These last six months have been rather hectic to say the least. I've had to swiftly adapt to this new online virtual world for my teaching, training and consulting sessions. I very quickly found out that repurposing my content for online wasn't as easy as I'd anticipated. I've had to rethink the content structure, format and find new and creative ways to engage class participants online.
Here's my 5 key learnings for those of you starting to use ZOOM for online teaching or training, that you will perhaps find helpful and save you a lot of grief!
1. Think carefully before repurposing your in-class content for ZOOM
Content that works in-class, may not translate well in an online environment. Simplify slides and animations if you use these, as slow network speeds will kill your lovely deck!
Use metaphors and graphics that attract attention and yes, less is more on slides (btwe this works well offline too.) Check playback volume levels on your clips and re-export these as smaller files. Varying audio levels have caused major issues for me as adjusting playback volumes can be daunting online.
2. Vary your tone and energy
For ZOOM, If you are in presentation mode most of the time, participants will only see you in a small window. You have to now rely more on your voice as you can’t express yourself as you would in class through your body language etc. Modulate your voice and vary the energy to maintain interest and engagement. It’s hard to keep your energy up for a longer session but you have to. Think of the session as a journey with highs and lows. You can build up to and punch through your key messages with power. Good timing in synergy with vocal variety is ideally what you should aspire to deliver.
3. Rethink exercises
I feel getting participants to work on a combination of individual and group exercises in a session works really well.
Design exercises that fit this format. I’ve found that ZOOM Breakout Rooms work really well in groups of 3-4 and not very well in larger groups. Be very clear on what needs to be done in each exercise. Drop by the breakout rooms during an exercise to see if everything is okay. Look out for group engagement issues and take action right there. Always include a sharing session after each exercise and ensure that everyone in the team shares a part of their presentation story.
4. Re-imagine engagement
Your participants will be easily distracted in their home environments. The baby crying out for their meal, the dog barking at that strange voice in the room or the Ninja Van delivery guy, are all competing for your participants attention.
You need to constantly engage them and get everyone focused on the session. Call them out by name, ask for opinion, get their thoughts and inputs on ideas and concepts and get them working on stuff. Create what I call light and shade moments and entertain in between stretches of teaching. This is a good time to polish your humour and storytelling skills!
Set the engagement tone at the top of the class with a fun activity or quick introduction sharing session.
5. Experiment with multi-level learning
Create a multi-level learning experience by getting participants to listen, share (vocally and with slides) and work together on exercises. Build this into your program format at several stages to create a truly immersive learning experience. Allocate enough time in your program to achieve this, especially with larger groups. Push yourself to try out new things with every class and listen, watch and learn!
This is truly uncharted territory so make it up as you go along and enjoy the ride.