Over the last two years, facilitators like me were forced to pivot our training programmes for the online space.

As someone BBF (Born Before Technology), I’m loathe to admit that this concept was entirely overwhelming at first.

But like the title of acclaimed South African satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys’s first one-man show, it was an Adapt or Dye situation – well, in my case – Adapt or Die!

So adapt I did. And much to my surprise, I got pretty good at it.

Post the pandemic, most of us have become quite comfortable with a hybrid working environment. For me, it has been a game changer as I can provide my clients with the same real deal workshop experience online as I do in person.

But I discovered yet again that we never stop learning.

I’ve facilitated a handful of on-camera workshops for hearing-impaired delegates in the past but have never run an online Media Training course for anyone who is deaf. And the man in question made no bones about identifying as a deaf person.

What made things a little awkward was that I wasn’t notified by the client ahead of time that he would be part of the group, so I was caught completely off guard.

But there’s one thing I always preach to my clients and that is to Act As If. So that is exactly what I did.

We all waited a few minutes for a sign language interpreter to hop onto the call before I opened the session. I didn’t want this participant to miss a thing.

Once the interpreter made sure that both himself and the hearing-impaired man were square-on camera and not in shadow, we got the show on the road.

I made it my business to make the participant feel welcome and very much part of the group. I also encouraged him to ask questions and to raise his hand if anything was unclear.

I usually come in hot and fast, but I made a conscious effort to slow the hell down. This meant speaking clearly, stopping from time to time to check that everyone understood the key discussion points and actions before moving to the next agenda item.

Everyone muted their microphones to reduce the background noise and the chat facility became my very best friend.

I love it when my sessions become a little crazy. Ideas start flowing and people start talking over each other. But this session called for a distinct step change. For once, I didn’t rush. I repeated key points and paused at regular intervals.

Each participant raised a hand when they had something to say or signalled when they wanted to add to the conversation.

I kept a hawk eye on the man’s body language. He took copious notes, smiled throughout, regularly gave a cheerful thumbs up and nimbly handled questions that I threw his way.

I was and still am in awe. This individual wholly embraced his identity and didn’t allow his disability to define him.

It’s a lesson about self-acceptance and authenticity that we could all learn from.