Nobody can say that the last 7 months have been easy on anyone. We have all been in a storm, handling it all in our own ways. Some have lost their health, livelihoods and loved ones. Most all of us have lost a way of life that seemed unshiftable. No one could have predicted this and yet here we are.
When I look at my unmoved and unemptied training bag at the side of my room, I wonder why I have chosen not to empty it? To accept that I will not for some time be delivering face to face? Is it denial? Hope? Maybe a mixture of those things as well as where to put this physical “stuff” that has been such a part of what I do for so many years.
I love being with people and the online world is sometimes not the substitute I would like it to be. No hugs, side jokes, banter in the way it used to be. It can however offer so much more than we often expect of it.
Here we are and as an optimist and someone who is grateful to be back in the saddle after a gap a few months ago, I am grateful. Grateful for the opportunities presenting themselves. Grateful for the people I can help in this difficult situation. Grateful to be conversing, discussing, designing and doing what I love to do: help people on their journey of development.
The reality of delivering online is that it takes practice, patience and confidence. Preparation for me is key and just to give you a little insight into how I prepare, below is a picture of my desk set up.
Do have a look at the picture below – it will give you a lot of insights into what it takes for me to prepare:
Here are just a few things I thought it best to mention:
Paper session plan so I can minimise the stuff on my screen
Paper workbook to scribble things on and refer to easily for the participants
Paper to write notes and thoughts and actions on
Post-its to remind me of important things and also to enjoy the session – I love what I do, but in the anxious moments before they arrive, I may forget that!
Lipstick, water, tissues and hand cream at the ready!
I have a stand up – sit down, desk so I can be energised and feel like I am on my feet ready to ‘perform’
Today I bottled out of using my second screen in favour of using my ethernet cable – a little security blanket and in an area where our internet is pretty good. It made me less anxious at least to know the internet would not blob!
So anyone out there preparing to deliver online. Let’s be human about it. Things will go wrong and so plan for the worst but expect the best so your participants feel like they are getting a valuable experience and you get some enjoyment out of it.
Be easy on yourself and don’t try too many new things at once. Practice what you are comfortable with and maybe enlist the support of a colleague on your first few sessions, until you find your feet.
Mostly don’t ignore the creativity you used when you were doing this face to face. Don’t discard your valuable experience and skills in the face to face world. They are still valid, they just need a tweak!
Think about what you CAN do online that you cannot do face to face
Quite often we try to translate what we would do face to face into the virtual world and it feels like a compromise. So, think about what you can do online that is really hard face to face. For example, getting many ideas in 1 minute becomes easy when you don’t have to give space to individual contributions one after the other. Chat, whiteboard and online tools like LINOIT and MURAL make gathering thoughts easy!
Be yourself, get chatty and encourage as much interaction as possible
Think about how you will introduce the event and welcome people. In the same way that when you are face-to-face, you would say hello as people come in, do the same, make small talk and get people relaxed and ready to contribute. It’s not so much breaking the ice but settling people in and getting them over that initial screen of faces staring at them (if they have their videos on). Ask them to say where they are calling from in the chat and what the weather is doing. Or maybe get them to share “One thing that…..” which is relevant to the topic of the day.
More slides, more pictures, fewer words
Don’t use the slides as a teleprompter. Use notes on your desk if you need a prompt and make the visuals appealing with pictures, questions and interesting statistics (if appropriate). Change the slides more frequently than if you were face to face and think about how to engage people by inserting questions. They can chat while you speak in the chat box.
Think about group size
If it is a small group (<12) you can invite personal thoughts and contributions on microphone whereas this should be managed more carefully for larger groups. By all means invite people on microphone but get them to raise their hand and make it clear you are looking for just 1 minute, 1 thought etc. You can still make it interactive if the group size is large but you may have to use tools like MURAL or LINOIT to capture thoughts and ideas.
Consider having a host for larger groups to deal with the tech and chatter
A good host will take the pressure of the facilitator and keep an eye on the chat as well as take over in case of any technical issues. Communicate what support you would like from the host: from adding in questions, spotting who might want to contribute to injecting a controversial question!
Belt and braces
If anything is likely to go wrong in the virtual world, it can and it will! So always have a back-up plan. Send your slides and session plan to the host just in case your internet connection goes down. They can keep things going while you get back in. Some activities may take too long or go too quickly – what will you do to “fill” or avoid that “we have run out of time….” announcement. Can they continue adding their thoughts on an online platform? Consider having a tablet as an extra screen so you can see what your participants can see.
Change pitch, pace and tone every 3-5 minutes. Keep them engaged.
There are lots of ways to keep them engaged and here are just a few: