Whenever people are online, the odds are pretty good that they are trying to multitask. Those odds increase when they feel bored or disengaged as many people do when they are in a virtual classroom or seminar. Great virtual facilitators recognize this challenge and create environments that are so engaging that participants actually participate instead of checking their Twitter accounts.
Keep the Session Interesting with Your Voice
Virtual sessions rely heavily on the power of a conference facilitator’s voice, even if you have video accompaniment. Use the tips you learned during your facilitation training, including:
- Avoid monotone by varying your pitch.
- Avoid filler words like um, uh and so forth.
- Avoid long pauses, which encourage participants to turn their attentions elsewhere.
- Avoid repetitive language, especially when providing feedback and transitioning to a new topic.
- Focus on the content you are trying to present instead of on the way you might be presenting that content.
- Remember to have fun! Your participants are going to be able to sense if you are enjoying yourself, and your attitude will subconsciously bias them toward engagement if you are having fun.
Ask Lots of Questions To Encourage Interaction
Even in a virtual classroom, you can drive engagement by asking your participants questions about the content. Call on a variety of people to offer their opinions, ask questions that many people may be able to answer and use a good mix of question types. In most cases, avoid dead-end questions and questions that only require one word responses.
Seek Feedback and Act On It
In a live classroom or meeting, it’s easy to seek non-verbal feedback. Participants may lean forward or make eye contact if they feel properly engaged. If they don’t feel engaged, you will see people shifting in their seats, stifling yawns or even checking their phones. In a virtual classroom, it’s impossible to see these clues, so meeting facilitators must seek out verbal feedback. This is as simple as just taking a moment every now and again to ask how the session is going for the participants, if they have any questions, and if they feel like they are getting the information they need.
Learn more essential virtual facilitation tips like these (plus get hands-on practice) in these convenient, (live) online courses: Facilitating Virtual Meetings or The Effective Facilitator: Virtual Link.