It all starts with establishing exactly what you want the participant to be able to do after they participate in your web workshop. You are not identifying what you, as the facilitator, are planning to present to them. Far too frequently, when I am invited to attend a webinar, the objectives describe the activities and information that are going to be presented. Here is an example from a recent webinar invitation in my inbox:
“Discover trends driving the shift to the
digital transformation of learning”
To turn that statement into a result-oriented objective (sometimes called a terminal objective), ask yourself what the attendee will be able to do after they discover these trends. Any of the following objectives describes what attendees might be able to do, not what information will be presented.
- Capitalize on the trends driving the shift to the digital transformation of learning
- Build a strong case for transforming the way your organization trains, based on current industry trends
- Choose the best digital methods to transform your learning experiences.
This focus on the end result, rather than on what you want to present, drives how you decide which information is relevant, and how you want participants to engage with that content.
Many of the webinars I attend strive to engage people by popping up a poll periodically or asking a chat question every so often. I heard a facilitator say once, “I’ve been talking for 15 minutes; now it’s time for you to do something!” As if its only purpose was to break up the monotony! To make engagement meaningful, ask yourself how you can help the participant actively connect to the content and to the experiences of others in the session. Address the problems and challenges they are facing, and help them recognize and practice techniques to solve those issues.
Of course, you can have entertaining icebreakers and fun games to play, but make sure that every activity is relevant and not a diversion. How does it tie to the stated objectives? Is it helping them remember important information or adopt strong practices? Are they mastering a skill?
I took a virtual course this year in which small groups were sent into breakout rooms to create a roleplay that demonstrated poor behavior exhibited by someone who was not communicating well. We spent 25% of our virtual class time talking about that roleplay, assigning roles (the bad communicator, the victim of bad communication, etc.), practicing the roleplay, and demonstrating poor communication practices in front of our colleagues. While we did work in a small group in a breakout group (yes!), I question whether this exercise is an example of meaningful engagement. Why? While it was fun to do, we spent an enormous amount of time creating a roleplay in which we practiced communicating poorly.
There are several exercises that might have had greater value:
- We might have observed the instructors present a roleplay demonstrating poor communication and critiqued it to identify the poor communication practices we noticed.
- We might have coached the victim of bad communication to respond constructively.
- We might have gone into a breakout group to create a roleplay demonstrating the application of positive communication practices presented previously by the instructor.
Any of those activities would have resulted in more meaningful engagement in this course. When auditing your design, ask yourself: What is the overall purpose of this activity? Is it relevant to achieving the objectives? Is it useful and applicable? Will they have deeper knowledge or improved skill after participating?
Every web conference platform has its strengths and weaknesses. When you design, capitalize on the strengths of a specific platform, and side step the weaknesses. For example, in Adobe Connect, I leverage the ability to create layouts with multiple chat questions or multiple polls. In Zoom, I leverage the screen sharing capability to display a slide presentation that syncs to Poll Everywhere. In WebEx, I leverage the annotation tools and design polling questions that require participants to use arrows to point to their answers on a slide. In Microsoft Teams, I leverage the ability to work on a shared document.
While I might be presenting a webinar on the same content, the activities are going to be presented differently depending on what platform I am using. When you grasp the strengths and weaknesses of a specific webinar platform, you can design a learning experience that shines!
If you would like to learn more about how to shine online, join us for our next complimentary webinar, SHINE: Five Secrets of Stellar Virtual Trainers, coming up on Wednesday, March 17, 1:00 pm ET/10:00 am PT. When you have completed the session, you will be able to apply five techniques to improve your virtual training.