August 2023 Newsletter

Trustworthy? Approachable? Intimidating? 

When we first started training facilitators to deliver engaging training in the virtual classroom over 15 years ago, we often had to persuade trainers to put themselves on camera. The “advice” given by some educators back then was for facilitators to keep themselves off camera because their presence would create cognitive overload for participants. I scoffed at that premise then as I do now. At conferences, I preached that delivering web training on camera helps build greater rapport and engagement with participants. I still believe that your presence on camera helps create a stronger virtual classroom environment as people can see and read your body language and facial expressions.


Things changed overnight as Zoom exploded on the scene at the beginning of the pandemic. Suddenly everyone could be on camera, facilitators and participants alike. When the novelty of that practice wore off, we began to discuss the negative impact of “Zoom Fatigue” and why participants might not need to be on their web cameras all day in meetings and training sessions.


Stanford University released a very interesting study in 2022 that focused on the importance of gaze, camera distance, and angle on the impressions that people form when viewing us on web camera (Impression Formation From Video Conference Screenshots: The Role of Gaze, Camera Distance, and Angle · Volume 3, Issue 1: Spring 2022 (


I eagerly read the report because I assumed that the highest level of trustworthiness would result only from looking up into the web camera lens. What I learned was that looking up into the camera lens or looking straight into the camera lens were both perceived as trustworthy. However, looking up into the camera lens was perceived as more approachable or friendly. Looking down into the web camera lens creates the impression that you are intimidating. Laptop users are unwittingly guilty of this effect unless they raise their laptops considerably.


These relevant conclusions stood out to me:


  • Put your head and shoulders in the camera frame, close enough so people can see your facial expressions
  • Look up into the camera lens to appear both trustworthy and friendly
  • Avoid looking down into the camera lens on a laptop, which looks imposing or intimidating
  • When speaking or listening, look into the camera lens, not at the video display, to maintain direct gaze (the illusion of eye contact).
  • Avoid indirect gaze (rarely looking into the camera lens while speaking) which undermines credibility
  • Avoid large shifting eye movements


When you use your web camera skillfully, you can create an environment of trust in the virtual classroom. Your virtual presence as the facilitator will enhance psychological safety or undermine psychological safety. With increased psychological safety, your virtual classroom will be more engaging and inclusive.


Join us in our next NetSpeed Nuggets session to explore three critical focus areas: virtual presence, social strength, and technical comfort that combine to build the highest psychological safety. Join us at this 45-minute, complimentary session, Mission Possible: Engagement and Inclusion in Virtual Training, on Wednesday, September 13, at 1:00 pm ET / 10:00 am PT. Registration is required

Cynthia Clay

Virtual Trainer Tips: Instructional Design Rules

We’ve been working with a client to “repurpose” several training programs for moderated asynchronous delivery. This client is moving away from facilitated web workshops to a peer-to-peer learning environment which includes short videos, interactive, micro-learning assets, edited Zoom webinar content, a moderated discussion thread, and two one-hour “Ask the Expert” networking sessions.


While we love virtual instructor-led training, this type of virtual blended program is also right up our alley. We use Adobe Captivate and Articulate Storyline 360 to create interactive microlearning elements (2 to 10 minutes long). We record the voiceover for the videos and eLearning elements in our recording studio.


When we design, we develop a detailed project plan as we move through these phases:


  • Phase 1: Course Blueprint (a high-level overview at what we are trying to accomplish)
  • Phase 2: Design Guides (a description of the entire course, module by module, identifying which type of course asset will be designed for each content area)
  • Phase 3: Storyboards (a complete storyboard for each module, featuring text, scripts, and images for each of the course assets)
  • Phase 4: Asset Creation (where the magic happens - we produce the course elements)
  • Phase 5: Implementation and Feedback (when we debrief, make necessary changes, and improve the design process for the next course)


To work most efficiently with our client, we meet regularly to review these deliverables and make revisions. In an ideal process, by the time we get to Phase 3, it’s quick and easy to produce the final course elements. Our goal is to create a high-quality learning experience that is engaging, motivating, and leads to learning transfer and application.


Let us know how we can help your organization. 

NetSpeed Nuggets

Join us at the next NetSpeed Nuggets virtual session. This 45-minute, rapid learning sessions will introduce strategies and tactics that increase your effectiveness in the virtual workplace.

Mission Possible: Engagement and Inclusion in Virtual Training

Is it possible to deliver virtual training that engages and includes all participants? Absolutely! Engagement and inclusion are critical to any successful facilitated online learning event. In this session, we will go beyond using the interaction tools in your web conference platform to explore the importance of psychological safety and its influence on engagement in the virtual classroom. If you want to seem trustworthy and approachable when you facilitate, learn what the research reveals about the effective use of your web cam.

Wednesday, September 13th, 1:00 pm ET/10:00 am PT. 45 minutes. Complimentary.

Learn More and Register

Become a Certified Online Learning Facilitator

Now is the time to build stronger virtual facilitation skills!

The Sept/Oct 2023 Virtual Facilitator Trainer Certification (VFTC) course is now open for enrollment.

This popular course has received rave reviews from participants as it provides a deep dive into best practices for virtual facilitation and design.

Now it's your turn to rock the virtual classroom! The Sept/Oct course opens on Thursday, Sept 7th with the first webinar on Thursday, Sept 14th.

Become a Virtual Producer

Every virtual facilitator needs a capable virtual training producer.

As a skilled virtual training producer, you perform a critical role by supporting the virtual facilitator behind the scenes, manage the technology that can sometimes distract from the online learning experience and free the facilitator to focus on the content and the learners’ needs.

Develop your skills in our September Virtual Producer Training! Class starts Thursday, Sept 7th. Pre-webinar assignments start Friday, Sept 1st.

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One Final Thought

Download our ebook, Create Great Hybrid and Virtual Training for tips and practical techniques for hybrid training.

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