NetSpeed Learning Solutions December 2019
The MAGIC of
Compelling Virtual Classroom Experiences
You're scheduled to deliver a web training session next week. You've got 60 minutes to command their attention, captivate interest, engage participation, and solidify knowledge. Whether you're delivering this learning program in WebEx, Adobe Connect, Zoom, or another platform, you want them to be dazzled by the experience. Your objective is to ensure that they learn practical tools that they can apply on the job. You don't want to bore the socks off them (like the last webinar you watched). You don't want their attention to drift away to their email or the latest project calling from their computer.
How do stellar virtual trainers activate learning in the virtual classroom? Simply put, they go beyond the basics of reviewing content in a PowerPoint presentation, hitting people with an occasional polling question, or posing a generic question in chat. Presenting masterfully in the virtual classroom requires you to develop both technical and delivery skills in a modality that is quite different than the face-to-face classroom.
Use this mnemonic to describe and remember what separates pedestrian online training from stellar virtual learning.
Master the Technology
If you are presenting in a virtual platform for the first time, you may be feeling some anxiety. How do you build a poll and open it? What do you do if the audio drops? How do you activate the annotation tools so people can type on the slide? It might be tempting to leave all of that to the host/producer and just present your content. But trust me, you'll feel less anxious if you know how the web conference platform works. You'll have a greater sense of control and ease combined with a reduced sense of anxiety.
Adopt Beginner's Mind
Theater professionals know that no matter how many times they have performed in a production, the audience should experience it like it's the first time. Adopting beginner's mind means that you are fully present in the moment, open to the input from participants, and engaging with everyone to deliver the web training together. If you are fully present with everyone, you will co-create the learning experience. And participants will recognize that they are contributing to a collaborative learning experience. That's a powerful way to keep their attention!
Glow with Energy and Passion
Masterful virtual trainers love their topic, love the technology, love the opportunity to connect, and love the learners. You need to be lit up from the inside with energy, as well as commitment to the topic and the participants' learning. Spend a few minutes before the web session reviewing your objectives. Remind yourself of the impact that this training will have on your participants' on-the-job performance. Close your eyes and visualize a high energy, focused training session. Make sure that the opening of your virtual session is warm, welcoming, and enthusiastic.
Integrate Streaming Video
Put yourself on camera so that people can see your facial expressions and connect with you as a live trainer. Make sure that your face is well lit, and your background is uncluttered yet personal. Practice web camera techniques to give participants the illusion of eye contact. The old advice to "turn off the camera so you don't distract people" is no longer valid. (I'm not sure it was ever valid, frankly, but low bandwidth used to be a common issue). Your intention now should be to create a lively virtual classroom experience, one that commands their attention and participation.
Connect with People
Yes, you are sitting at a computer in another room, probably miles away from your participants. But how they yearn for you to bridge that distance! Use people's names and invite them to chat or speak aloud. Applaud their contributions. Weave their insights into your objectives. Notice what individuals are thinking, feeling, and sharing. Link previous points they have made to current points you are making. Remember specific examples and who stated them. Allow yourself to be delighted by their ideas and suggestions. The goal should be for every person in the session to feel seen, heard, and validated.
These five techniques can help you elevate your performance in the virtual classroom. They are the foundation of a magical learning experience.
If you'd like to learn more about bringing MAGIC to your virtual learning sessions, join us for our next complimentary webinar, MAGIC! Five Secrets of Stellar Virtual Trainers, on Wednesday, December 11th, 1:00 pm ET / 10:00 am PT.  
Cynthia Clay signature
Cynthia Clay
Trainer Tips: 
Trust Your Host/Producer
We often provide hosts or producers to assist on major web events. They are skilled and knowledgeable about various web conferencing platforms. Knowing their similarities and differences, they often run into situations where the speaker has designed an exercise or activity on one platform that won't translate well to the platform being used for the current virtual event. Unfortunately, they don't always take our advice!
A couple of examples:  
  • The speaker who had designed an activity with annotation tools where all participants would point to the answer on the screen. (Easy to do in WebEx but not as effective in the platform we were using.) The Host/Producer explained the problem and recommended an alternative. She insisted that she wanted to do the exercise her way. It failed in the live event, sadly, and she was frustrated at the result.
  • The speaker who embedded audio files into her PowerPoint. (Might work if she displayed her desktop but would never work when the PowerPoint was uploaded into the web platform.) She insisted it worked in the last session she led in a different platform. The Host/Producer requested the audio files so he could have a backup solution ready. She resisted and finally provided them ten minutes before the session when she finally realized that he was right and the audio wasn't playing through the embedded PowerPoint presentation. As a result, they scrambled to put the alternative solution in place and were forced to start the live webinar five minutes late.
  • The speaker who wanted to create her polls "on the fly" rather than build them in advance. Every time she wanted to open a poll, the web session ground to a halt while everyone waited.
The lesson in these examples is to trust your Host/Producer. If they have recommendations about the best way to use the technology, take their advice to heart, even if it means you need to spend a little bit more time up front to prepare. The final event will be a better experience for all involved, especially the participants who are investing valuable time to attend the web training session!
Ask Cynthia
This short video answers the question: Should I use my web camera or is it distracting?
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