Even motivated learners can succumb to the temptation to tune out, especially if they sense that their participation doesn’t matter and no one will notice if they stop. Here are tips to create more connection.
Learning is not a spectator sport. At least, it shouldn’t be. One challenge in virtual training is that learners can easily feel isolated, from the facilitator and one another. Even motivated learners can succumb to the temptation to tune out, especially if they sense that their participation doesn’t matter and no one will notice if they stop. Here are three ways to create more connection and invite more dynamism in Zoom training.
Raise this expectation! Here’s an example from actor/director George Clooney.
At the start of a Zoom training, have your learners go to their Audio Settings and click the “Press and hold SPACE bar to temporarily unmute yourself” box. Then immediately let them try it: Mute all participants, give a prompt (such as: Which technique A-G are you most interested in learning? Share your name and job title), call out a name, and have them press/hold the space bar and respond. As they share, point out that the slash across their microphone icon disappears. Have some or all of your learners try. This takes a moment but saves time during the training and allows participants to speak more freely. Let them know you WANT them to interject, then get into the training.
2. Use silence to get people talking. Let your learners know that when you ask for responses, you will always leave an extra beat for learners who need that pause to process, be sure no one else plans to speak up before they do, or decide their idea is worth sharing.
- Assure the group that you are fine with the silence (even if it is uncomfortable for you; make the silence comfortable for them).
- Remind them that they never HAVE to share—this offers the psychological safety that supports learning; it puts people at ease and, in my experience as a trainer, releases some learners to share who would not have done so if they felt pressured.
If you want more responses/interactions than you are getting… first, be sure your learners are clear on WHAT they are being asked to think/do and share, then change HOW you ask them share it. For example:
If at your request no one is posting in the chat, you might instead ask them to take a quiet pause and write to themselves on a sticky note. Afterward, you can encourage anyone interested to share in the chat, or not (if only they need to know what they wrote, leave it alone. If you need to know, they can direct chat or e-mail you).
If you are unsuccessfully trying to get people to share verbally, you might have them turn off their camera, close their eyes, and picture what they would do/say in response to your prompt, or put them in breakout groups to discuss it. Afterward, you might invite them to unmute and share one good idea.
Often, small changes in HOW learners get to process and express WHAT they are learning make a big difference.
Other ways to capitalize on silence (or lack of talking) and its benefits include giving “cameras off” time to work privately, encouraging them to process by writing or drawing rather than talking and listening, and using appropriate music to create a mood.
3. A little help from my friends…at Zoom. Recently, Zoom made it easier to create dynamic interaction in the chat stream. If the facilitator’s account is up to date, participants can:
- Respond directly to another person’s chat entry by hovering over the entry, clicking the “reply” or “add reaction” option, then inputting a note or selecting from an array of icons/emojis. This is fun, dynamic, and clarifies who is responding to what. Of course, it’s helpful for you to insert an official prompt just before asking learners to post a specific response in the chat stream. This clarifies what they are being asked to share and orients anyone reading the chat record later. Format your prompts in Word, then paste them in the chat stream as needed. For example:
- Easily quote another participant by hovering over the entry, clicking the ellipse […], and selecting “quote.” To show how it’s done, you (or your producer) might quote someone early in the training. I recommend referencing the original author, expressing your thought, and then hitting “quote’”so it reads something like:
@KatK: I so agree! We use it and love it. “ABC is a powerful tool that is easy to learn & simple to use. If you haven’t already, try it.”
Use these new Zoom features to give your learners more dynamic ways to interact. For example: Post a prompt and ask them to share something specific in the chat (say, a resource they find useful), then encourage them to review all the responses, and reply or react to one or two. This adds dynamism, increases attention, and gives them multiple touches with the ideas as they think and input their idea, review everyone else’s, then choose and reply to a few.
By Elisabeth Sanders-Park