VIRTUAL TRAINING – Cindy Huggett, CPLP
Using Virtual to Interact, Connect & Collaborate
If you’re going to bring a group together, it should be for discussion and dialogue.
When social distancing keeps us apart, virtual classrooms can keep us together. Well-designed virtual classes provide opportunities to connect, communicate and collaborate. They allow for conversation and dialogue among distributed workforces. They create space for discussion.
Unfortunately, too many virtual classes involve only the presenter. Presenters begin a class, ask attendees to pay attention and then proceed to lecture. While there’s a time and place for presenting one-way information to a live audience in a virtual event, often it can simply be distributed as a pre-recorded video or just an email message. If you’re going to bring a group together, then it should be for discussion and dialogue.
Use virtual classes as opportunities to build relationships among attendees. The most meaningful relationships are built through shared experiences and common connections. When designed for dialogue instead of monologue, virtual classes create an environment for conversation.
Here are several examples:
Chat gives attendees the ability to give input and contribute to the group discussion. Attendees can ask questions and assist each other with queries. They comment simultaneously and spontaneously, just like they would in a classroom setting.
One of the worst mistakes online presenters can make is to shut down the chat and ask for questions to be held until the end. If you are using virtual classes to build relationships, then you must allow for spontaneous conversation.
The use of webcams is the easiest way to replicate an in-person training experience. When attendees can see the facilitator, and each other, it mirrors a face-to-face class.
Facilitators should strategically use webcams, so that during any short presentation snippets, their video has the spotlight. Everyone else gets a break, to avoid camera fatigue. Then turn the webcams back on for group discussions and collaboration.
To overcome attendee hesitation to be on camera, advocate for authenticity. Let them know that perfectly coiffed backgrounds aren’t necessary. Instead, let the webcam catch glimpses of real-life, such as seeing someone’s favorite coffee mug or meeting their pet. These small moments build genuine connections.
Shared whiteboards easily give attendees the ability to collaborate online. Most virtual platforms have whiteboard drawing tools available on shared documents and shared screens. These annotation tools allow everyone to contribute. Imagine a virtual facilitator posting a diagram and asking attendees to highlight areas of interest.
The larger the virtual group size, the more important it is to have small group discussion and collaboration. Well-designed virtual classes incorporate small group activities, and effective facilitators provide simple instructions for attendees to seamlessly connect. The ability to talk with each other allows relationships to grow.
Cindy Huggett, CPLP, is a consultant whose books include Virtual Training Tools and Templates and The Virtual Training Guidebook. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.