Be Seen: The Pros & Cons of Facilitator Web Camera Use in the Virtual Classroom (Part 1)

October 13, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
As I’ve mentioned in the past, the virtual classroom provides several advantages over the face-to-face environment for both learners and facilitators. However, the virtual environment also comes with what some may perceive as disadvantages. The most common; not being able to physically “see” your audience and the audience not being able to see you. As more and more platforms begin to add capabilities, including the ability to use web cameras in the virtual classroom, it may be assumed that the virtual session can easily be turned into a comparable face-to-face session by simply turning on your web camera. If you have spent any time communicating through a web camera, you know it is not the same as being in person. There’s a time and a place for the use of web cameras in a virtual session. In this post I’ve laid out a list of potential pros and cons you, as a facilitator, can use to evaluate whether or not your being on camera is a “value-add” or a distraction to your learners. At a glance… Pros Participants being able to see the session facilitator(s) helps put a face to name. It’s especially useful for introductions and the welcome time. Allows for virtual eye contact from the facilitator, potentially a more personal experience, if done well. Helps to establish the connection between the facilitator and the learner. Cons Web camera use can create new distractions: Participants may focus on what’s in the facilitator’s camera shot rather than paying attention to what is being discussed. (What’s that on the wall behind the facilitator?) If the audio doesn’t match up to the lip movements of the facilitator. Paper shuffling/background noises in the facilitator’s environment. Poor camera engagement on the part of the facilitator. Eye shifting from notes to camera to elsewhere. There is an increased opportunity for technical issues: If the video feed is slow/skipping (low bandwidth situations). User error. Little to no control over participant device or network. Time investment for the facilitator to test equipment, develop skills, and prepare. Using your virtual platform to its maximum capabilities can be beneficial to the outcomes you’re trying to achieve with your virtual training sessions. The use of web cameras during a session can be a value-add, if done correctly.   Stay tuned for Part 2 where we discuss in detail why it might not make sense to put your facilitator on camera for an entire virtual session.

Hello? Is This Thing On? Finding Your Energy in the Virtual Classroom.

May 17, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
One of the greatest challenges for many facilitators transitioning from face-to-face courses to virtual ones, is finding the energy they need from the virtual space. Good face-to-face presenters thrive on the energy and reactions they get from their learners: smiles, laughs, head nods, or even confused looks - all help the facilitator respond, react, and move forward accordingly. In most virtual instructor-led trainings those cues disappear. Some facilitators find this change difficult, and many even describe it as plain uncomfortable. We’re here to help you through it. There are ways to draw energy from your virtual audiences, and for us, it starts with personalization. Personalization is a great way to draw energy from your virtual session. Get to know your learners Keep the class sizes small and intimate so it provides you with more opportunity to really get to know who is participating. Assigning pre-work for the session will lend insight into the learners’ personalities as well as what they’d like to gain by attending the session. This will feed you ways to connect with the learners when you meet in class. Use your learners’ names as often as feels natural. This will help establish a connection and add to the personalization. Knowing your learners will help you connect with them on a deeper level, a level that should foster some energy during the course. Use the tools Most virtual environments provide tools and techniques for learners to interact in ways that mimic a face-to-face environment. Encourage learners to utilize annotation tools to agree, disagree, or even applaud and laugh during discussions. While not quite the same as emotions in a traditional in-person classroom, these tools can help add to the energetic vibe of the course- for you, as well as for the other learners. Encourage use of the chat function throughout the session to share any thoughts that come to mind - not just a place to respond when you ask a question or for them to post their questions. Typing a welcome message and other casual dialogue starters will help encourage this. You may need to enlist your host to help you with this. Whenever possible leave phone lines open and encourage open dialogue. Again this works best if the class size is somewhat smaller. Take advantage of video features whenever possible (and not cumbersome), and encourage learners to interact and get involved with the discussion. Many virtual environments offer opportunities for small group or breakout discussions. Utilize those small group discussions as much as possible, and treat them as an opportunity to gather energy by listening in, and “walking around” to the different groups. Hearing the verbal discussions, and seeing the small group work come together should give you some energy, and points to tie back to the course instruction. As you can see, the virtual environment offers plenty of opportunity to energize you as a facilitator. Your environment There are two things that I have on my desk when I facilitate virtually; a mirror and pictures of smiling family and friends. The mirror keeps me in check on what my body language and facial expressions are like. Since I know my energy comes through in my voice, I need to see that my energy is up when I look at myself. The pictures give me someone to talk to rather than feeling like I am talking into cyber space. While you may not have the facial expressions and strict verbal cues you’re used to from a face-to-face session; you can have lively discussion, robust collaboration, and even more energy if you know where to find it. Where do you find energy in your virtual training presentations?  

Work the Virtual Room

July 3, 2014 08:13 by Greg Owen-Boger
This article was originally published on The Orderly Conversation blog To guard against sounding tired or uninspiring when leading a virtual session, I always recommend standing whenever possible. Being on your feet allows you to move around the room, keep your energy up and your voice bright. As you can see in this photo, taken during a session I led for Training Magazine Network called Virtual Presentations that Work: Breakthrough to Engage Clients and Staff, I have the room set-up to help me stay on my toes during the session. In the photo, you can see I’m wearing a phone headset and there are three computer screens. I’m logged in as a presenter on the laptop to my left. The big screen TV on the wall, which I look at most of the time, is projecting the same thing. The computer on the right is logged in as a participant, which gives me a sense of how much lag I’m dealing with. The flipchart directly behind the laptop on the left is for my notes—used mostly to help me remember key information: The name of the session (yes, that’s something I might forget). The names of my hosts. A couple key phrases and leading questions, should I need them. The time I need to be done. You can also see that I have a hard copy of my presentation on the conference room table behind me. It’s there just in case something goes wrong with the technology and I have to wing it. You may not have the luxury of a private room when presenting virtually, but I hope you’ll be able to borrow some ideas from this approach. What ideas do you have for staying energetic and working the Virtual Room?

Conference Calls … They’re so 1995

June 24, 2014 10:23 by Rebecca Doepke
It’s Monday morning, time to lead your team’s weekly sales call. The agenda for the call is to give an update on sales, discuss what’s in the pipeline, and have the team share success stories. Everyone dials in and you’re ready to go. Sounds like a straight forward and simple group conversation, right?  Unfortunately, here is how this conference call typically goes down.Before you kick off the call and get to your agenda, you first need to find out who’s on the call. In other words, take attendance. This doesn’t exactly get the call started with collaborative enthusiasm and energy, not to mention burns another 5 minutes of everyone’s time. After you take attendance, hopefully everyone is still paying attention as you move on to share last week’s sales and year-to-date numbers. You’re not sure because no one has done much talking but you.Next, you open it up for success stories, and the real fun of managing communication on the call is about to begin. After a moment of silence, three people start talking at the same time. Then they all stop talking before saying simultaneously, “Oh, I’m sorry. Go ahead.” Followed by, “No, you go ahead.” More silence takes place. Then the three people start talking at the same time … again. Not only do you have to call out who should talk first, you also have to keep track of who has already shared their story and who still needs to contribute.Finally, you have to deal with those that didn’t speak up amidst this chaos. Time to call on them one by one.By the time the call is over, an hour later, there is a sigh of relief. Everyone is glad the time waster is over so they can get some work done.So, what other options do we have? Why not a virtual meeting?Let’s try it again and see what that looks like.It’s Monday morning, time to lead your team’s weekly sales meeting. Everyone logs into your virtual meeting platform and connects to the meeting audio as directed. The agenda for the call is to give an update on sales, discuss what’s in the pipeline, and share success stories. No need to take attendance, everyone present is listed right there on your screen. You also know who has connected to the audio. You’re ready to get right down to business. Now you can kick off the virtual meeting with enthusiasm and energy!You open it up for success stories and managing communication is easy. You can pose a question asking who would like to share their success story by raising their hand. You can simply call on the folks that raised their hand and avoid several people talking at the same time. If you want to stop putting people on the spot and make sure that everyone is prepared to share, give this idea a try. In your meeting invitation, ask everyone to come prepared with a success story to share summarized in the form of a written headline. Instead of having everyone share their stories one at a time, you would prepare a whiteboard exercise asking everyone to post their headline on a whiteboard. Once all headlines are posted, the group could vote on which headline they would like to hear more about first.  Virtual meetings offer participants the opportunity to interact, engage, and collaborate in multiple ways versus only verbal conversation. Through the use of collaboration tools, everyone can interact with your content, visuals, slides, web links, and video. Turning on webcams might be an option so that participants can see each other as they share their success stories, something that is not possible on a conference call.There isn’t an option for smaller groups to work together on a conference call, but virtually you could use breakout rooms.  Here’s a thought:Best practices can be shared and extrapolated through the use of breakout rooms. Consider breaking the large group into smaller teams by placing them in breakout rooms to share on-the-job experiences. These smaller groups can use a whiteboard to take notes, which can later be shared with the larger group when everyone comes back together and downloaded as a takeaway from the session. Keep in mind, breakout rooms offer a comfort level to those who prefer smaller groups when asked to participate. Switching gears to the end of the meeting:On most conference calls, there’s usually some type of follow-up. Whether it is to share notes from the call, sending out a document or white paper that was promised, or an email reminder of action items assigned in the meeting. In a virtual meeting, notes can be taken in real time right in front of everyone, and everyone can leave with the notes through file sharing. How efficient is that?Whether it’s the weekly sales update, a discussion around best practices, or a project management meeting, conference calls can be challenging and oftentimes are not as productive and efficient as you would like them to be. So, why not consider going virtual?

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Online Meetings | Sales | Virtual Meetings