4 STRATEGIES FOR VIRTUAL TEACHING AND PRESENTING.
Have you ever been on a zoom, google hangout, adobe connect presentation, etc and just wanted to bang your head against the screen from boredom? The answer is yes, we all have, all the time, but it’s not because it’s a virtual. You see it’s not that it’s harder to keep people’s attention online, it’s that being online exposes the weaknesses in how we traditionally communicate!
In a real-world, in-person classroom I wouldn’t be able to put my feet up and start scanning my phone while someone is talking, but in a virtual classroom I can do exactly that. In other words it’s not that we’re not good at keeping people engaged online, it’s that we’re not good at keeping people engaged! Being in a virtual classroom is simply exposing the weaknesses in the traditional teaching method. I wrote this article for people who want to learn strategies for teaching online and have engaging virtual presentations.
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The 4 Hacks for Virtual Engagement
Before we begin there is an underlying assumption we need to have: we need to have interaction to make any virtual classroom or virtual presentation engaging.
Without this first caveat nothing else applies. If you should take anything away from this article it is this: information without interaction is information that is forgotten.
If participants in a virtual classroom know exactly what’s going to be happening or they know exactly when and how they will be called upon, then they can tune out until they are required to participate. Therefore incorporating uncertainty as to when and how participants will need to participate will increase virtual engagement since those participants need to pay attention.
When you are designing your virtual presentation, meeting or class outline plan to have interaction every 30 seconds to a few minutes. Make sure that your participants do not know when that interaction will be. This makes it very hard to not pay attention because they will never know when they will be called upon. Use a phrase like this: “In a moment I will choose a random person to…”
If you are going to ask for participation, in the chat for example, then you have to hold every participant accountable. That means if there are 20 participants in the meeting and you ask for an opinion, or for them to fill out a poll, you must wait until you get 18, 19 or 20 of them to do it. This compels participants to be more engaged and pay attention to what is being discussed. Not only will they never know when you will call upon them, they also know that if you call upon them you will wait until they respond. I have some examples of this on my course on virtual communication. Does that mean you have to review everyone’s response? Not at all. You just have to see the number of responses and call it out.
Here is an example of a phrase I like to use in my virtual classrooms “…I only see 12 responses and there are 25 of us in the room so let’s see everyone please…” Then I alternate between waiting and commenting on responses.
How much communication is supposed to be nonverbal? Most of us would say between 50% to 90%. We lose a lot of that when we’re communicating virtually, especially when the camera is not showing us but rather slides. That’s a whole other topic on its own and you can check out my virtual communication course (link below) for strategies on how to make slide deck visuals more appealing and use them strategically.
When we lose all non-verbal communication it means that our words have to be much more specific so our participants/learners understand what we want from them. Therefore it’s not enough to say “…what do you all think…” or “…any thoughts about…” We have to be vary specific about the type of response we want.
Do you want them to comment? Do you want a one-word answer? Do you want a paragraph? Do you want a link? Do you want them to turn on their microphone? Do you want everyone to respond or just the first to respond? Unless you are that specific you will probably only get a couple of answers and those will likely be very basic, just a word or do.
Just like in the real world if you ask participants to get a show of hands to answer a question, the first time you do it, it’s engaging. The second time, it is a little less engaging and if you’re constantly doing it, it very quickly becomes tedious and people become bored. Again this is amplified in online learning and virtual classrooms. With less and less engagement every time you ask for the same type of participation/response. Therefore, we need to vary how we get participation and use everything that our online interface allows. This can be:
- Answering questions with a poll
- Answering questions with a yes or no in the chat
- Answering questions with a link in the chat
- Turning on their microphone and commenting on a question
- Turning on their camera and microphone and presenting to the group
- Turning on their camera and giving you a thumbs up
Those are just a few examples of how we need to diversify our interaction to compel engagement because if the group never knows what is coming next… they have to pay more attention!
On a final note, it’s important to understand that all of these strategies, while we’re putting them in a virtual presentation and classroom (or live online, remote seminar, virtual education, e-learning…whatever you call it) context, apply just as much to the real world, in-person learning environment.
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Ivan Wanis Ruiz has been a professional speaker for almost 20 years speaking to crowds as small as 5 and as large as 30,000. When he is not speaking he is a guest speaker at several universities and fortune 500 companies across North America.