Virtual Discussion Group Etiquette and Guidelines

The Institute of Coaching (IOC), hosts discussion groups and roundtables to support the Fellows and Affiliates of our organization. The groups connect coaches from across the globe so that they can virtually support one another while discussing various coaching-related topics.

Participants of our IOC discussion groups and roundtables are expected to abide by the following guidelines and rules of conduct. By engaging and participating in our discussion groups and roundtables, each participant is agreeing to follow the guidelines.

Rules of Conduct & Etiquette

Virtual Discussion Group Agreement

By Participating in Our Virtual Groups, You Agree To The Following:

Be Open-minded: Listen to and acknowledge all points of view.

Be Respectful: The purpose of these sessions is to discuss, not debate or argue. Be respectful of differing opinions, perspectives, identities, and experiences. Participants are expected to be respectful both within and outside of the discussion sessions.

Be Accepting: Suspend judgment as best you can.

Be Curious & Seek Discovery: Seek to understand rather than persuade. Look to question your own assumptions and uncover new insights.

Appreciate Differences: Look for common ground and accept/appreciate that there will be times when there will be disagreements on some beliefs and opinions.

Be Authentic, Sincere & Welcoming: Speak from your personal experience and share what resonates and is important to you. Appreciate and welcome that others are doing the same.

Be Brief & Purposeful: Be purposeful and brief when speaking. Be considerate to not dominate the conversation and allow all participants the chance to share.

Honor Confidentiality: These sessions are a safe space. Participants are expected to respect and maintain confidentiality for anything raised within the discussion group dialogue, unless explicit permission for sharing is given by the sharer.

Technology & Presence

Microphone Etiquette

Please find a quiet location to join the discussion group of which there is minimal or no background noise.

Make sure your audio connection is established so that your voice comes through clearly without any distortion or disturbance.

headphones can be useful for ensuring high quality audio.

When not talking, please be sure to keep your microphone on the mute setting.

When speaking, please speak loudly and clearly without yelling.

Video Etiquette

For best engagement, we recommend turning on your camera whenever possible, but it is not mandatory.

If your camera is on, we recommend having a tidy background that is not distracting to other participants.

It is also helpful to use natural or good lighting with an angle that keeps your entire face in full view. Virtual backgrounds are also acceptable.

Try to look into the camera to promote eye contact.

Dress Code

We request that all participants dress appropriately and look tidy in your appearance, with a balance between comfort and professionalism. Business casual attire is recommended.

General Conduct

Please try to refrain from eating during the meeting.

Please also refrain from private activity while in the discussion group. If this cannot be avoided, please remember to turn your camera off and mute yourself in those moments.



By participating in the virtual discussion groups, you are agreeing to participate in recorded sessions.

You have the right to request to have the recording paused at any time to make a private comment that is not recorded. You may request pausing the recording by privately messaging the facilitator in the chat, or by verbally asking during the session.

At times, depending on the topic, the group may elect to not have the session recorded. The facilitator holds the right to use their discretion to decide on using the recording function. The facilitator may also engage in a majority vote process to determine use of recording in a session.

Post-session sharing

Recordings of sessions, as well as relevant resources and slides may be shared out to IOC members only, unless explicit permission is otherwise sought out.

Screen Sharing

Screen sharing features are enabled in most, if not all, discussion groups. Facilitators and presenters are welcome to use this feature. We recommend presenters share the content with the facilitator ahead of the meeting for approval. All content must be appropriate and professional. Participants and presenters must ask the facilitator for permission to start sharing before initiating the feature.

Speaking & Sharing

Be mindful of how much speaking time you are occupying in the session. We encourage all participants to engage in the conversation, but please be mindful to share as concisely as possible, keeping each “sharing opportunity” to a few minutes. Your participation should be balanced with all other participants to ensure each participant gets an opportunity to speak. Each participant should not speak more than roughly 15% of the time.

Facilitating & Presenting

Welcome and introduce new participants

Facilitators should acknowledge, greet, and welcome any new participants to the group. If time allows, facilitators are encouraged to ask each member of the group to share a brief, approximately 30 second personal introduction for networking purposes.

Give everyone an opportunity to speak

It is the responsibility of the facilitator and/or host to make sure that no one dominates the conversation or takes valuable time away from others.

When facilitating, you may politely insert yourself into the conversation and/or ask someone a question to prevent conversation monopolization from occurring. If noticing certain participants are not engaging or may feel shy to speak up, we encourage the facilitator to give a light invitation for sharing i.e. “anyone who has not yet spoken is invited to share.”

As a facilitator or presenter, you should not speak more than roughly 30% of the time.

Time management

It is the responsibility of the facilitator and/or host to make sure that the meeting ends on time. It is helpful to establish an agenda or outline for the discussion at the beginning of the meeting.

Facilitating Challenging Conversations & Disagreements

The goal of the IOC is for our members to grow in their understanding of coaching and science through a learning environment that is psychologically safe.

As mentioned earlier in the guidelines, during our discussions, we expect participants to engage from positions of curiosity and acceptance. However, we understand as the group explores various topics, different viewpoints, experiences, values, and beliefs will be raised. We acknowledge the possibility that challenging conversations may arise. The IOC is committed to holding space for these conversations, while maintaining psychological safety for each and every participant.

Preparing for challenging conversations ahead of time

As the facilitator, identify ways you can model curiosity, respect, vulnerability, and collaboration.

Practice Grounding - before the meeting, engage in breathing exercises and mindful relaxation techniques to promote your ability to be present and comfortable during the session.

Navigating difficult moments during conversations

Manage your emotions - as the facilitator, it is important to engage emotional regulation over your own emotions, keeping in mind that your goal is to support the group as they express themselves. Try to remain as neutral as possible without becoming emotionally reactive.

Use active listening skills - the facilitator should paraphrase the message heard to clarify the accuracy of their assumptions before responding.

Confront the challenge - facilitators may wish to voice their discomfort and explain their reaction to the behavior or opinion in a respectful manner i.e. “I’m uncomfortable with ____. What I hear you saying is ____. Is this true?”

Ask questions for clarification and reflection - ask questions that prompt individuals to self-reflect on how they are feeling about the situation or internalizing their emotions. Tapping into coaching skills to ask reflective questions can be useful and help people become unstuck. Reflective questions can be used to de-escalate heated moments.

Slow things down - emotional reactions and tension can escalate quickly and prevent logical thinking. The facilitator can suggest to the involved individuals, or the entire group, to take a few deep breaths and/or take a few minutes for private reflection. This can help provide a de-escalation solution and will allow everyone to gather their thoughts more calmly and reasonably.

Transparently manage the dilemma - it’s okay to voice that you do not know exactly how to navigate the situation. During difficult or heated situations, name your observations and be transparent with how you are experiencing the situation. You may voice your own difficulty with handling the situation i.e. “I am feeling stuck right now. I notice there is a lot of emotion present. Do others feel this too?” Ask the group to observe their own internal and interpersonal dynamics.

Stay rooted in purpose - sometimes conversations become challenging or heated when they drift from the original purpose of the discussion. If this is the case, the facilitator should remind the group of the purpose of the dialogue to gently bring the conversation back to the original focus.

Try not to fill all silences - when discussions become sensitive or heated, it can cause heightened emotions. It is important to give participants time to process how they are feeling and what they would like to say. Try not to jump in, interrupt, or cut off participants looking for the words to articulate how they feel.

Offer ways to reframe a perspective - this can be useful to have individuals see situations from a different or contrasting perspective

Be compassionate - Focus on the behavior and its impact. Show compassion towards each participant’s emotions and viewpoints, as well as your own reactions to the situation.

Try to avoid ending the meeting in conflict - at the end of the session, reflect on the discussion and opinions that were raised. Acknowledge the difficulties within the discussion and dialogue. Thank everyone for engaging in a respectful way (if applicable) and remind them that the conversation was held in a confidential space. Offer for anyone who would like to speak privately or more about the conversation can reach out to you or members of the IOC team.

Defer and deflect the conversation when necessary - if the conversation is too heated and may be best discussed privately, invite the involved participants to arrange a meeting offline to discuss the disagreement further. Then move the conversation on to another topic.

How to voice when you disagree with a statement, or are upset:

Be mindful - before voicing your disagreement or emotions, take a few moments to engage emotional regulation techniques to be mindful when speaking. This can help you regulate your tone and be considerate when communicating your thoughts and feelings to remain respectful.

Address the idea, not the person - Direct any criticism towards the idea that was raised, not towards the person. This helps prevent the disagreement from becoming personal and can keep the discussion civil.

Stay calm - try to stay as calm as possible when voicing your disagreement.

Ask permission to share - when in doubt, ask permission to share your feelings, to create an open safe space for sharing.

Share your knowledge - share your expertise, experience, or background in the subject matter to allow the other member(s) to understand where you are coming from.

Be a mirror - it is important to clearly state and repeat what you are disagreeing with to help the group know that you are listening and understand what was being said but have particular feelings or thoughts about the matter.

Engage Non-violent Communication for conflict resolution:

  1. Express our own needs
  2. Search for the real needs of the other person, no matter how they are expressing themselves
  3. Verify that the involved individuals recognize the other’s needs, and if not, continue to seek the need behind their words
  4. Provide as much empathy as is required to mutually hear other’s needs accurately 


By participating in the discussion groups, you acknowledge that all personal information and sharing is confidential, unless explicit permission is made by the individual sharing the information.

When sharing client information or speaking about a third party, details should be made as anonymous as possible to keep identities discrete.

Intellectual Property

Ideas or work presented by an individual or team, shall remain their intellectual property. Concepts, topics, or ideas generated or originated during the discussion groups are the intellectual property of the group.

IOC-hosted projects may emerge from discussions, in which case, the content is the intellectual property of the IOC.

Any individual or team who develops work or projects based on the ideas generated during a discussion group must reference the discussion group as a source.

Other Guidelines


Please think twice before sharing a joke or humor as to ensure that there is minimal to no chance that the joke could be misinterpreted, misunderstood, and possibly cause offense or discomfort among members of the group.

Politics & Banter

Please refrain from political banter whenever possible as these sessions are open to all members of our community, and we would like to ensure all participants are comfortable and feel psychologically safe.

Social Media & Brand Representation

Any reference to our discussion groups on social media must maintain the confidentiality and respect guidelines outlined in this document. Participants are also expected to represent the group and the discussion sessions with respect and in accordance with our and Harvard Medical School’s brand guidelines. Participants are obligated to adhere to IOC values and the highest standards of ethics and integrity as are, from time to time, in use in the coaching industry within the U.S., regionally and internationally both within and outside of discussion sessions.

Non-Discriminatory Statement

The IOC shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status, in any of its activities or operations.

Our members and participants of the discussion groups are held to the same standard and shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status, in any of its activities or operations.

Please contact [email protected] immediately if you experience or witness discrimination of any kind.


We are committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all members, sponsors, and staff of our organization.


Participants of the discussion groups are expected to treat each other with respect, courtesy, politeness, and kindness.


The IOC is committed to making the discussion groups as accessible as possible.

You may ask the discussion group host to enable live captioning to receive a live transcription during the session.

To receive transcriptions of the discussion groups, or for other special accommodations. Please contact [email protected].

IOC Policy for Violations of the Group Etiquette and Guidelines

Who to go to if you recognize the rules of conduct have been violated?

Please contact the virtual group lead or an IOC staff member if you are uncomfortable or recognize a breach of the guidelines:

Emily Terrani, Sponsor & Fellow Outreach Manager [email protected]
Pamela Larde, Director of Education [email protected]
Jeffrey Hull, Executive Director [email protected]

How will violations be addressed?

Individuals in violation of the guidelines will be contacted by the IOC team to address and amend such behavior.

Those in continual violation of the guidelines may be subject to suspension from virtual discussion groups and/or live community sessions and resources.

IOC reserves the right to discontinue memberships for gross violations of these guidelines.