There’s been a theme running through the past few weeks. More and more, I am being asked to speak about or facilitate online sessions that help people to bring their presentations and facilitated sessions to life online. I am not surprised because I am often seeing death by virtual screen sharing happening and extreme online fatigue. I feel really grateful that I can speak and train from experience and am enjoying engaging with clients in a virtual way. Before Covid, a portion of my work was done virtually but the majority was in-person. Now I am 100% online and, while the learning curve has been intense, I am more convinced than ever that we can make sessions come alive online and be just as effective as we were face-to-face. Our client feedback is reinforcing this…
Sharon is an exceptional facilitator and ensures that everyone participates and is kept engaged. I loved this session and even preferred the virtual to the classroom style session; it is more effective and efficient. Thanks so much Sharon. You are honestly one of the best training facilitators I have come across to date. — Mariska Bothma, Data Analytics Portfolio Manager: CIB and Functions, Absa
Here are some Key Steps you can take to achieve engaging and powerful online sessions:
1. Do not copy and paste. The way you run in-person meetings or face-to-face facilitated sessions cannot just be copied and pasted online. You need to adapt your content. Slides need to be cleaner than ever before (no death by PowerPoint) and the images need to keep moving (every 20 to 30 seconds is ideal) to keep audience attention.
2. Build in engagement. During an in-person meeting or workshop, it is easy to engage people spontaneously. This is not as easy in the virtual world. It is important to build in engagement opportunities using either the chat for people to respond to you (if it’s a large group as you don’t want people talking over each other), polls and/or breakout rooms to name just a few very basic techniques to engage people. I’d be happy to work with your internal training team or employees to support them to engage their audience and bring sessions to life.
3. Know and test the platform that you are delivering on. Zoom and Microsoft Teams do not have exactly the same features or work in exactly the same way. When I present for a client using the Blue Jeans Live Event platform, I need to remember that participants can raise their hands but the system will not count them for me. As a result, if I am working with a large group, I can’t use this to get a show of hands like I do when I am in-person. However, Zoom webinars does count so it is awesome to use in this way. You might not need to know all the intricacies of various platforms like I do but you do need to be comfortable screen sharing, accessing chat, Q&A and so on. Audiences need to see that we are 100% comfortable with our tech so they can relax in capable hands.
4. Be authentic. I dislike ice-breakers with a passion. If a facilitator asks me to tell him or her what animal I would be and why, my introverted self wants to get under the desk and hide. I prefer to do what I think of as being more purposeful check-ins. This is still my way of doing things online. I have not suddenly become super humorous nor do I get participants to unmute and give me a shout out, etc. It was never my style before and it never will be.
5. Take it slow and be clear. If you were to ask for my weak area as a facilitator, this would be it. I sometimes still overestimate participant’s technical abilities and expect that they will open a link and quickly complete a task in the time it takes them just to find the link! Presenting virtually means going much slower and repeating instructions to people a number of times. This is because participants often have distractions going on around them and they cannot rely on their ‘buddy’ sitting next to them to fill them in. Online sessions also place a huge cognitive load on us because we are constantly trying to tune into non-verbal cues that are not displayed in the way that we are used to – this can be exhausting. So, slow down, engage your audience, have fun and keep taking Key Steps to…
“be the difference that makes the difference”
Sharon is a dynamic facilitator, speaker and executive coach with over 20 years’ experience in leadership and organisational development and transformation. She is a registered Education, Training and Development Practitioner (ETDP), holds an Honours degree in Psychology and practices as an NLP master practitioner. She is also one of only three women in South Africa to hold the title of Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) – it’s like the Oscar of the speaking business.
Sharon’s PhD thesis contributed a framework for holistic and sustainable leadership development that has been published by Rutgers University in the USA. She is faculty of Henley Business School and highly sought-after by leading corporates because she works hand-in-hand with them to create sustainable results and long-term success. Sharon has become known for her practical approach, useful tools and genuinely caring manner. She is really looking forward to working with you and taking Key Steps to ‘be the difference that makes the difference.’