5 Tips for Being a Better Online Trainer & Facilitator
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE:
What does your audience expect of you? Do you have a relationship with the participants in your training? When training adult learners, you must be prepared. Adult learners like to direct their own learning experiences and often have high expectations. Adults attending a training, workshop or orientation can quickly become disengaged, if the trainer is not prepared. Trainers and facilitations working with adults need to make sure to incorporate components of andragogy which is the method and practice of teaching adult learners created by Malcolm Knowles. If you do not know your audience, you can do a pre-assessment to make sure the structure of the training and content is in alignment with the expectations of the audience. For example, if we are doing a longer training (2 hours +) at the Nonprofit Learning Lab, we often ask questions in the registration form related to the participants expectations and goals and prior experience to ensure that our training and content will adequately match the expectations of the attendees. Knowing your participants expectations and goals will help you be a more prepared trainer.
It can be exhausting being online for hours straight. Build breaks into your training. Typically, at the Nonprofit Learning Lab we will not do a 2 hour training without a break. We typically give a 7 minute break about halfway through a 2-hour training. It is just the right amount of time for someone to stretch and take a brain break but not too long where someone will start working or dis-engage from the training all together. As a trainer you want to think about the momentum and cadence of your training. A break that is too long can impact the flow of your training.
Check the lighting situation in the room. Are you facing the window, or is your back to it? Try to switch your setup so that you’re facing the window head-on. This gives you a lot of natural light, and will help you look really sharp on camera. Set up desk lamps behind your laptop or tablet. This will help you stay illuminated on camera without overwhelming any other members of the video call. It’s best to have two additional lamps at 10:00 and 2:00 angled toward your face—not behind your computer. Smaller lamps work best for this.
YOUR CAMERA PLACEMENT:
Line up your laptop, tablet, or phone camera so it’s roughly in line with your eyes. If the camera is too low, you won’t be displaying a very flattering view. Stack books or other sturdy items beneath your webcam or tablet until your camera is at the right angle. If the camera is too low, it may look like you have a double-chin to the camera. Keep in mind that a lot of cameras have a wide angle lens, which isn’t very flattering when you’re sitting up close. Instead, back yourself up from the camera so your entire face is captured onscreen. Ideally, you want to keep yourself centered in front of the camera.
TO SCRIPT OR NOT TO SCRIPT:
If at all possible, it is ideal to deliver a training without a word-for-word script. Participants in a virtual setting can tell when a trainer or facilitator is reading word for word from a script and it doesn't sound authentic. Reading a script word for word can sometimes sound robotic and your audience may see your eyes scanning the words or head bobbing up and down to read a script. Sometimes a script is required so ideas and strategies to increase authenticity include:
Sharing examples and stories related to the content
Incorporating activities and participants reflection prompts to break up the content
Practice the script so you don't have to read it word for word
Ideally, brainstorm the stories and examples before the training so that you are prepared and know what to say. Practice the activity in advance, so you know how to conduct it in a virtual setting. If utilizing slides, avoid reading the text directly from the slide.
USE POLLS TO ENGAGE YOUR AUDIENCE:
Whether it is a virtual meeting, training, orientation or virtual convention, participants have a certain level of expectation that the trainer, facilitators or meeting leader will engage the audience. Polls are one of the many ways to engage a virtual audience. For example, during a 1 hour webinar, we typically like to do about 5-6 polls to engage, ask questions, reflect and assess where our participants are at in the learning process.
Polls should be meaningful and created with intention. Our best strategies for how and why to use polls include:
A great way to check in with Attendees
Can help to engage the unseen
The trainer can assess where people are at with their knowledge of the content by asking questions through polls
Spread out the polls so that participants aren't overwhelmed by 6 polls in a row
Have intention with the questions that are asked in the polls
Input your polls in advance so there are no typos, etc.
Polls track engagement if you need to assess attendance
After asking a poll, speak directly to the results so that participants understand why you asked the poll
Looking for more resources and insights on facilitation and training? Check out our Train the Trainer workshop which focused on train the trainer best practices, facilitation skills, presentation skills, public speaking in front of groups, program design, adult learning and more. Our Train the Trainers workshop is hosted both online and in-person. We hope you can join us!