The chat feature in platforms like Zoom has become a very popular way to engage participants in responding to questions. Especially helpful with large audiences, it allows everyone to respond without having to spend time waiting for individuals to unmute, ramble on, and then be reminded to mute themselves again. However, these chat responses often reflect lower level thinking and don’t lead to deep learning.
One chat protocol that I have used successfully looks like this (always posted on a slide for clarity):
Always remember to allow some silent think time after sharing the question and before the chat begins. I call this a Purposeful Pause. Depending on the question, I might ask for a 10 to 60 second Purposeful Pause.
When it appears that everyone has answered, except for the select group, I then ask participants in the select group to unmute and share a response to one of the chat comments. If needed, I might call on someone by saying “Trin, would you like to share or pass?” (I find that the initial chat comments are often more thoughtful when those people know that others will be carefully reviewing their comments and selecting one to respond to publicly.)
After the select group has responded, consider taking it a step further by asking anyone in the group to react to the verbal comments. Now we see dialogue among participants that may go a bit deeper. Depending on the conversation, I might wrap up the activity by asking everyone to spend 30 – 60 seconds doing some silent written reflection.
I will share more chat protocols in the future. Feel free to add your ideas in the comments below!
I currently live in the Eastern time zone but am used to traveling across time zones quite regularly. Technology automatically updates my phone and other devices, so there has never been any confusion or missed starts. Now that I am working from home so often with businesses in other time zones, things can get fuzzy. Is it 9:45 or 10:45? Are we returning from lunch at 1:00, 2:00 or 3:00? How much time do I have left in the session?
If you are feeling fuzzy too, here are three simple tips for zooming across time zones.
1. Obtain a small digital clock (travel size works well) and place it on your desk. Set the time zone for wherever the company is located. If all participants are in that time zone, use it as your main clock, and avoid looking at your watch or devices.
2. If participants are attending from a variety of time zones, use phrases such as “we will return from lunch at the top of the hour” or “let’s come back from break at quarter after” rather than mentioning a specific hour.
3. Use a timer app on your computer and share this screen at breaks, showing the time counting down until everyone should return. For Mac users, try an app called TimerByTen. Some platforms include an embedded timer tool, and there are several free online timers.
I was grateful to get Tip #1 from Frank, a colleague with a gift for practical solutions. If you have a practical solution for facilitation and training in the virtual world, please share!
I have two openings left for sessions on Caffeinated Virtual Training Design between now and the new year. Contact me today to discuss how to boost your virtual engagement and keep participants wide awake and learning!
Each new virtual training motivates me to create new ideas, and last week was no different. I facilitated a four-day online session with 145 participants, so I had to have sufficient variety to keep the engagement high throughout. (BTW, it was fantastic!)
Whenever possible, I try to transform an activity I would use in-person to something I can do in the virtual world. Mad Dash is an example of this. During an in-person training, I might hang envelopes on the walls all around the room. Teams will choose a “runner” so that when I say “go” they make a Mad Dash to grab an envelope. Inside the envelopes are a variety of questions or tasks that the team answers or completes. Sometimes I might put a gift certificate, money or a door prize in one of the envelopes.
I'd love to help upskill your training facilitators in virtual engagement strategies. Feel free to reach out if you'd like to discuss ways we can collaborate.
Whether it is the first time meeting someone, with all of the weight of first impressions, or a regular check in with teammates, connection is important. Virtual meetings make it hard to feel as connected as if we were in person. This is even more true when the meeting facilitator or participants are not looking directly into their camera. With all the things on our desks – for me it is two computers, a phone, an iPad, notes, and office supplies - it can be a challenge to remember where to look when speaking with others.
My solution – googly eyes! Or at least, their print equivalent. I used one of my favorite icon sites, www.thenounproject.com, and found a pair of eyes that would be “eye-catching” to me. Then I created a doc with several sets of eyes, all with a bright red arrow next to them. I printed them, laminated them and cut them up. (Don’t have a home laminator? Paper will do just fine.) Using a bit of sticky tack, I adhered one to my computer cover so that it points right at my camera. I’ve offered the others to family and friends that want a friendly reminder to look at the camera.
You can download my sheet of eyes here or easily create your own.
I hesitated to share this idea on my blog. Why? It seems like a very small thing, rather than an idea with big outcomes, an idea that will impact the talent development field in an important way. But then I realized, like many who are much wiser than I, that small things can make a big difference! Enjoy!
Bored with your review strategies, especially in virtual environments? Activities with a game theme boost interest, even in their simplest form. Here’s an easy strategy, grounded in memory research, to mix things up a bit.
Near the end of your session (or chunk of content) show the RETRIEVE slide (download here). Ask participants to set aside their notes and try to retrieve their learning, creating a word that begins with each of the letters R, E, T, etc. After about 30 seconds of silent retrieval, ask participants to share in the chat box.
If you are using Google Slides or some other co-creation platform, you can ask participants to write or type their words onto the slide. Large group? Send them to breakout rooms and ask them to make a copy of the slide before adding their thoughts.
For a variation, pick a word from your own content and edit the slide. Generic alternatives include BEST, ACTION, IDEAS, LEARN, REALIZE, EMPLOY, REFLECT.
High engagement is boosted by novel strategies. My sessions are packed with new ideas! Contact me to learn how easy it is to bring these ideas to your colleagues.
Are you a memory champion? If not, you are probably like the rest of us – you have fairly good recall when you are attentive and engaged. However, if your mind wanders or you attempt to multi-task or you are anxious, etc., your ability to recall what you are learning diminishes.
Try the following exercise, without scrolling down the page! Give yourself 30 seconds to attempt to memorize the following display of 15 symbols. After 30 seconds, look away and write down as many, in order, as you can remember. Then check your accuracy.
How well did you do? If you got all 15 correct, you may have the makings of a memory champion! You should be quite pleased with yourself. Most of us, though, don’t do all that well. We need our information to be chunked in order to remember it better. Now try the following exercise, with the same approach – 30 seconds to memorize, look away and write down as many as you can.
I’d bet real money on your improvement. When information is presented and studied in chunks, it is much easier to make sense of and remember. This “chunking” is essential for virtual instruction because so many distractions abound. The refrigerator calls, others in the house are making noise, no one is watching, etc. Most experts suggest that virtual lecture should not last more than 3-5 minutes before providing learners with an opportunity to process, discuss, retrieve or in some way interact with the information. This is especially important for anyone who might have a learning disability or attention deficit disorder.
Here’s a list of some of my favorite, simple ways to add processing time with any content:
Before your next virtual session, review your plan and check to see if you have chunked the content, allowing processing and interaction every 3-5 minutes. Not only will you increase your learner engagement, you will increase learner outcomes!
After sitting through one virtual session after another, most participants are craving some movement and variety! As a facilitator or trainer, it is my challenge to create ways to incorporate both, while addressing the learning goals. I tried something new this week and it worked so well!
Find a moment in your meeting or class when you want to emphasize one of the following points:
Direct your participants to make clockwise circles on the floor with their right foot and keep it going. Then ask them to simultaneously use a finger to air write their first name in cursive. After a few seconds, ask them to chat in or share verbally how successful they were. Most of my participants admitted to a massive "FAIL." Facilitate some discussion about why it was difficult.. Try it yourself right now!
The exercise allowed me to make a point, related to my content, about cognitive overload and also added a novel movement opportunity for my participants.
As talent developers, we have the creative capacity to develop myriad ways to keep our audiences awake and engaged with the learning. I'd love to hear some of your successful strategies!
Looking for even more ideas? I am working with groups across the globe, sharing tips for how to make virtual sessions highly engaging. Contact me to explore what I can do for you. email@example.com
A recent trip to see the Blue Man Group inspired so many new ideas! They are masters at creating a super positive environment, filled with opportunities for audience engagement. Near the end of their show, they used an oxytocin meter to judge our enthusiasm. (Oxytocin is a hormone that builds relationships, reduces anxiety and stress, and improves trust.) Whenever the audience yelled out loud, the flashing lights on the meter would get higher and stronger. While I don't have the ability to carry around a huge electronic meter with me, I created a variation to use in reviewing content, whether in-person or virtually.
The meter starts in the red zone. I then ask my participants to share eight things they remember from the session's content. For each share, I progress the slide animation to add another level of color, until we get to the top. If you know that you have five steps in a process you are teaching, you could just have five levels of color. You could also use it immediately after teaching the five steps, then return to it again later in the course to check their recall.
Lots of ideas for improving your virtual training are available in my book, Caffeinated Training Design. These simple, easy to implement strategies will increase engagement during your upcoming meetings and training sessions. Purchase copies for your team today!
We know from dozens of research studies that movement improves learning. The best teachers, trainers and facilitators incorporate it into their lessons, no matter the content or the age of the learners.
If we believe in movement, then why do we believe that it is impossible to have participants move in the virtual arena? It is a myth that movement is not possible! It just takes a bit of creativity and encouragement. Throughout my virtual sessions, I ask learners:
Do you know if your participants are using these gestures or opportunities? If they are not on camera, you won’t know, but you have given them the opportunity and encouragement. If you are on camera (which I recommend) then you can model the behavior. This will boost the likelihood that they will participate.
For something more structured, try a scavenger hunt. Ask participants to get out of their chairs, move around their space and snap a photo of something related to the content. For example, if you are doing a session on effective listening, someone might snap a photo of their ear, a notepad, a book on communication, an open door, a speaker, etc. After taking the photo, Have them email the photo to a designated email account or to a Twitter feed and then share it on your screen.
For more ideas on how to make virtual training highly engaging, check out these simple strategies that you can add to your slide design:
Let's keep our learners awake and engaged without the need for caffeine!
Try this simple summarization activity at your next in-person or virtual training session.
Ask everyone to draw an inverted pyramid with four horizontal lines, as in the photo.
Direct them to think about the topic and what will be most important to remember. Then ask them to write a five-word summary on the top line, a four-word summary on the next, continuing on each line with 3, 2, and 1.
Give participants about a minute to complete the task, asking them to stand quietly when they have finished. Once you have everyone standing, ask them to partner up with someone and share their Pyramid Summary.
Virtual Variation – Ask each person to type their summaries into the chat box or to take a photo and email it to you.
Simple, easy strategies can often be the best! No need to spend long hours creating activities when ideas like this are so effective! For more practical ideas, check out my book Caffeinated Training Design.
For even more ideas...
Anne Beninghof is passionate about teaching and learning.
var switchTo5x=true; >