By Connie Tse and Elisabetta Lando (Educational Technologists in LEaD)
Like many people in recent months, we are finding ourselves having to present a lot more online. Not being able to physically interact, read body language, and generally gauge engagement can be a bit intimidating. So, when we both saw that the Learning & Performance Institute, known for its highly respected Certified Online Learning Facilitator (COLF) programme, was running free webinars we both jumped at the chance to attend. Delivered by Michelle Parish, one of the main developers of COLF as well as Lead facilitator, we were sure to gather some useful tips from a seasoned practitioner.
Connie: It was well attended by nearly 100 participants. The webinar started with a quote that I really like. It is very powerful and inspiring.
We grow fearless by walking into our fears
Elisabetta: My initial impression was that Michelle was very polished; years of experience as an online presenter really coming through. She had a soothing friendly tone and it felt a bit like being in a therapy group when she asked us to think about how we can face up to our fears. I must admit that to begin with I was not sure if I was keen on the delivery but as we progressed along, I could see her points as she was putting them into practice.
Connie: Participants were asked to reveal their fears: ‘What is your biggest ‘concern’ when it comes to facilitation?’ It was interesting to see that many of us have concerns around these two themes: engagement and technology failure. A few answers referenced to keeping up with chat.
What is your biggest ‘concern’ when it comes to facilitation?
- Engaging online audience
- Technology failure
- Keeping up with chat
The 7 tips:
- Know your technology
Ensure you are comfortable with the technical functionality of your platform and you are well-practiced in its use. When you exude conﬁdence during facilitation, your participants will feel much more at ease.
- Be prepared
Check your setup before each, and every, session. Check audio and video (if using) and that material is loaded and ready to use. Try to log in a second device to show the attendee view as this will provide reassurance.
- Grab attention
Grab attention at the outset, greet your attendees with warmth and enthusiasm as they come in a few minutes before the start of the session– check their audio is fully operational. Start networking and finding out more about them.
- Familiarise participants
Ensure that participants are comfortable with the technology, know-how to interact, and demonstrate how their participation will make the experience a more enjoyable one. You can do this by creating warm-up activities that involve using some of the functions. For example, write a word on the whiteboard about how you feel today
- Involve your audience
Actively encourage participation in session; be aware of distractions and keep an eye on your attendees (monitor their ‘online body language’) and take steps to draw people in. Build in interaction every 3 to 5 minutes.
- Use your voice
Vary your tone, pace of delivery, and – most of all – smile! Participants can hear it. Try to think of your session as a ‘conversation with’ rather than a ‘presentation at’ – this will make a huge difference to your delivery, Don’t be scared of silent gaps when asking questions as this is where the thinking takes place.
- Back-up plan (Plan B)
Have an established plan for any unforeseen technical problems that may arise.
Our 10 take away points:
- Familiarise participants with the virtual space. keep in mind that they may not be as computer savvy as they appear or claim to be and might feel embarrassed admitting it. This also helps set expectations. E.g. ‘this is how we will interact today’
- 2nd device to check what participants can see.
- 2nd device to keep track of chat while presenting in full screen
- Involve your audience every 3-5 minutes so that they won’t be distracted e.g. by emails
- Cover chats on a regular basis to make the session a collaboration.
- ‘Cup of tea’ slide for an emergency break. For example, you suddenly need to sort out a technical glitch.
- Back up battery on hand for headset, wireless mouse or keyboard
- Smile, be natural, talk like you have a live audience in front of you
- Use a checklist for every session e.g. ask the audience to close the pop-up screen after a polling exercise. keep an eye on the ball and avoid complacency.
- Put post-it notes around your computer for reminders like alternative phrases to use, avoid too many umm, etc.
Elisabetta: Throughout the webinar, Michelle kept asking us to think about how we feel when we participate in a webinar. Do we often find that we get bored and distracted? If as facilitators, we really want to support engagement and learning, then we should exploit all the functionalities available such as polls, breakout rooms, whiteboards, emoticons, or even just asking and responding to comments in the chat. She also added that though it might seem crazy to invite large groups to use the whiteboard it can work by getting everyone to add a comment or even one word. This interaction not only makes participants feel involved and part of the conversation, but it can also help to begin to build up a community.
If you would like to attend the next free LTI webinar with Michelle Parish Book here: From Bookcase to Cyberspace – Rebuilding for the Virtual Classroom (Thursday 6th August 2020 @ 13.00 BST UK Time)
To get involved in conversations on online facilitation (and much more) do join City’s learning online Teams community where you can share ideas and resources on the synchronous learning channel: