Can Virtual Teaching Beat Live Teaching? Seven Tips from My Summer of Zoom

Written by Ross Guberman on July 26, 2020


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 Zooms 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 groups responses are in line with what you expected and with the results from other groups youve 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 youre 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 dont 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 youre going to edit them or if youre worried that participants dont have access to them. I learned to share my screen only when I wanted to edit with BriefCatch or to show video clips.

7. If you dont have to run off when the class is over, stick around for a couple of minutes. More people will stay and ask you questions than in live classes. The same goes for breaks (unless you really need one yourself). People are eager for human contact these days!

Finally, my bonus tip: If youre home and have a dog, put him on the screen.

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Ross Guberman

Ross Guberman

Ross Guberman is the president of Legal Writing Pro LLC and the founder of BriefCatch LLC. From Alaska and Hawaii to Paris and Hong Kong, Ross has conducted thousands of workshops on three continents for prominent law firms, judges, agencies, corporations, and associations. His workshops are among the highest rated in the world of professional legal education.

1 Comment

  1. Rosa Abdelnour on August 12, 2020 at 10:44 am

    Ross is just great! I am a mediator and know we have to conduct virtual mediations, so I am going to keep this tips for what can be use in mediation by video conference!

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