Peeved: Top Ten Mistakes Virtual Presenters Make That Annoy Learners.

May 24, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters

Participants are brutally honest.

Or at least they can be when it comes to providing constructive feedback for your virtual instructor-led training (vILT) programs.

If you’ve never collected feedback from your participants after a session, you should. It’s a major way to really understand what portions of the program need a makeover.

Over the years we have had the opportunity to hear from a lot of participants about what they like about learning in the virtual space and what drives them up the wall. Like members of your own family, they will tell you the honest truth if you ask, and will tell you in a roundabout way if you don’t.

Below, we’ve outlined what I’ve identified as the top ten participant pet peeves, and suggestions on how to avoid them. My hope is that throughout the development of your virtual instructor-led training programs, you can use this as a list of what to be mindful of. 

Top Ten Participant Pet Peeves

#10: “What is the point of me doing two hours of pre-work? It was never incorporated into our class activities or even referenced!”

Time is a valuable commodity. Your participants are busy and often times have "to do" lists that stretch for days.

At the same time, pre-work is a necessary element to most vILT classes. Generally, participants don’t mind doing pre-work, as long as it’s relevant. They want to know the time and energy they invest in pre-work will add value to their learning experience. Honor this by making sure your pre-work is impactful.

#9: “How am I supposed to complete two hours worth of pre-work if you send it to me the day before our session?”

Again, your participants are busy. If you want to ensure they actually complete the pre-work, give them their assignments and outline the expectations well in advance of the session. Showing respect for their time, will ensure a mutual respect for the value-add the pre-work brings to the course.

#8: “I signed up for this course, but I have no idea how to get there. If this were in-person I’d have a date, a time, and a location where I need to be. Why didn’t anybody tell me how to get to the classroom?

Communication is key in a virtual learning environment. This starts even before the session does. Make sure you’re participants have the correct log-in credentials and the correct hyperlink that goes directly to your virtual learning classroom. In some cases, this communication is your learners’ first experience with you. Not communicating effectively or accurately is sure to make an impression, just not a good one. Make sure you provide all this information concisely and accurately and you’re participants will be on board with the session from the beginning.

#7: “I thought this class was scheduled to be done by now? Why is the facilitator still talking?”

It’s no surprise that a lot of these pet peeves center around time. Time is valuable, as we’ve said. While participants value the training and development that emerges from most virtual sessions, they still expect sessions to start and end on time, and you should too. Participants are often blocking off specific times during their day to complete these training sessions.

If there is a delay in the start of the class, communicate clearly the reasons and do your best to still end on time.

#6: “Oh no, not another awkward ice breaker… I don’t care where my fellow participant went on their last vacation, and I can certainly tell you what emotion I’m feeling right now. You won’t want to hear it.”

Ice Breakers only belong in the classroom if they are relevant to the topic at hand. If it’s a smaller class size, having participants introduce themselves, their department, or where they are geographically located is a nice way for everyone to get familiar with who is in the room. Asking them to come up with a word or phrase to describe some relevant portion of the training they are about to take is great too.

Keep in mind though that nobody wants to listen to 25 or more people introduce themselves and a laundry list of extra items. They aren’t going to remember everything about everyone, and they certainly don’t want to hear about what 25 different people are going to bring when they are trapped on a deserted island. You get the idea.

Be creative, but don’t be kitschy, and take advantage of tools in your virtual environment that might allow people to introduce themselves in different ways.

#5: “What does that say?”

The virtual learning environment provides several opportunities to be visual. Just like the in-person classroom setting though, there’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to see something because it’s too small, too cramped, or clouded by distracting animations and designs. In a virtual space, you have no control over what size screen your participants will access the session from. To keep your learners from having to bury their noses in their laptops, do your best to keep long paragraphs of text to a minimum, don’t make the text too small, and make sure any graphics or animations are useful and not distracting. Work with a design team to select appropriate color combinations that make your content easy to read and understand. When in doubt use a "less is more" approach.

#4. “Oh, you’re still talking? Great, let me just … zzzzzz…”

Participants have a hard time tolerating virtual sessions that are boring, scripted, and lecture based. In an in-person classroom setting it’s easier for the facilitator to make eye contact and engage with their learners in a non-verbal way. In a virtual session, it’s important to be more deliberate. Design the course so it’s not just one person talking the entire time. Involve participants in the discussion, ask them questions, and get their input or they will just zone out.

#3: “Hello? Hey, look at me… I have an answer! Hello?!”

Participants want to engage. They want to be heard, and when they know the answer or can add something valuable to the discussion they want to be able to share. That can be difficult in a virtual session if they aren’t given the opportunity to do so, or if you aren’t watching for their cues. It’s important to pay attention to the tools the participants have at their disposal. A virtual raised hand, or a chat message is the only way they can communicate with you without interrupting. Make notes to yourself that remind you to look for chat activity or raised hands, and give your participants ample opportunity to contribute. If necessary, work with a host or a second facilitator who can help watch for that type of communication.

#2: “Wait, what did she say? I wasn’t listening … I was distracted… those directions weren’t very clear.”

Clear, concise, and accurate instructions are imperative for a virtual learning environment to run successfully. Particularly when it comes time for learners to do an exercise or break into teams to complete an activity. Make sure the activities are easy to understand, and practice the delivery of your instructions. Take extra effort to speak slower, and repeat important pieces of information more than once. Even though you expect your learners to give the virtual learning environment 100 percent of their attention, we all know that doesn’t always happen. They might be distracted by noise in their location, activity in the hall, or even chats and discussions happening inside your virtual space.

#1: “What’s the point of this session? Am I supposed to benefit from this information somehow?”

Any virtual learning session has to serve a purpose, and more importantly, that purpose needs to be clear to those attending the course. This starts with the instructional design process. A solid design targets a set of objectives and sets the stage for participants before they even log in to the virtual environment. Good presenters will outline the expectations for the course work, and make sure learners are aware of the benefits to them. This step is critical if you want participants to do more than just sign in. Outlining the development opportunities and the potential takeaways learners can receive will ensure they not only sign in, but that they listen and engage as well.

Do you have other pet peeves that you’ve heard from your participants? We’d love to hear them- leave your comments below.


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Learning | Training | Virtual Instructor-Led Training | Virtual Learning

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