Online Coaching vs. in-person coaching - Advantages and disadvantages in leadership development

Online coaching and in-person coaching are deployed heavily in executive development. But which coaching is the right one? It's worth looking at the pros and cons of both methods to find the best possible solution. According to a 2020 study by the German Coaching Association (Deutscher Coaching Verband), in Germany, 59% of coaching sessions were held online, while 41% were held in person. In our blog, we take a closer look at the cost, flexibility and quality that both forms of coaching bring. However, it is important to note that online coaching vs. in-person coaching is a very challenging topic and should therefore be treated with caution.


When it comes to leadership development, there are many ways to approach it. One of them is coaching. But which type of coaching is the best? Should you choose online coaching or face-to-face coaching? Both have their advantages and disadvantages. A crucial aspect in deciding is the introduction. In-person coaching is ideal for building a personal relationship with the coach and preparing for the coaching sessions. Online coaching is more challenging in establishing a connection between the coach and coachee. However, online coaching offers flexibility and time savings since you don't have to travel to a coaching appointment.

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What is online coaching?

Online coaching is a modern approach where communication between the coach and coachee takes online. Unlike in-person coaching, where the coach and client meet in person, online coaching offers more flexibility and time savings. One can participate in coaching from anywhere as long as there is a stable internet connection. In addition, online coaching sessions can take place outside business hours, which is particularly attractive to working executives. Also, online coaching costs less than in-person coaching (also due to a lack of travel expenses). However, the lack of in-person interaction between the coach and coachee can be a disadvantage, as nonverbal communication and body language cannot transcend over the internet. One should also consider the risk of technical problems or disruptions during online coaching.

What is in-person coaching?

In-person coaching is a learning approach where the coach and client meet face-to-face. In contrast to online coaching, coaching does not happen via digital media. In-person coaching has the advantage that the coach and client face each other directly (and thus leads to a more personal relationship). Non-verbal communication also plays a vital role in in-person coaching. The coach can react to the client's gestures, facial expressions, and body posture and thus respond more specifically to the client's needs. Another advantage of in-person coaching is that the client gets out of his usual environment and can gain distance from his everyday life. However, in-person coaching is associated with higher costs and time commitment. The physical distance between coach and client can also be a disadvantage if it is too great. Ultimately, the choice between online and in-person coaching depends on individual needs and preferences.

Advantages of online coaching

Access to a broader range of coaches

Online coaching provides access to coaches from all over the world, regardless of location. Companies can choose from an extensive directory of coaches and select the one that is the best fit for their needs and budget.


Online coaching also offers a higher degree of flexibility in scheduling coaching sessions. With the ability to connect virtually at any time or place, busy executives can fit coaching sessions into their schedules without sacrificing work productivity. Research shows that online coaching leads to improved job performance and organizational commitment, with minimal disruption to work schedules. According to a study by the International Coaching Federation, 73% of coaching clients report a positive experience with virtual coaching, and 89% are satisfied with its flexibility. Thus, managers with hectic schedules find online coaching ideal for improving their professional and personal lives while staying productive and efficient.


Online coaching takes less than in-person coaching, as it eliminates the time spent on scheduling and commuting. That makes online coaching an ideal solution for individuals who have busy schedules but still want to gain the benefits of personalized coaching. Furthermore, online coaching services, including Sparks, are easier to book and access. Also, online sessions last less than in-person sessions, further contributing to the time efficiency of the solution. Overall, online coaching is the least disruptive option to someone's schedule.


When you choose online coaching, you save considerably on expenses related to travel. With no need to travel to a designated location for in-person coaching sessions, clients can attend sessions online from the comfort of their homes or personal offices. Moreover, there is no need to spend money on other incidental expenses such as meals, parking, or lodging in case of long-distance commuting. Online coaching eliminates these costs and saves valuable resources. Overall, the cost-effectiveness of online coaching makes it an attractive option for clients who want to receive the benefits of personalized coaching while staying within their budget.

Disadvantages of online coaching 

While online coaching may come with various benefits, it does have its downsides. One of the most significant downsides is the lack of personal contact. Unlike in-person coaching, where clients and coaches can develop a rapport and a sense of trust, online can be more challenging. The lack of face-to-face interactions makes it difficult to establish a deeper connection and can potentially impact the effectiveness of the coaching process. Additionally, since feedback happens digitally, it can sometimes be misinterpreted, leading to confusion or frustration.

Advantages of in-person coaching

Close interpersonal exchange

In-person coaching offers several advantages that are difficult to replicate online. A crucial benefit of in-person coaching is the development of a stronger rapport between coach and client, which can lead to greater client engagement and trust. Ultimately, that leads to a more successful coaching experience. Additionally, being in the same physical space enables clients to engage fully in the coaching experience without distractions. According to a study published in the a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, in-person coaching leads to substantial growth in key leadership competencies such as resilience and self-awareness. That demonstrates the significant value of in-person coaching in developing leadership skills and achieving personal growth.

Superior non-verbal communication and observable skill improvement

In-person coaching allows a coach to observe the client's non-verbal cues, body language, and other subtleties (factors that remain obscure in virtual coaching). These cues can provide more accurate feedback and help the coach tailor their approach to the client's personality and needs. In-person coaching allows the coach to provide immediate feedback, helping improve skills on the spot. Such a setting or dynamic helps create an open and safe environment where the client can work on strengthening observable skills.

Forges trust faster

In-person coaching remains the best approach for building trust quickly between the coach and the coachee. That fast nurturing of trust and rapport would not be possible without the direct and close communication inherent in in-person coaching. As a result, in-person coaching offers an environment where the coach is genuinely (and visibly) interested in the effectiveness of the coaching methods on coachees. Also, the coach can foster a greater sense of accountability, which further helps build trust.

Disadvantages of in-person coaching

In-person coaching is often expensive and time-consuming, making it less accessible for those with tighter budgets or limited schedules. Additionally, finding a suitable and qualified coach nearby can be challenging. As a result, in-person coaching is less accessible for managers with busy schedules. It is also inaccessible for people living in remote or rural areas. Furthermore, in-person coaching lacks the flexibility that online coaching can provide, including the ability to connect with a coach from anywhere in the world.

Comparison between the two coaching styles in leadership development

When it comes to leadership development, there are different coaching styles. The main comparison is between in-person coaching and online coaching. In-person coaching happens directly on-site, while online coaching uses digital communication tools. Both coaching styles have their advantages and disadvantages. With in-person coaching, the coach can closely observe the body language and behavior of the coachee and provide feedback. In addition, a direct exchange can take place. On the other hand, online coaching sessions can be more flexible because they are unbound by a specific location. Also, online coaches leverage digital tools to support leadership development. However, technical problems can arise and disrupt the direct exchange between coach and executive. Ultimately, one should select the appropriate coaching style based on individual needs and objectives.


There are no clear-cut winners between online coaching and in-person coaching. However, there are some conclusions and recommendations to consider when choosing which method to use. If you're a leader looking to grow, you should prioritize your needs and preferences. For example, if you value flexible scheduling, you better go for online coaching. However, if you prefer in-person contact and want to build a closer relationship with your coach, in-person coaching is the way to go. Another important consideration is the quality of the coach. Whether you choose online or in-person coaching, ensure the coach is qualified and experienced. Finally, online and in-person coaching offer different ways to develop leaders. For example, online coaching may be better suited to improve specific skills (such as time management or self-motivation). On the other hand, in-person coaching may be better suited to develop soft skills such as communication and leadership. Overall, you must weigh the pros and cons of both methods and choose the one that best fits your needs and goals.


So, what's the bottom line of this comparison between online coaching and in-person coaching in leadership development? There is no "right" or "wrong." It depends on individual needs and preferences. Online coaching offers flexibility and time savings, while in-person coaching offers a more personal experience and a better opportunity for interaction. Both methods have advantages and disadvantages, so make decisions based on specific needs and goals. It is also vital to consider the quality of the coach and the type of support provided. Overall, there is no right or wrong.

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FAQ: Online coaching vs in-person

Which is better online or offline coaching?

Online and offline coaching each have their advantages and drawbacks. Online coaching had an advantage in terms of time saved and offering a larger pool of coaches. On the other hand, offline or in-person coaching is free from disruptions in communication.

Is online coaching a growing industry?

Yes, online coaching is a growing industry. With the increasing popularity of online platforms and the ease of access to technology, more people are turning to online coaching as a convenient and effective way to receive guidance and support in various areas. According to a report by IBISWorld the online coaching industry will grow at an annual rate of 6.2% from 2021 to 2026.

How many clients should an online coach have?

The number of clients an online coach should have depends on various factors, such as the coach's availability, the topics offered, and the coach's business goals. Coaches should ensure they have enough time to devote to each client and provide personalized attention and support. Ultimately, the number of clients an online coach should have will vary depending on the circumstances and preferences of the coach.