Taking your event online: what could possibly go wrong?

Taking your event online

Thank you again to the 100 attendees who participated in yesterday’s free facilitation webinar, and especially to fellow ICA:UK ToP facilitation trainers Megan Evans and Dawn Williams for co-hosting with me.  Apologies to anyone intending to join who found the meeting room full to capacity!  Here below you will find the session recording and other outputs.

This was the first of two sessions scheduled in partnership with ICA:UK as part of its new Online Focused Conversation Series: Taking time to connect, learn and reflect.

The aim of all these sessions is for participants to connect, share and learn with others sharing their interest the topic, while experiencing ICA’s ToP Focused Conversation method.

In this session the method was adapted to accommodate the number attending, using only the basic tools within the Zoom platform – audio, video, text chat, break-out rooms, screen sharing and polling.

For more on ICA’s Technology of Participation and facilitation online, register now for these further upcoming training & learning sessions:

  • Free facilitation webinars – next up “How engaging can your online session be?” in June
  • Introduction to Facilitation OnlineIntroducing the role of the facilitator and the ToP approach, plus some key tips & tools, 2.5 hours, starting in June & July
  • Facilitating Virtual Events I Online – Learn and practice ways to make online events participatory, engaging and productive – a series of 6-7 x2 hour sessions, online
  • Group Facilitation Methods OnlineIntroducing the foundations of the ToP approach, two powerful techniques for structuring effective conversations and building group consensus – a series of 6 x2 hour sessions in June/July.

For details of sessions of this series with other ICA:UK lead ToP trainers, and to register for those, please see the ICA:UK Online Focused Conversation Series.


Your long-planned meeting, workshop or event, or that of your client, can no longer be held face-to-face. So it is decided to hold it online instead. What could possibly go wrong? What are some tips & tools that can help you – not to just make the best of it, but to make it the best?  More inclusive, engaging and productive than ever before?

The recording and the slides with chat transcript follow here. Thanks also to Dave Hider for the lovely feedback on LinkedIn!


See also about mehow I workwho I work with and recommendations & case studies, and please contact me about how we might work together.

Join me for ToP facilitation training in 2020, now also online!

I am excited to share details of my updated public schedule of training and learning opportunities for 2020, including now more than ever online – and of course, due to COVID-19, somewhat less face-to-face.

Read on for details and dates for:

  • Free facilitation webinars – next up “Taking your event online: what could possibly go wrong?” in May and “How engaging can your online session be?” in June
  • Introduction to Facilitation OnlineIntroducing the role of the facilitator and the ToP approach, plus some key tips & tools, 2.5 hours, starting in June & July
  • Group Facilitation Methods OnlineIntroducing the foundations of the ToP approach, two powerful techniques for structuring effective conversations and building group consensus – a series of 6 x2 hour sessions in June/July
  • Facilitating Virtual Events I Online – Learn and practice ways to make online events participatory, engaging and productive – a series of 6-7 x2 hour sessions, online

Register now on Eventbrite for these and remaining 2020 courses in London and Brussels, and please share these details with friends, colleagues and networks who might be interested.

IAF members enjoy a special 10% discount – see Exclusive Offers for IAF Members. Additional online sessions will be published here and on Eventbrite as the year unfolds.


Group Facilitation Methods Online

6 x2 hours, 3-5pm UK time Mon 22 June – Thu 2 July

I shall be joined for this course by Jo Nelson of ICA Associates Inc. as guest trainer. Jo is the main designer of Group Facilitation Methods Online and co-author of Getting to the Bottom of ToP – exploring the foundations of ICA’s Technology of Participation. She is a founding member of the International Association of Facilitators and was inducted in 2014 into the IAF Hall of Fame.

IAF endorsed training

Preparing for CPF certification? Group Facilitation Methods is one of three courses that comprise the 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).

The course introduces the foundations of the ToP facilitation approach, two powerful techniques for structuring effective conversations and building group consensus.

The Focused Conversation method provides a structured, four-level process for effective communication which ensures that everyone in a group has the opportunity to participate.

The Consensus Workshop method is a five stage process that enables a facilitator to draw out and weave together everybody’s wisdom into a clear and practical consensus.

Note that this course does not teach online facilitation – it uses online technology to teach the same Group Facilitation Methods that are taught in the face-to-face course (regularly scheduled in London & Brussels), so that you can use them either online or face to face.

This course is strictly limited to no more than 12 participants, and five are already pre-booked – register now on Eventbrite to ensure your place!


Promoting Inclusion in Online Facilitation

Introduction to Facilitation Online

Thursday, 4 June 14:30-17:00 UK time

Wednesday, 8 July, 10:30-13:00 UK time

Tuesday, 8 September 2020, 10.30-13.00 UK time

Introducing the role of the facilitator and the ToP approach, plus some key tips & tools (2.5 hours)

This online training session draws on elements of standard ICA:UK ‘ToP’ courses including Introduction to Group Facilitation, Meetings That Work and Group Facilitation Methods, adapted to an online learning environment and to application in online facilitation.

You will experience some key facilitation tools and methods in the context of an online session, including Zoom, Mentimeter and Jamboard and the ToP (ORID) Focused Conversation method. You will explore three dimensions of the role of the facilitator in online meetings and workshops, in relation to your own experience and challenges. You will be able to identify opportunities for your own further learning, and gain confidence to apply key insights in your own practice.

I shall be joined for this session by fellow ICA:UK ToP trainer Órla Cronin, designer and lead trainer of the ICA:UK introductory Virtual Facilitation Training.

Each session is limited to no more than 25 participants – register now on Eventbrite to ensure your place!


Free Facilitation Webinars

These free facilitation webinars offer an opportunity 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. These two upcoming sessions in May & June are scheduled in partnership with ICA:UK and its new Online Focused Conversation Series: Taking time to connect, learn and reflect.

free-facilitation-webinar-taking-your-event-online

Taking your event online: what could possibly go wrong?
Tuesday, 5 May, 11:00-12:00 UK time

Your long-planned meeting, workshop or event, or that of your client, can no longer be held face-to-face. So it is decided to hold it online instead. What could possibly go wrong? What are some tips & tools that can help you – not to just make the best of it, but to make it the best? More inclusive, engaging and productive than ever before?

How engaging can your online event be

How engaging can your online session be?
Wednesday, 10 June, 12:00-13:00 UK time

Our meetings, workshops and events, our world, are increasingly moving online – now more than ever! So as leaders and facilitators we must be prepared to move with them.

Virtual sessions 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?

These sessions are limited only by the Zoom room capacity of 100 participants. Join us to connect, share & learn – register now on Eventbrite!


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 also for my regularly scheduled ToP facilitation training courses in London and Brussels, now also online.

Taking your event online: what could possibly go wrong?

Taking your event online

Tuesday, 5 May 2020, 11:00-12:00 UK time

Your long-planned meeting, workshop or event, or that of your client, can no longer be held face-to-face. So it is decided to hold it online instead. What could possibly go wrong? What are some tips & tools that can help you – not to just make the best of it, but to make it the best?  More inclusive, engaging and productive than ever before?

Join us to connect, share & learn – register now on Eventbrite.


How engaging can your online session be?

How engaging can your online event be

Wednesday, 10 June 2020, 12:00-13:00 UK time

Our meetings, workshops and events, our world, are increasingly moving online – now more than ever! So as leaders and facilitators we must be prepared to move with them. Virtual sessions 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?

Join us to connect, share & learn – register now on Eventbrite.


These two sessions are scheduled in partnership with ICA:UK as part of its new Online Focused Conversation Series: Taking time to connect, learn and reflect.

ICA:UK, in collaboration with lead trainers of it’s ToP facilitation training, is pleased to offer this series of taster sessions around different topics – both to examine and explore the topic, and to demonstrate the use of the ToP Focused Conversation Method.

All the sessions will be online, for 60 minutes, and will consist of a facilitated conversation followed by a brief run through of the method used. The sessions will be run by different trainers in their own style, around topics they have chosen.  In these sessions, the method will be adapted to accommodate whatever number attend.

In addition to participants learning more about the topic, the sessions will serve as an introduction to the method for those new to ToP facilitation and will be a useful reminder of the method for those who have already attended our popular Group Facilitation Methods course. Participants may opt to go on and take further training (either online or face to face) and/or to learn and share as part of a community of people using facilitation.

All the sessions will be recorded, with the recording being publicly available after the session is over. Participants will also be “signposted” after the session to opportunities on how they can build on their experience. You may opt out of receiving further communications at any time after the session.

For details of sessions with other ICA:UK lead ToP trainers, and to register for those, please see the ICA:UK Online Focused Conversation Series

For more on my occasional series of free facilitation webinars, including recordings and other outputs of previous sessions, please visit free facilitation webinars.


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 also for my regularly scheduled ToP facilitation training courses in London and Brussels, now also online.

Join me for ToP facilitation training in London, Brussels & elsewhere in 2020!


Register 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; in Brussels with Social Platform; and also this year in Moscow with Personal Image, Milan with IAF Italy, Lisbon with IAF Portugal and in Stockholm with the IAF Global Facilitation Summit.  I am excited to extend these partnerships again this year to offer even more public courses for 2020.

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, see my February 2018 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 below for further details and to register for each course.

*With regret, courses shown in italics have been cancelled due to Covid-19.  New online courses will be announced soon (April/May 2020).


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


Facilitating 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 may be joined for one of these courses again 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 5 January 2020 on Eventbrite.

Register on two or more courses at once to enjoy a 10% discount on each – please contact me to ask for a promotional code for the multiple bookings discount. Enter the code as you register on Eventbrite for your chosen courses to reveal your discounted rates.

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.


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.

Reflecting on another year of freelance facilitation

ORID the kitten at Group Facilitation Methods training in Brussels

October 1 will be exactly seven years since I went freelance as a facilitator, and on June 30 Martin Gilbraith Associates Ltd completed its sixth full financial year. So, a relatively quiet week in the August holiday season offers a good opportunity again to pause and review the last year, and look ahead to the next. It is timely too, after 6-7 years, that the coming year offers an opportunity for something of a sabbatical (again)!

In the year to June 2019 I delivered 25 contracts for 14 clients in 7 countries. These involved 31 face-to-face events and one virtual, 14 facilitated processes and 14 facilitation training courses. I spent 47 nights away from home – 14 in the UK and 33 abroad. That all compares to 20 contracts for 16 clients involving 21 events in the previous year – and over the previous five complete years a total of 90 contracts to 53 clients involving 121 events. I also declined 25 prospective client projects during the past year, compared to 11 the year before, mostly because I was not available. I failed to win 11 that had I quoted for, compared to 9 the year before.

So, slightly fewer clients and nights away, but considerably more contracts and events – those declined and lost, as well as those delivered. Again, about half-and-half facilitation and training, and all but one face-to-face.

Returning clients in the past year have included Amnesty International, Oxfam, Water Harvest (formerly Wells for India), Xpedio and of course ICA:UK. New clients have included ABBYY (with CircleIndigo), BeLiminal, Greater Cambridge Partnership, EASL, Heinrich Boell Foundation Turkey, Malaria Consortium, Octopus Network, St. Luke’s Community Centre and Virtual Not Distant. I joined Nordic Consulting Group as an Associate on a new framework contract with SIDA.

So I have continued to work with international NGOs, foundations, associations, networks and alliances, and a few others, largely in Europe and the Middle East and particularly in London and Brussels. However, this year has seen the return of UK local authorities and multi-sector partnerships, after many years working with such clients on behalf of ICA:UK in the 2000s. New fields for me this year include agile coaching, software development, Results Based Management and remote team working.

I have extended my partnerships with ICA:UK and ICA Associates in the past year to offer more scheduled public facilitation training than ever before. These include courses of the IAF-endorsed ‘ToP Facilitation Essentials’ series and, in new partnerships with local IAF colleagues, public course dates in Edinburgh, Lisbon and Pisa as well as London and Brussels. Two courses in Brussels also included a kitten (pictured above), affectionately named ORID by the group!

My leadership role with IAF England & Wales again accounted for most of my volunteer time. My role was formalised this year by election to a new chapter Board, and appointment as Chair. Our programme of peer networking and learning meetups has grown to reach our growing E&W chapter membership of now 90, plus over 1,000 members of five regional meetup groups. Monthly tea and coffee networking meetups are held in 12 cities in most major population centres of England & Wales, and online, and longer networking and learning meetups are held bi-monthly in London and three times per year in other regions.

Our all E&W meetup for International Facilitation Week has been extended to a 2-day Annual Conference for 2019 – the Power and Practice of Facilitation, 18-19 October, with 55 already registered. Meetup hosts across the country have joined an expanded Leadership Team of now 24 members. We are supporting new sister meetup groups in Scotland and Ireland, and a new IAF E&W podcast team has begun to create a series of 10 episodes to support the programme, inspired by a session at a meetup.

I also joined the new IAF Global Mentorship Programme as a mentor, and began to meet regularly online with my mentee in Jordan. I attended the IAF Europe conference Agile Facilitation in Milan and participated in monthly online meetings of Europe MENA chapter leadership. I continued to participate in events of IABC UK, but not the IABC EuroComm conference this year in Bahrain. I continued to participate in the ICA:UK ToP trainers’ network and to serve as volunteer webmaster for ICA International, but I did not attend this year’s conference of the US ToP Network. Regrettably also I missed my first ICA Europe regional gathering for about 20 years, in Kiev.

After collaborating for some years with Michael Ambjorn of AlignYourOrg to explore the intersect between communication and facilitation, and the power of applying facilitation and communications in partnership, we have co-authored a chapter on that topic for a forthcoming book on the Power of facilitation. We are part of a wider team of authors involving expert facilitators from around the world. The shorthand for the project is #FacPower and each chapter of the book will have a different focus. In combination the aim is to show the power of facilitation in various fields and contexts.

I have hosted four free facilitation webinars during the year, including one on that book project and two with the authors of two new books published during the year that I have been pleased to endorse – Rebecca Sutherns on Nimble facilitation and Jim Campbell on Facilitating Authentic Participation and the facilitation cycle.

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I have not found so much time this year for blogging. I published just 15 posts during the past year, of the 180 published in the seven full years since my first welcome post – but of course I have been no less active micro-blogging on twitter.

So, what of a sabbatical? October to March in Sitges in Spain will be mostly for my husband, following his recent retirement from career-long, full-time employment. I shall continue to work and travel as necessary, not least for existing client commitments in London and elsewhere, for scheduled public ToP facilitation training most months in London or Brussels, and for events including the IAF England & Wales annual conference in Birmingham and the ICA Europe regional gathering in Vienna.

However, I shall welcome opportunities to work virtually and locally in Spain during that time, including perhaps with ICA Spain and with the forthcoming IAF Spain chapter – starting with its timely launch event in Barcelona during International Facilitation Week in October.

I do intend to take time for myself also to reflect, write and learn, to look ahead to my next seven years of freelance facilitation – and to enjoy a little less busyness and a little more sunshine! I hope that regular readers may notice the difference on this blog, and that Spanish speakers may notice the difference next time they greet me with “Hola”!

Thank you for following…


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.