One of my trainees captured the idea exactly. “When we finished the last session I wasn’t tired. We’d had two hours on Zoom but I didn’t feel like that – I had enough energy to get on with my day!”
That’s what I aim to deliver in all my training via Zoom, and all the online events I facilitate. That’s the whole idea of Web Events That Connect.
And I’m thinking about a recent comment by Scott Seivwright. He said he’d initially joined an online session I was running with Roy Marriott, but left when he realised it was going to be a participative workshop, rather than a talk.
Of course, we don’t know how Scott would have felt if he’d stayed.
And I’m not claiming that high-participation sessions are best for everything, all the time. Sometimes, it’s best just to listen: to a podcast; to a traditional talk-over-slides webinar; to an audio book; to the radio. The content plays in the background while you get on with your life.
That’s ‘infotainment’. It’s great for time-shifting content, so that we don’t all have to be online at the same time. It’s perfect for sending insomniacs off to sleep.
But importantly, don’t mistake a ‘talk’ for a highly-effective method of helping people to learn.
What works when it comes to actual learning is engagement. People may prefer to participate in different ways. For example, some like to speak in plenary groups, others don’t.
As a (former?) shy person, I have a strong preference for participating online rather than in-the-room, and for breakout sessions that are short (five minutes-ish) and to the point. Luckily, those seem popular with lots of other people, too.
But when participation is the order of the day, let’s have participation! Let’s not summon everyone to be online at the same time, at great inconvenience to many, and then force them to sit still whilst listening.
That’s a recipe for boredom, for struggling to keep eyes open, for disengagement.
“Judy was able to lead a two-day, 8-hour training that somehow managed to keep me fully engaged the ENTIRE TIME! OVER ZOOM! It’s a miracle. Everyone who presents regularly needs this course.”Tannah Z Marshall
What seems to work well for my groups when it comes to maximising participation and avoiding Zoom fatigue is:
- Send out any long and/or detailed content for people to read (or listen to/watch) ahead of time
- Treat participants as participants, not as ‘audience’
- Make sure people have time to gather and connect at the start
- Keep synchronous presentations super short. Ten minutes is the absolute max
- Add social learning time in the form of small-group breakouts. As Sharon Bowman says, ‘Talking trumps listening’ for learning
- Hear participants’ own voices in the plenary debrief session
- As the timebox draws to a close, make sure people know what’s going to happen next
- Help participants to stay connected with each other after the event