Rework Online Training Part 3: Design the Webinar Experience

fractalWhen I think of a training experience, I separate the training into these parts:

  1. The content I hope people will learn. This includes setting the context.
  2. The various interactions that will illuminate and reinforce the learning.
  3. How to wrap the experience so people get the most of it.

I then need to think about which parts are before the meeting, which parts are during, and which parts are post-meeting.

Let me offer an example.

When I “teach” project portfolio management in a webinar, I explain the content in these ways:

  • Start with a story to draw people into the context. (I have a big sticky in my office: “Set the Context!!”)
  • Explain the future state as part of the story. Or, leave the idea open that there is a reasonable future state.
  • Explain the principles behind visualizing the work and deciding in reasonable ways.
  • End with a hope for the future.

That's as much as I can do in one hour.

In person, I add these pieces:

  • Circulate before the talk. Introduce myself to people. I often ask people what their roles are and why they're here.
  • In the middle of a talk, I use interactions in the form of a discussion.
  • I often use the “Yes/No/Choose” simulation in the portfolio management talk. (I ask people to circulate for 1 minute, first saying, “Yes,” then “No,” then they choose and we debrief as a room.)

These activities are not directly transferable to a webinar.

While I design the content the same way for in-person or online, I do not include the same kind of interactions in a webinar (or a workshop).

I do ask for questions as I proceed through a webinar. I do the same for an in-person talk.

How I Think About Interactions for Online Webinars or Panels

Are there ways to include interactions online? Sure, and they are different.

For introductions, I use the chat function associated with the webinar. I ask people to use the chat to introduce themselves with their name and location.

Introducing ourselves this way pales in comparison to an in-person introduction. When I introduce myself to people in person, I become real to them. And, because I talk to people for a couple of minutes, I often stoke conversations.

Those in-person conversations carry into my talk and—sometimes—beyond.

I don't know how to do that for an online webinar. It's not the introductions—I can create introductions in any number of ways. What I don't know how to create is those conversations.

I ask people about their challenges and what's already working. Could I do that in a breakout room? Of course. Three to five people would know their context. No one else would. That's the problem of a webinar, any kind of virtual experience. We can't eavesdrop and realize what someone else knows or doesn't know.

As for discussion questions during a webinar: I ask people to use the chat. Or, I create a poll.

That's not a joint, collaborative discussion between two or three people. That's people throwing their questions or comments into the void.

I can't use the Yes/No/Choose simulation as-is in a webinar. I can ask people how they feel when I ask them to consider Yes/No/Choose. (“When I offer this as an option, what's the first thing you feel?”)

What people feel during a simulation is their reality. What people think they feel when I ask them? That's hypothetical. Nothing like reality.

All simulations and games have to change for online training.

My Online Training Worries

I keep talking about a one-hour webinar.  I have these worries for webinars in general:

  • I don't understand how to keep people's attention for more than 45-60 minutes when they are online. And, people need bio breaks, and various interactions when they are online.
  • Introductions in breakout rooms require much more time online than they do in person. Even if you want to make it possible for 4 people to learn about each other, they need at least 5 minutes. That's because one person will hog all the time. (Unless you have a facilitator and everyone knows that's the facilitator's job.)
  • I have tried a few discussion interactions in breakout rooms. They take longer than, “Organize yourselves into triads. Please discuss this…” that I can do in my in-person workshops or talks.

My general guideline: Everything takes longer in a virtual space.

My worries:

  • Breakout rooms take longer for anything you do in them.
  • I don't know how to create a “conferring” or “congregating” atmosphere when we are all separated, especially if we don't all have or use video.
  • People need a physical break every 45-60 minutes. (45 minutes is really ideal.)

I'll talk about what to do in longer workshops next.

The series:

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