helpful I may be able to be.

Register now on Eventbrite for my free facilitation webinars, and for my regularly scheduled ToP facilitation training courses in London and Brussels.

Join me for ToP facilitation training in Brussels & London in 2018!


ToP facilitation training in Brussels & London in 2018Register now on Eventbrite, and please share these details with friends, colleagues and networks who might be interested.

I am an ICA Certified ToP Facilitator (CTF), and a licensed provider and experienced lead trainer of ICA ToP facilitation training. I offer these courses in partnership with ICA:UK and ICA Associates Inc, and in Brussels with Social Platform. I am excited to extend these partnerships now to offer more and new public courses, dates and locations for 2018.

Looking for accredited learning? Group Facilitation Methods, Action Planning and Participatory Strategic Planning are accredited by the Institute of Leadership and Management for an ILM Development Award.

IAF endorsed trainingPreparing for CPF certification? Meetings That Work, Group Facilitation Methods and Facilitating Client Collaboration together comprise the new ICA Associates ToP Facilitation Essentials Program that has been endorsed by the International Association of Facilitators for those preparing to become an IAF Certified Professional Facilitator (CPF). These three courses plus Action Planning and Participatory Strategic Planning cover most of the competencies required for Certified ToP Facilitator (CTF) assessment. To learn more, join my next free facilitation webinar Facilitator certification: what’s it like, and is it worthwhile?

Interested to join IAF? Participants in all these ICA:UK ToP courses are eligible for a 50% discount on their first year’s IAF membership, a requirement for CPF certification.

Most courses are scheduled in pairs to allow 1, 2, 3 or 4 days of training at once.  Follow the links for details and to register for each course.


Group Facilitation Methods – introducing the foundations of the ToP approach, two powerful techniques for structuring effective conversations and building group consensus – 2 days

“I found it really helpful. Martin established a really good group learning process and displayed mastery of his subject. I am very glad I went on it and very glad he ran it!” – Mike Pounsford, Employee engagement, communication and change specialist

“As a diverse, transnational, multilingual membership network, successful meetings are key to our internal and external successes. Many of our staff mentioned Martin’s training as a highlight in their end of year reviews – several said it was the most useful training they had ever attended.” – Eve Geddie, Deputy Director at Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM)


Action Planning – participatory planning for short-term projects and events – 1 day

“Martin is a very inspiring trainer, he is very skilled and knows how to facilitate facilitators in a structured and insightful way. I have been able to succesfully use his personal advice and facilitation techniques straight away!” – Miriam Elst, Facilitator Design Thinking and LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®, Lead UX researcher & strategist, Service designer


Meetings That Work – practical tools to design and lead effective meetings – 2 days

“Meetings That Work ticked all the boxes. It was very interesting to hear the theory and useful to have to put it in practice during the many exercises. I use the templates and ideas from this course on a weekly basis. It improves planning and preparing for our 20 meetings (annually). Feedback on the improved meeting format is excellent.” – Peter Van Roste, General Manager CENTR


International Facilitation WeekFacilitating Client Collaboration – practical tools to design facilitation approaches with your client – 2 days

“I got confidence in how to deal with my clients. I had not expected that this course would boost me up to be more open to the customers and speak with them more freely, but it did. The methods and processes will not only be helpful in my regular work, but also in solving my family, community and society problems.” –  Neha Shrestha

Bill Staples of ICA Associates Inc. CanadaI shall be joined for this new course for 2018 by Bill Staples of ICA Associates Inc as guest trainer. Bill is one of the founders of ICA’s Technology of Participation, a principal partner of ICA Associates Inc. and the main designer of Facilitating Client Collaboration.


Participatory Strategic Planning – bringing people together to create strategies for action – 2 days

“Martin created a good atmosphere in an international group. His presentations were crispy clear, illustrated by carefully chosen, practical examples from his rich facilitator experience. Martin helped me to understand countless details of preparation and running a successful Participatory Strategic Planning session for various customers.” – Marzena Dębska-Matuszak, Experienced Trainer, Facilitator and Coach


For early bird rates, register by 10 January on Eventbrite.

Register on two or more courses at once to enjoy a 10% discount on all additional courses. Register on Eventbrite for any course, then add additional courses before you check out.

Additional discounts are available all year to members of Social Platform and other European NGO networks, and to members of ICA, IAF & IABC. If you have not received a promotional code directly from them, please contact me. Enter your code for your chosen course on Eventbrite to reveal your discounted rates.


For in-house and tailored training see ToP facilitation training at your place – and free places for you! and please contact me. Please do not delay before contacting me – the earlier I hear from you, the more chance that I will be able to help and the more helpful I may be able to be.

See also about mehow I workwho I work with and recommendations & case studies.

Facilitating positive transformation: Reviewing the past to prepare for the future at #IAFIndia17

IAF India conference 2017Thank you to everyone who participated in my plenary session at this year’s IAF India conference in Chennai today – Facilitation: the key to positive transformation#IAFIndia17.

In the session, Facilitating positive transformation: Reviewing the past to prepare for the future, I demonstrated a participatory approach for a group to review the past, to prepare for the future, by applying the ToP (Technology of Participation) Historical Scan method to reflect together on the unfolding history of participation and facilitation in India and beyond. I also shared some insights into the theory behind the method, and examples of the method in action. Participants had a brief opportunity to reflect on how they might apply the method.

Here I am sharing links to some resources and case studies that I mentioned during the session, and some that I didn’t, plus (below) some some tweets from the session.

ToP Historical Scan method

Examples of the method in action

  • etf20Adapt • Invent • Evolve: reviewing the past to prepare for the future at the IABC EMENA 2017 conference in London, #EuroComm17 – blog post
  • Celebrating 20 years with the European Training Foundation in Turin – #ETF20 – case study
  • Transformational Strategy: from trepidation to ‘unlocked’ with IDMC in Geneva – case study
  • Staff Away Day with George House Trust in Manchester – case study
  • Clinical Leadership Evaluation and Development with Manchester Primary Care Trust – case study

Facilitation history

  • How has facilitation developed over time, and where might it be heading? A six-month collaborative process to develop our collective story of facilitation, as IAF celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2014 – blog post, plus #FacHistory on twitter and  storify
  • Reviewing the past to prepare for the future: #FacHistory at the IAF EMENA 2014 conference in Copenhagen, #IAFEMENA14 – blog post
  • Reflections on the history of professional process facilitation, an article by Richard Chapman published by IAF Europe & AMED in 2011 – pdf
  • The past, present & future of the facilitation profession: Reviewing the past to prepare for the future at the IAF Europe 2007 conference in Edinburgh – (pdf)

ToP facilitation training & sticky walls

  • Join me for ToP facilitation training in Brussels & London (2018 dates to be scheduled soon) – blog
  • Join ICA India or other ICAs worldwide for ToP facilitation training near you
  • Sticky walls are available from ICA:UK and other ICAs, and in India from BangOn Facilitation.


For more on my work, and what others have to say about it, please see how I workwho I work with and recommendations & case studies – or view my profile and connect with me on LinkedIn.

You can connect with me also by joining my free facilitation webinars online, and IAF England & Wales’ free facilitation meetups in London and elsewhere.