Horrible is how I would describe the first time I ever facilitated a course virtually. Think yawning by both the facilitator and participants. It's been 15 years of experience and lots of continued education, but I finally think I've come up with five tips every facilitator should know before they do a virtual training.
1. It's just science
Whether face-to-face or virtual, it is hard to keep someone's attention. To do this, you have to be intentional about the delivery of information. Brain science research provides those who design learning products helpful information. We now know people's attention span is around 15 to 20 minutes max. At this point, our brain naturally needs a break from the introduction of new information. Retention of data is optimized when broken up into digestible chunks. To increase retention of information we must switch it up by using group discussion, activities, and gamification. The point is to stop so that the brain has time to process the information.
2. It wasn't a death by PowerPoint; it was your content.
Novices of learning design, business leaders, subject matter experts, and others tend to make decks content heavy. Sometimes I even have to do a couple of different drafts and take out a little bit of content at a time as compared to gutting it. It's natural when you're passionate about something you want to tell the person everything however if I am trying to read your content that means I'm not listening to you and you are the expert. For virtual learning try to take out the content and put a visual. I'll remember your picture and I can then can connect it to what you were talking about and have a better chance of retaining
3. Energy is contagious
There is a LinkedIn article that said contagious positivity is the secret weapon of successful leaders. It's always been my secret weapon. I let attendees know early on that I feed off their energy. If they are upbeat and engaging, I will be as well. The concept that energy is contagious is nothing new. We've known for a while that our emotions affect others. In the book Leadership, The Power of Emotional Intelligence, the writer references the open-loop nature of our emotional centers. The very design of our brain allows us to recognize and mimic the emotions of others. To maintain high energy during virtual sessions try these three options
Stand while facilitating
Interject humor where appropriate
Be animated and vary your tone.
4. Yasssss to body language
Body language, and non-verbal cues are just as important if not more during virtual facilitating. In communication classes, they teach about the 7-38-55 rule. Seven percent of communication is words, 38 % is time, and 55% is body language. Recognizing non-verbal communication cues is more important in remote work. Your gestures, posture, eye contact, and tone give both the facilitator and attendees information. Virtual training is more manageable with tools such as Zoom and Google Meet. These allow you to see participants while sharing a screen and using a gallery view to see all participants at once. It also helps to look for clues to gauge engagement or feeling overwhelmed. If eyes are glazed over, or people are looking through you and not at you, then it's probably time for a break.
5. Let's Get Interactive
Virtual training is not the time to spend an hour or longer using a lecture style of delivery. Try out various icebreakers. Blogger, Katy Mrvova, has a list of 15 additional virtual icebreakers here. In one of my virtual sessions this week, we used the simple question, "If you had one year off from work and an unlimited amount of money, what would you do." The icebreaker loosens people gets them to start talking. You can also use tools to choose as Zoom breakout rooms. This tool allows you to break participants up into smaller groups. Breakout rooms are suitable for small group discussions or projects. Lastly, the use of poll questions can break up a lesson, allow you to collect responses quickly, and spur good conversations. Most conferencing tools have polling available, or you can use the software, such as Polleverywhere.
Our world changed overnight. We went from depending on the face to face delivery of information to onboarding new hires remotely. Amid the change, some have struggled to adjust content for virtual delivery. Connected Consultants, LLC is here to help with over ten years of experience in delivering content virtually. Reach out for your free 30-minute consultation..