- The content I hope people will learn. This includes setting the context.
- The various interactions that will illuminate and reinforce the learning.
- 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.
- 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.