A natural extrovert with thousands of live workshops under my belt, I was as skeptical of Zoom and WebEx training as anyone.
Yet dozens of virtual workshops later, I’ve become a Zoom convert. Two tricks: condition yourself to see the remote format as an opportunity, not a hurdle, and capitalize on Zoom’s interactive tools. If you play your cards right, you might find some virtues in virtual training that will surprise you.
Here are seven tips I learned through trial and error. Most should apply to teaching students virtually, not just to teaching professionals.
1. Minutes before the class starts, as the first attendees join, put an icebreaker prompt in the Chat window. And answer it yourself.
2. As the class continues, keep adding Chat questions, some announced and others not. Favor questions that participants can answer with just a number or a word.
3. Use polling! Poll at least a couple of questions at a time. Mention the high response rates to encourage everyone to vote. Share the results and mention whether the group’s responses are in line with what you expected and with the results from other groups you’ve polled.
4. Virtual backgrounds are surprisingly good conversation starters (they’re for more than just covering up messy offices). Here I am in front of the background that prompts the most questions (in real life I shave, comb my hair, take my mask off, and wear at least a sportscoat).
5. Breakout rooms are fantastic as long as you give participants a specific goal and time limit. Visit the breakout rooms yourself to see how things are going. Send the participants a message one minute in to remind them what the task is. Also let them know when you’re about to hit the button that closes the rooms in 60 seconds. And if you use the breakout feature at least three times, change the configuration of participants the third time.
6. You don’t need to see yourself on the screen. Also avoid printing out documents that force you to turn your head to one side in order to read them. Keep materials on your computer screen instead so you can view them without actually sharing your screen. Share documents only if you’re going to edit them or if you’re worried that participants don’t have access to them. I learned to share my screen only when I wanted to edit with BriefCatch or to show video clips.