Rev Up for Virtual Delivery

When I was first asked if I wanted to deliver virtually, I thought about how we prepare for face-to-face work; excellent materials, check your technology, have pens, flipcharts, post-its, props all ready, get a good ambience in the room. And, of course, preparing yourself and getting into the right state to deliver.

On the virtual stage

On a virtual session, the trainer is a larger focal point, as the learners can’t see anyone except you, if you have a webcam. Your only props are your slides, so it’s best to make them clear and simple. Then move onto your voice, which can turn your delivery from good to great.

Virtual sessions tend to be shorter than face-to-face sessions, so it’s important to have a higher level of intensity within you, while always exuding a level of control to accommodate every individual on the session.

It’s a completely different cognitive load to working face-to-face. This means a spot-on energy level from the start, to initially captivate and assure the group, then retain their attention throughout the session. The moment you ‘meet’ learners, you need a mix of energy, gravitas, empathy, assurance and subject knowledge. And you can’t see them.
So, what helps you to rev up your energy levels for a virtual?

Voice modulation

First, it is important to know your subject matter. Practise out aloud, record yourself until you’re happy. Be aware of your facial expressions, particularly when learners say something unexpected or you encounter technical issues. Have everything you need within touching distance; make sure you have adequate light so you look good on the webcam.

Think about the points where you will need to raise/lower your pitch, or speed up/slow down. Notice the links between sections, so you can boost your vocal energy to recap the closing section and introduce the next one.

Remember that when you ask learners to do something technically tricky, such as moving them into separate ‘rooms’, think about how you are going to guide them with a mix of clarity, empathy and simplicity to enthuse and assure them. These factors help convince you that you’re ready to move onto your voice.

Get up and go

Before I start, I tend to either meditate and/or power pose for two minutes. I’ll repeat a tongue twister out loud, such as, ‘I want a proper cup of coffee in a proper, copper coffee pot’ to get my voice tuned up and make sure I’m articulating every syllable of every word. I’ll repeat my opening sentence a few times to make sure the session starts well. Then I’ll visualise the happy faces that I won’t be able to see.

In virtual work, enthusiasm and vocal skills work best with an equally high level of control. That takes energy and concentration.

I was once told that virtual delivery is like being a DJ. I’d add that it’s a bit like flying a plane. You exude calmness and control in the knowledge that if anything unlikely to happen actually happens, you have the confidence to deal with it seamlessly.

I’ve never flown a plane, but I have been told that it’s quite a thrill and it’s only when you’ve landed that you realise how much mental energy you’ve used. That’s how I feel after a virtual – so rev yourself up, strap in and stay in control!

About our guest blogger

Paul Tran is Director of PT Performance Solutions Ltd. He designs and delivers face-to-face and virtual training in communication, change and management and personal development.

Based in the Scottish Highlands, Paul works throughout the UK & Ireland. Client feedback describes Paul’s training as interactive, informative, engaging and practical. Paul is a qualified coach, Master Practitioner of NLP and Licensed Facilitator of SDI.

 

Four classic mistakes made when creating virtual versions from face-to-face learning

Mark Gilroy guest blogger for Lightbulb Moment

In volatile and uncertain economic climates, it’s essential for businesses to leverage the latest technologies to adapt to client demands. For TMSDI, an international provider of psychometric profiling tools, a key component in staying VUCA-proof has been the introduction of webinars and virtual classrooms to cater for train-the-trainer accreditation sessions. Although our traditional “on the ground” workshops have remained popular, in recent years we have found a strong demand for learning in a virtual classroom. Whether it’s for dispersed teams, clients who have limited travel budgets, or the time-poor learner, webinars have helped our business stay agile.

That’s not to say that we haven’t made any mistakes. Here are some that we’ve encountered, and some ideas for how to avoid them:

1) Preparing the same type of slides as you’d use in a face-to-face session

I’ll be honest- I’m not a huge fan of PowerPoint. In a face-to-face sessions I frequently work with flipcharts, physical props, and movement to help convey important concepts. Any slide decks that I do use are often very limited, and ideally there as a last resort to complement what is being discussed/shared.

Webinars demand a different approach. Assuming you are not using video/webcams, your participants will have just your voice to go on, so any visuals you have should be there to complement your audio content, capture attention, and inspire learning. In a virtual environment, the number of distractions is multiplied exponentially – it’s your job to use visuals as part of your toolkit to help maintain attention.

After much experimentation, we discovered a sweet spot: that 1 new slide should appear every 1-2 minutes. More-frequently and your audience will start to experiencing a strobing effect, less-frequently and attention begins to wander. And forget about the snazzy animations – in most virtual learning environments they will judder to a halt by the time your participants eventually see them due to limited bandwidth. Keep any slide builds simple, and go heavy on images, light on text. Haikudeck is a great place to start for webinar-friendly inspiration.

2) Forgetting to manage the energy in the room

Many trainers/facilitators share a preference for Extroversion.**

Depending on the psychometric tool and/or school of psychology that you subscribe to, this means that these types of facilitators have a high need for people contact, talking through their thoughts/ideas, and receiving energy/praise from others. Moreover, the energy that an Extrovert gives out should ideally be returned back to them in a continuous loop.

This can be a challenge when delivering in a virtual environment. For those who have a need for people contact, the lack of non-verbal, in-the-moment feedback is something that can feel a little like flying a plane in fog. Taking time to charge-up your personal energy before and after delivery will help, as will acknowledging that a more-extroverted presenter may feel more drained than usual compared to a piece of face-to-face delivery.

The same goes for participants. They also need to know you’re with them even if they can’t see you. How will you include their thoughts, questions, and contributions in the classroom to ensure no-one feels left out? Which brings us neatly to the other tools of the virtual learning trade…

**Disclaimer: This is, naturally, a sweeping generalisation, based purely on my own experiences of working with a wide variety of trainers/facilitators. Importantly, this is not to say that Extroverted facilitators are necessarily better than those with an Introvert preference (I would go as far as saying some of the best facilitators I’ve worked with are more-Introvert). But…this is all still worth bearing in mind when managing your energy as a presenter.

 

3) Ignoring the features of a virtual classroom because you wouldn’t/couldn’t use them face-to-face

Most webinar platforms include tools that you often wouldn’t get an opportunity to use when face to face. They can add a lot to a session to assist in gauging your learners’ engagement, adjusting your pace, and creating virtual communities:

Polls are a great way to punctuate virtual learning- as part of a ‘what brings you here today’ intro, a mini-quiz to test knowledge, or a round-up activity to check-in on pace. Most webinar platforms enable live polls to be set-up either on-the-fly or before the webinar begins. The results can be displayed in real time and also as part of tailored follow-up to support learners long after the session finishes.

Collaborative whiteboards can be a great way of capturing questions/comments/ideas, ready for playback in the session, or afterwards. Some platforms (e.g. Webex) allow for breakout sessions and multiple whiteboards, meaning that you can split groups off to work together, then bring them back in plenary to share the output of their discussions. Plus, they can all be recorded automatically to save anyone having to type them up.

In an “on the ground” learning session, it can be disruptive to have people chatting throughout. In a virtual environment, live chat is an effective tool to help learners build connections, check their understanding, and capture questions in real time for the facilitator to tackle at an opportune moment.

4) Assuming technical difficulties won’t happen

There’s a delicate balancing act to tread here. It can be a big drain on resources to go ‘looking for Murphy’ and analyse every possible technical issue that could occur. On the other hand, neglecting to anticipate the most likely issues can mean, at best, your webinar starts much later than planned, or at worst – you have to cancel and reschedule.

Some of the most common issues we have found are:

Internet connection issues

We resolved this in two ways:

1) From our side – to avoid any interruptions or issues with bandwidth, we installed a dedicated broadband line just for webinars. This may seem a step too far, but it’s important to have a Plan B in the eventuality that your internet connection goes down.

2) From the participants’ side – making sure that they are aware that a minimum connection speed will be necessary, and that joining using a mobile data connection or free coffee shop wi-fi is unlikely to cut it.

Audio issues

Most virtual learning solutions have a built-in audio check, to test that the computer/device speakers are compatible with the learning platform you’re using. Label them and make sure your learners know that they’re there when they arrive.

If you’re running a virtual learning session, encourage people to join far ahead of time so that any issues with audio can be ironed out in time for starting. For high value training sessions, we also offer a one-to-one test a week or so beforehand to help make sure the experience is as it should be. Five minutes spent here could save a whole heap of worry on ‘show day’.

If you can, make sure you have a colleague on standby to direct your participants to for tech support so that your presenter can focus on their presenting.

Finally – if in doubt, use a headset. No-one likes the never-ending echo effect in a webinar where others are talking.

The ‘what does that button do’ problem.

A savvy webinar presenter needs to be a master of their panel of controls in order to deliver swan-like, whilst all manner of notifications, alerts and messages are appearing around them.

There’s an easy solution here. Practice, practice and practice again.

Practice ‘driving’ a webinar, pushing all the buttons – just to see what they do – in a safe environment, so that you can be super-confident of your tools and how to use them when the time comes. Of equal importance: practice being a passenger so that you can a sense of what your participants are hearing/seeing/experiencing as you guide them through their learning journey.

Mark GilroyPlease get in touch or leave a comment below to share some of your experiences delivering learning solutions in the virtual classroom.

About our guest blogger

Mark Gilroy is Managing Director of TMS Development International Ltd, a leading global provider of psychometric development tools designed to create, nurture and sustain high performing teams. Mark has a background in psychology and has been working in the L&D arena as an executive coach and team development facilitator for over a decade.

Making the most of your live online session webinar recording

In case you missed the sold-out Learning Technologies Summer Forum Conference session from Jo Cook, this was a chance to get all the same information!

Click here to watch the webinar recording.

 

The LTSF17 session description and what is covered in the webinar version too

 

Click here to see tweets of the Learning Technologies Summer Forum 2017 session.

 

Click to register for the free Lightbulb Moment webinars with Jo Cook!

 

 

The very first Lightbulb Moment free public webinar!

Hurrah! We are so pleased!

Today we ran our first ever free webinar from Lightbulb Moment. It was the launch of our free programme and we started with asking if the virtual classroom is a friend, or a foe!

Some of the challenges webinar attendees listed during the #LightbulbWebinar session.

By the end of the session people wrote on the whiteboard “I just wanna have a go now” and “just want to get started!”

In terms of people’s Lightbulb Moments that they learnt during the session one person included “experiencing an excellent webinar like this shows how it should be done”.

You can see why we are so pleased!

If you missed the session, no worries at all, you can watch the recording here.

Click to register for the free Lightbulb Moment webinars with Jo Cook!

And here are some of the tweets from the very first webinar!

 

Click to register for the free Lightbulb Moment webinars with Jo Cook!

 

Tweets covering the LTSF17 live online learning conference session

“Making the most of your live online session” was the presentation I delivered at Learning Technologies Conference Summer Forum 2017.

Click for LTSF webinar session description

LTSF webinar session description

These are the tweets that covered my session about webinars and the virtual classroom.

Ady Howes had a 360 degree camera and recorded the session. I’ll update this page when we have a video link!

My session was one of the last of the day, against stiff competition of conference Chairman himself, Donald H Taylor, as well as 702010 God Charles Jennings! I still had a packed, sold out room though.

As Kate mentions, each conference session has a person tweeting the highlights, which was the lovely Joan Keevill.

Many thanks to @Obhi and @Designs_JoanK for their tweets.

Remember to download the paper that goes with this session.

And you can also join us for the webinar version!

Facilitator Guide for live online classroom

This is a free Lightbulb Moment resources of a blank facilitator guide, session plan, lesson plan (or whatever name you want to use!) that you may wish to use as a starting point for your live online sessions, virtual classrooms and webinars.

fg

Click for the Word document: facilitator-guide-blank-lightbulb-moment-jo-cook

Main facilitation section

What you can see in the main part of the document is:

  • Space for the slide thumbnail
    • Easier to update and add slides than change slide numbers
    • Easy visual reference when delivering
    • Doesn’t replace a print or screen of the slides with any detail on it that you might need
  • The facilitator column with script/information for delivery and key question points
    • It’s up to you what is right for your team in terms of the amount of ‘script’ that is on the document. Good facilitators will use this as a guide and life to their delivery
    • The questions in red help experienced facilitators highlight the important question point
  • The producer column is great for if you have someone in a host or more technical support role
    • Even if delivering content solo, I use this column to hold technical information, such as links or questions to paste into the chat window, tabs/pods to select and so on
    • You could re-purpose this column to be for co-delivery too
  • Technical and interaction notes as screen-grabbed icons of the software system
    • This makes it very quick and easy to process the input from the attendees – the chat icon tells me to say “Please type your response in chat” or the tick/check/cross/X tells me to ask for the response this way. It cuts down the need for this to be scripted
    • Ensuring that there is lots if meaningful, varied interaction will hold people’s attention and assist with their learning
  • Time on slide might seem strange to plan down to the 30 seconds – it’s not set in stone, but is an aide to know if something is a quick statement versus an interactive discussion
  • Having the elapsed time in minutes is helpful to keep on track
    • I have this in minutes and hours so that it doesn’t matter what time I start the session, I don’t have to mentally think “Oh, it says 10.27am, but today I started at 2.00pm…”

Opening pages

The first few pages contain some useful elements of design:

  1. A one page overview to help when planning initially and for trainer’s/facilitators to get a feel for the session
  2. An Adobe Connect specific table to help ensure planning and building of rooms and materials is correct
  3. The last section is a legend and icons to copy and paste into the document

Yours!

Please use this document as you see fit and update as you need to.

It would be great comment your thoughts, adaptations and changes that might help other people.