How can you shape meaningful interactions in the virtual space?

Sep 4, 2020 | #virtualclassroom, #virtualspacehero, #virtualtraining

🚀 Become a #virtualspacehero 

Key takeaways from a #virtualspacehero LinkedIn LIVE
21.08.2020 | 15:00 CET

Shaping meaningful interactions in the virtual space

With Joshua Davies (Conversation Architect, Author of Radically Remote) and Barbara Covarrubias Venegas (#virtualspacehero)

Very often training in the virtual space are long lectures, overloaded slide decks, & quick jumps from one unlinked activity to another. BUT, virtual interaction needs to be highly interactive, tailored, & practical. Learning is a consequence of thinking & doing, not teaching. 

 👉 What elements should be considered when you plan your virtual learning sessions?
👉 What features are essential for the platform and outside the platform to give a trainer the best chance of connecting and creating connections?
👉 What techniques can we use to drive engagement, interaction and learning in our virtual sessions?

This blog post summarizes a LinkedIn discussion on how to be authentic, create connections, & how to take your live online learning from basic to bold!

🎥 If you want to watch the recording, please click here  👇

What are the key elements in a virtual training?

💡 Don’t forget what you already know. Facilitators who are great in face to face interactions might feel challenged when they move to virtual space. Don’t forget that you already have skills. 

💡 Slow down. Virtual training or events usually take longer and people can find themselves more distracted compared to an in-presence training. Don’t rush to finish as soon as possible. Give yourself and your participants time to adjust to the new environment and enjoy the process.

„We have to plan less when we go online. I usually recommend 20% less content when someone facilitates online meetings, training or an online class.“ (Barbara Covarrubias Venegas)

💡 Consider the 4 C’s by Christine Brautigam. More info online here.

  1. Connections What does the learner already know about the topic?
  2. Concepts What does the learner need to know about the topic? 
  3. Concrete Practice Can the learner do it or teach it to someone else?
  4. Conclusions How does the learner plan to use it? How do we bring this back to the workplace? How do we apply the knowledge? What are the key points learnt? 
  5. Conversations (one additional C added by Joshua) What conversations do we need to shape between learners, and with the facilitator, to make for meaningful discussion?

💡 Trust your participants. Being bold as a facilitator means not taking the easy path from point A to point B, but rather put your learner’s ideas first. 

„For me it is about the willingness to put yourself out there and to make mistakes. Don’t overwhelm yourself with worry about what can go wrong, you will have an amazing experience. Trust your audience’s ideas.“ (Joshua Davies)

💡 Being inclusive in a virtual training. There are various types of inclusion. For instance, trying to be technologically inclusive means that you need to onboard your participants properly by giving basic information about the platform that you are using prior to the session. Offer a 15 minutes tech-check-in, before the training starts so that those who feel uncomfortable online or are new to the platform can log in earlier. Language inclusion is another example of being inclusive in your training. There are many tools and tech features that can help you with live translation or subtitles, such as

„When I do online facilitation I try to be inclusive by having a co-facilitator who is typing in the chat box the most important messages from the discussion and thereby helping the participants to follow better or providing more information about discussed topics. English is not everyone’s native language, therefore having a second facilitator who is helping them is supporting an inclusive training environment. AND most importantly, speaking also SLOWER THAN EVER BEFORE.“ (Barbara Covarrubias Venegas)

💡 Participation of everyone. In a virtual training it is also important as a facilitator to check that everyone is participating. Sometimes discussions easily get dominated by a few ones.

„There is the idea of leadership versus “loudership”. This means that the loudest voices tend to dominate and lead the conversation. But, there are platforms allowing us to assign only a certain amount of speaking time equally to everybody, such as toasty.“ (Joshua Davies)

Jitsi has an option to look at speaker stats, maybe something you want to test out.

Online Teaching: Conversion vs Transformation

Really good online facilitation doesn’t mean converting your face to face interaction to online interaction. Don’t just try to replicate everything you do in a face to face training or classroom, rather try to transform the process and adjust it to an online setting.  It is all about TRANSFORMATION. 

„Encouraging true conversations and true community in virtual space are the key elements of transforming the virtual facilitation experience.“ (Joshua Davies)

Try to bring your learners closer to the online environment and create the sense of community even in a virtual setting. You can read more about trust and belonging in virtual teams in our previous #virtulspacehero blog here

„Conversion versus transformation are key terms we sometimes forget about. However, as faculty members or trainers we MUST think about these processes and include transformation in our online teaching, even though very often we do not have enough time.“ (Barbara Covarrubias Venegas)

In a face to face context facilitators can get away with being charismatic, entertaining and energetic. This way sometimes we create an „illusion“ of learning. But, online facilitation is much more challenging, because as a trainer & facilitator you really NEED to prove your didatical background. 

Key techniques for preparing an engaging virtual session

💡 Use 5 minute sticky notes. If you look at online training as a high intensity workout, you need to build in rest periods. A technique you can use is taking a sticky note and breaking it to 5 minutes bundles. Remove some of the time planned for conversations and questions to occur or for tech failures to happen. Give yourself and your participants enough time.

💡 Map out your training. When reviewing your training map, ask yourself: Am I overwhelming my participants with too much information?. In the virtual space, everything takes longer. If you map out the interaction you will actually see how much time you need for actual talk. Try to say as little as possible by only providing the core information. Engage your participants and include them in brainstorming and conversation from the beginning on, not only after your starting 40 minutes monologue (haha guilty myself). Ask yourself: Is this something I have to say or can I encourage my participants to come to this conclusion themselves?. It will be much more meaningful if it comes from them. Talking is a process of learning, therefore, if your audience is included in the conversation they will learn faster.

“The person doing the talking is often the person doing the learning.” Jen York-Barr

💡 Analyse interaction patterns. Go beyond the basics and simple yes/no questions like Do you understand? Use techniques such as Liberating Structures and SessionLab.

Five conventional structures guide the way we organize routine interactions and how groups work together: presentations, managed discussions, open discussions, status reports and brainstorm sessions. Liberating Structures add 33 more options to the big five conventional approaches. Any one LS can change a meeting. Together they can liberate and transform an entire organization.
SessionLab is a dynamic way to design your workshop and collaborate with your co-facilitators. People want to have conversations and facilitators need to leave that space for just conversations. 

„Create a safe space for deeper connections.“ (Joshua Davies)

💡 Use movement and/or visual metaphors. One creative technique that can be used is asking your participants to stand up, stretch – body movement also activates the brain. Another one could be to find an object to represent the last topic you talked about in your training. After that the person can analyse it with their partner. Use questions such as: „Why did you choose that object?“ „How it is connected with our last topic?“. With big groups you could also use breakout rooms and change the activity a bit and make them “guess” or read the mind of the other person to understand why he/she has chosen a certain object.
Furthermore, read our previous blog post on How to use objects/props in your virtual training?

Joshua Davies

Joshua Davies

Joshua is Lead Conversation Architect 💬@Knowmium: a Remote Ready (Virtual Training) Firm, Author of Radically Remote💡 & member of the Forbes Coaches Council 🚀.

💡 Resources 💡

Amazing Knowmium Resources you do not want to miss! Knowmium has created virtual versions of in-person activities by using platform functions (like breakout rooms & collaborative whiteboards) along with 3rd party apps & services:

 Transformation vs. Conversion: Creating Virtual Learning
4 C’s by Christine Brautigam. More info online here
Virtual Training Hero Blog by Kassy LaBorie online here
Tulika Nair (2020): Your Virtual Breakout Rooms Need to Be Better. Here’s What to Do. Online on the toasty blog here
Nikki Natividad (2020): 10 Creative Ideas for Virtual Workshops Online on the toasty blog here



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Tamara Mladenovic

Tamara Mladenovic





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