October 7, 2010

Easy Information Support Systems for Your Group Coaching Program

easy_buttonSome people get stuck thinking about offering a group coaching program because they feel intimidated by the technology options to support the program. Forums? Membership sites? Email lists?  Which is right for your program?

Let's boil it down to ONE thing: keep it easy. Easy for you as the group leader and easy for the participants.

Easy Option #1. Email
I've participated in several group programs in the last year that were email only.  No forum. No logins.  Everything got distributed by email.  These work particularly well for small groups, like a dozen or fewer members. At first, I thought "Yikes, this is going to be a ton of email." And at first it was. But things settled and over time I have come to appreciate the simplicity of this approach. These were not programs that had a lot of reference material so there wasn't a great need to maintain a location to find things. The email was great for timely messages and no one had to remember an extra password. The casual nature of email also promoted a lot of interaction between members of the group.

Easy Option #2. Set up a blog on a password-protected section of your site
I like for my group coaching programs to have their own domain names. That domain name, e.g. program.com, can serve as the sales page for the site and a sub-directory like program.com/private can host a password-protected blogsite to support the group coaching program. It's straightforward to install another instance of WordPress into a sub-directory. The control panel of your hosting account usually offers an option to password-protect that sub-directory and it's contents.  By doing this you have created one user name and password combination for all members of the group to use. Not everyone likes having to remember another password but it's very easy for you as the leader to manage the class resources since you already know how to manage a blog. The password-protected blog posts are a great way to ask members of the group to check-in via comments. Blog posts are also an easy way to start a topic for your group and keep all the information for that topic together in one place. By using Feedburner, you can make it easy for participants to subscribe to the program's blog in their email or an RSS feed reader.

Easy Option #3. Use a membership site plug-in like Wishlist Member
If you want to springboard from a public blogsite to run your program, give everyone their own login and you want the flexibility of a forum, I recommend WishList Member. It also supports various levels of membership. WishList Member is especially attractive because it does not charge a monthly fee. You buy it once and you own it for the lifetime of the site. They also have an unlimited license option so that you can use it on multiple program sites. If you haven't considered treating your group coaching program like a membership site, I truly think it's worth the learning curve. For a large group coaching program where participants come and go, running it like a membership program is a perfect match.

Laurie Foley

Laurie Foley, Blogging Expert

Laurie Foley has been helping people and organizations thrive online for more than 15 years. Resourceful and intuitive, she's an online business coach and dedicated guide for those who want to create meaningful work and amplify their message. Besides writing as Group Coaching Mastery's Blogging Expert, you can find Laurie at http://lauriefoley.com and on Twitter as @lauriefoley.

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