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.
Next week I will be the lead facilitator for a national, four-day “Train-the-Trainer” event. While I have facilitated this before, I am deep in prep mode today and reflecting on strategies I have used in the past. Should I keep that strategy? Tweak that idea? What works best for learning?
One of my “keepers” is how I set up my presentation table. In many conference rooms, the table is set parallel to the audience, as in the diagram below.
When the front of the room is set up this way, it is easy for the presenter to get caught behind the table for a significant portion of the day. The table becomes a physical (and psychological) barrier between them and their audience.
I choose to orient my table so that it is perpendicular to the audience, as in the diagram below. I place my device on the very end, assorted materials toward the back of the table, and then stand next to the device when necessary. This allows me to easily enter the audience, moving around fluidly without any barrier between us.
What tips do you have for room set up? I'd love you to share!
More ideas can be found in my book Caffeinated Learning: How to Design and Conduct Rich, Robust Professional Learning.
A recent survey showed that 67% of employees admit they plan to multi-task at their next virtual training session. And 100% admit to actually doing it!
Virtual or in-person training must engage participants in order for learning to occur and time be well-spent. At ATD ICE 2018, I presented a session on adding the caffeine to your training design and implementation. We want our participants to be wide awake and learning! While I had rave reviews, I had a few people ask me how to do it with dry, boring or technical content. Another participant asked me how to engage accountants and engineers. Differing subjects or audiences may require interactive strategies that take these challenges into account.
“Fill It In” is a simple strategy that can be used with any audience and any content. Depending on your slide design, it can be viewed as more serious and intellectual or more creative. Instead of showing the audience a completed flowchart or graph, let them engage their brains to make predictions! Here are three slides that I have used recently, depending on my objectives, content and audience. I leave the steps blank and ask everyone to chat in or share how they would fill them in. If there are correct answers, I will then reveal these to the group.
Remember, learning is not a spectator sport!
Here's a sneak preview at one of the simple and effective strategies I will be presenting at the ATD ICE 2020 in my session on Summarization Strategies. I hope you will join me to learn a dozen different ways to engage your participants in active summarization.
Try this first: Create as many words as you can related to the topic of training and talent development, using only the letters that are present. Don't use a letter twice in one word if it is only present on the screen once.
Virtual Variation: Follow all the same steps but have them share their words in the chat room.
Adding a touch of rigorous thinking and rich discussion yields deeper learning for our workshop participants. The Incorrect Answer Strategy is a simple way to do this, while also adding some movement to your course.
I find that the conversation can be very interesting (depending on the question!) and participants often end up talking with others they might not have been sitting next to. It also gives me some assessment information about my participants comprehension so that I can make adjustments to my instructional plan if necessary.
For a virtual variation, use breakout rooms, or ask participants to type A, B, C or D followed by their rationale to the common chat.
BTW, I will be at the Training Conference in Orlando, presenting my Caffeinated Training Design approach on Monday, February 24th at 10:00 am. If you are attending, please stop by! If you can't make it, check out my book for an overview and lots of strategies!
Last week I attended a webinar. Let’s say that the topic was time management. After introducing herself, the presenter chose to use a poll question as an activator. I leaned in, ready to engage and answer the question. Here’s the question, varied just slightly to protect her identity.
Which of the following is the biggest time waster for you in the work place?
I stared at the question for a few moments and then began to work on something else on my desk. None of the answers applied to me! I work for myself (no colleagues), I control how many meetings I schedule, I am skilled at prioritizing and have up-to-date tech solutions. Instead of feeling connected to the content, I felt a bit left out and began to wonder if the webinar wasn’t going to be of value to me. I turned my attention to something else, and eventually walked away from my computer.
If you are going to use poll questions, be sure they are inclusive. A forced choice answer can be used if there is one correct answer, but in this case the correct answer for me would have been “other” or “none of the above.”
Better yet, replace poll questions with a variety of other engagement techniques. Want to know what those include?
Look back over the last few years of Tips on my website (here are a few), or contact me to explore some virtual training on best practices for virtual training!
Caffeinated Training Design: An Engagement-Centered Process , filled with ideas, can be on your desk in just a few days!
For even more ideas...
Anne Beninghof is passionate about teaching and learning.
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