“Key to building early engagement in virtual meetings is establishing trust and comfort.”

As a consultant, coach, and virtual trainer/facilitator, I truly love meeting and working with others. I derive energy from engaging directly with people. But delivering a workshop or training session through Zoom or a similar virtual tool creates a unique experience for everyone and as a facilitator I have had to learn to adapt. How can I maintain my own energy level? And more importantly, how can I bring engagement for participants to a virtual setting? Here are some ‘best practices’ related to this topic:

  1. Key to building early engagement in virtual meetings is establishing trust and comfort. I like to use an early icebreaker activity that gets everyone off Mute, and on Camera. An example is short introductions (“My name, role and one word that describes me”) or longer introductions (“My name, role and something that people assume about me…”)
  2. Set the stage early in terms of what participants can expect and is expected of them, ground rules of participation, the tools to be used during session, etc.
  3. Be sure to answer the WHY (Purpose of virtual session > Agenda > Learning outcomes)
  4. While an agenda and content plan are important, you can increase engagement by adapting to the needs of your audience. Follow their lead; if something is clearly sparking the group’s interest or someone shares a specific key challenge worth exploring more deeply, consider staying with that portion of the training longer and cut back in other places.
  5. Regularly pause to ask questions and involve the group in the content (my rule of thumb is no more than 5-7 minutes between some form of intervention that involves most or all participants) I also like to regularly stop sharing the deck if I am using one and this is often a good moment to do so.
  6. Use breakout rooms to allow for a more intimate exploration of key topics. When the smaller groups return, facilitate a group discussion to share observations.
  7. The use of polls is another means to actively engage your audience and can be followed up with relevant open-ended questions.
  8. Share stories. Make your content as relevant and personal as possible to help your audience relate to key messages.
  9. Provide clear strategies and tips early on and throughout the session. Do not wait until the end to help participants understand how to practically apply the content you are sharing.
  10. Less is more. Create a script for your content, then try to cut it down by 50%. Find ways to engage your audience in the content directly such as helping them share their own stories.
  11. Get comfortable ahead of time with your technology, considering whatever virtual tool(s) you will be using for the event. Check your lighting, microphone, and camera views. Practice running your polls, breakout rooms, sharing content etc. so that you can reduce unnecessary stress during your event.
  12. MOST IMPORTANT: Practice your timing and content delivery! And then practice more and do a dry run. Then practice more. Memorize enough to be able to adlib most of your content without referring too much to your notes. Seriously, this is important … nothing can disengage an audience more quickly than an unprepared facilitator reading from a script.

Do you have other tips to share? Your comments and ideas are welcome and appreciated!

Original article on LinkedIn

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