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Last summer I worked as a contract producer supporting a variety of facilitators at multiple organizations. Many of the facilitators were talented subject-matter experts and articulate presenters; some of them were trained instructors and some weren’t. After hours and hours producing, here are the top five “pet peeves” I discovered during this contract work. Avoid these to keep your learners engaged and motivated in your virtual training sessions.
1. Answering key content questions for the learners
If your learners don’t immediately respond, try a strategy that will support them in finding the answer themselves.
- Remind learners when the topic was previously discussed to help them put it into context.
- Give learners a resource and have them look to find the answer if they don’t recall it right away.
- Give learners a clue to help them navigate towards the answer.
- Invite learners to do a partner chat with their learning partner to see if they can come up with the answer to the question together. (Often talking it out with a learning partner will give them the confidence to speak up or share their thoughts.)
2. Skipping break time
Best practice is a 5-7 minute break for every hour of virtual training. If you’re behind on your content because of technical issues, or lengthy discussions or questions, learners still need a break! In fact, giving them time to step away and refresh, and take care of their needs, will be better for them in the long run. I suggest having a contingency plan you can implement to shave a bit of time out of the second half of your sessions to ensure the learners get their break. A contingency plan can be as simple as changing the planned virtual classroom tool to one that will take less time.
3. Reprimanding the learners for not being prepared or participating enough
This certainly doesn’t increase participation! If your learners are disengaged, here are a few ways to get them involved without calling them out.
- Re-engage learners with the content by using visual clues, like highlighting key points on your slide, to refocus their attention.
- Re-engage learners by asking them to do something actively with the content such as responding to a short answer poll.
- Refocus learner’s attention by using a phrase like, “This is my favorite…” or “I’ll let you in on a secret…”
4. Omitting how to respond when you ask a question
In the virtual classroom, it’s critical to let your learners know how to respond. Once you’ve posed a question, let the learners know how you want them to respond. You have many options in most virtual platforms including chat, verbal response, annotation tools, polls, and feedback status icons. The level of participation will drop if you don’t communicate the response method.
5. Reading verbatim what participants write in the chat or on the whiteboard
Don’t read every entry in the chat pod or on the whiteboard since they can read it for themselves. Learners need some silence while they process and respond, and while they read what others post. Once you have about three quarters of the responses, begin summarizing the responses you want to validate. You can even call out any interesting responses or call on someone to clarify or expand on their response.
I hope being conscious of these “pet peeves,” and some of the effects they can have on your learners, will encourage you to avoid them. Check back for part two of this article where I’ll focus on another five items and how to avoid them.
To learn how to apply effective speaking skills to engage your learners, “read” learners in a virtual environment, calmly handle unexpected issues, and more, check out The Virtual Trainer workshop.