We are all doing it - spending more and more time thinking "inside the box," our laptop or computer, the physical box that houses our virtual meetings. As the owner of a learning and development company, I'm thinking about how to make the learning experience that happens inside that box interesting and meaningful. No doubt, this feels different than pulling people together in a meeting space for an interactive, facilitated session.
Our team has spent time this summer facilitating interactive workshops via Zoom and we've learned a lot. Here are some of our best tips to help you create fun, engaging and meaningful for learning for your teams.
1. Even the Playing Field by sharing and showing everyone how to participate. There are varying levels of comfort and familiarity with virtual meeting platforms.
Ease anxiety and increase participation by showing a slide with quick tips that help everyone have the best view, know how to mute and unmute, and how to use features like the chat.
2. Create Connection through activities planned throughout the session. Some of our favorite ways to create connection are:
Turn video on. Being able to see the group changes everything. Encourage participants to turn their video on to instantly create a more connected feeling.
A kickstarter question to kick off the session and get everyone talking - Examples: "What's your communication super power?" or "What is 1 leadership quality you admire and why?"
Breakouts that allow small groups to discuss a topic or work through a challenge. Breakout tips: ask participants to take a screenshot before you send them to the breakout so they have the instructions when they get there and don't open the breakout rooms until you've finished sharing the instructions.
Large group discussions that allow people to share their thoughts and ideas. Ask open-ended questions that encourage participants to talk about their experiences and opinions.
3. Change It Up to keep the experience interesting and engaging. When you facilitate an in-person class or workshop, you try to include a variety of different types of activities. The same is important for virtual classes, maybe even more important.
Think about ways for everyone to participate, even those who don't like to speak up: think polls, journaling, mini self-assessments, chat, non-verbal cues available in your virtual platform.
Think about changing "state" by incorporating activities at regular intervals, asking participants to stand and do something physical, incorporating breaks, throwing in 30 seconds of fun.
4. Keep It Short. "Zoom Fatigue" is real. Our teams are spending hours everyday on virtual meetings and while we are grateful to have this method of communication, too much time in front of the computer is hard on anyone. It's time to think differently about learning experiences.
We've found that the sweet spot is about 2 hours with a 5-10 minute stretch break at the one hour mark. 2 hours flies by and people stay engaged. When we've tried longer sessions, participants share that it's tough to balance other responsibilities and are often distracted by things like supporting their child's school work or phone calls from people at work.
Chunk it - what was once a full day in-person training may now need to be a pre-work activity, 2 2-hour virtual sessions and a small group follow-up to measure progress.
It's funny how "thinking inside the box" requires some "out of the box" thinking! The great thing we've learned is that we do have the skills to transition to this new way of learning. We just have to think differently about how we apply those skills and be thoughtful about planning for virtual learning.
Best of luck to you as you recreate learning experiences for your team. If you need any help, just let us know. We're always up for the challenge.