Virtual sessions are the new age conferences in the post-pandemic world. However, it has become a task for trainers and facilitators to hold the attention of the participants.
If you are a soft skills trainer, corporate coach, or facilitator struggling to keep your virtual sessions engaging, then you come to the right place.
This article provides you with three effective ways to engage with your participants and also shares various activities and tools that you could use during your virtual training sessions.
It will help you understand that as a facilitator you have to do 70% of the job to help people learn whereas the rest of the 30% comes from the reception of your participants.
But let’s first understand what impacts the engagement of learners in the first place.
Virtual engagement of learners is impacted by:
Learners’ or participants’ comfort level plays a new role. Regardless of where a participant is attending a session, a facilitator must make them comfortable.
This can be done by explaining to them what the session is about, and what they will learn, and also assisting them with the technical aspects of attending the session.
The trainer/ facilitator must exude charisma, confidence, and a big wide smile. A positive and encouraging tone and pitch also affect the learners’ willingness in the session.
It’s always necessary that all the activities that you do throughout the session, has to have some relevance as to why you are doing it and how you are going to conduct it. You must also be able to map the outcome of these activities.
Session Design and Content
Why are you designing a graphic or a visual aid? Are you going to deal with only visual learners? Are your participants going to be auditory learners?
Or are there going to be kinesthetic learners? If you have a mixed batch, how are you going to cater to each one of them? These are some questions you must ask while designing the content for your session.
Capabilities of the virtual platform
There are a lot of virtual conference or meeting platforms available. Zoom app is the most widely used one among them.
Regardless of what virtual platform you use, it is crucial that you understand its user experience, feasibility, and capability to cater to your needs.
Now that we are aware of what factors impact the virtual engagement of the learners, let’s check out the three tools that will help you keep your participants engaged till the end.
3 Effective Tools to Boost Engagement During Virtual Meetings:
When you enter the training room, it is important as a facilitator, you must connect with the participants. They must feel your energy and anticipate the session even more. This can be accomplished with the help of Icebreakers.
Icebreakers are also known as connectors since they connect you with your participants. If your audience is there, to gain some insight or to learn some skill, it is important to connect with them.
Let us understand the benefits of Icebreakers:
- Icebreakers tend to create psychological safety. Participants feel safe devoting their time and attention and conclude that the session will turn out to be good due to their participation in icebreakers.
- They connect the audience to the content. Icebreakers also elevate the expectations of the participants about the sessions. Icebreakers authenticate the outcome of the session and encourage learners to think more creatively during the session.
- It also creates a connection between fellow learners and increases the chances of collaboration between them.
Let’s check out a few icebreaker examples:
Icebreaker Example 1 – Story of my life.
- Ask the participants to grab a white sheet of paper and pen/marker.
- They must fold the paper in half vertically to create two halves.
- Another fold horizontally would create four halves of the paper, back and forth.
- Ask them to write the following answers on the respective pages:
- Page 1 – If your life was a movie what would you name it?
- Page 2 – Write your top three strengths?
- Page 3 – One achievement you would like to share with others (Personal and Professional).
- Page 4 – Write three things you are grateful for.
- You can ask three participants to volunteer to share what they have written. Encourage your participants and appreciate their answers.
- Do not forget to share your answer as well. This will increase transparency and help you connect with your audience in depth.
Story of my life icebreaker will help you know about the demographic, background, and nature of your participants. This activity can be used in different processes.
For e.g. If you are conducting communication skills training, you may introduce this activity there so that people start talking. This could be the first step to encouraging participants to interact with you and fellow learners.
Ice breaker example 2 – Image Metaphor
- In this activity, you have to ask your participants to take a sheet of paper and write the first letter of their name in a huge bold size.
- Now ask them to use that letter and draw an image of “What an impressive image means to you”.
- They can draw the image around the letter that could showcase what you see as an impressive personality.
- Again, you can ask three participants to volunteer to share what they have written and drawn.
This activity helps your participants to brainstorm and reflect on themselves. It also helps them to define themselves and share their perceptions using imagery. This activity can be used in all processes, in all settings, and for all age groups.
Energizers are activities that elevate and pop up the energy levels of your participants during the virtual training sessions. These physical activities also help you get rid of fatigue and charge things up when the session seems slow.
Let us understand the benefits of Energizers:
- Energizers help you control and track the attention of participants on a virtually challenging platform.
- It also helps you get rid of the uncertainty of who your participants are since they might be keeping their cameras turned off. Energizers also aid in quick summary or debriefing exercises.
Following are the examples of a few energizers:
Energizer Example 1 – Movie Xchange
- In this activity, you ask your participants to choose the name of any movie and replace its words with any other unrelated word you give them.
- For e.g., if the movie name is ‘No Time To Die’ and the word you have given them is ‘Sale’, then their answer would be, ‘No Time To Sale’.
- You can ask participants to write their answers in the chat box and interact with them accordingly. Note that the word or phrase you give them to replace should be related to the context of your training.
- Also, as soon as you receive the answers from the participants, try to move forward swiftly with the same high tempo.
This activity brings down the monotony of a session, especially if the topic is related to business, marketing, science, etc. It also helps people to gear up in a better way for the rest of the planned training ahead.
Energizer Example 2 – Do Undo
This is a simple instructional activity where you may ask your participants to do something with their camera turned on.
You may also reverse it by asking them to do something opposite of your instruction. For example, you can ask them to lean in but they must lean out every time and vice versa.
This high-paced activity can break the monotony and boost the mood of your participants. This would also help you analyze their listening skills.
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Closures are something that brings the whole summary of the session together. They help you review main points, plan for future actions, shift the focus from learning to application and receive feedback.
Check out a few closure examples:
Closure Example 1 – Visual Rating Scale
- Present a collage of 5 images. Each image contains a natural weather phenomenon like fog, thunder, rain, sunlight, and storm.
- Number each image on a scale of 1 to 5. Then ask your participants to rate your sessions based on the images presented.
- This is a great way to evoke emotion in your feedback and helps you know how each participant is feeling about your session.
This activity is also helpful during a one-on-one consultation. Clients may come with a lot of emotional baggage and psychological pressure. This activity will thus help them express their feedback for the session in a more human way instead of just normal ratings.
Closure Example 2 – Power ball
- This final activity is yet another way to receive feedback from the participants. As a facilitator, you initiate this activity to help it carry forward to all the participants.
- You have to crumble a piece of paper and throw the ball (virtually!) by calling out the name of any one of the participants.
- The participant has to then share one thing he/she has enjoyed in the entire session. The same person has to throw the power ball to the next participant of their choosing who has to answer the same question.
- Unless you have time constraints, you can continue this activity until each participant has provided some feedback.
Another attention-grabbing activity that energizes each participant and helps you receive spontaneous feedback for the session.
Many more activities and tools help trainers and facilitators deliver highly effective sessions. Again, it is both the job of the facilitators as well as the participants that make a session successful. Whether it is virtual or in-person.
If you have any more suggestions or examples on how to make virtual meetings more engaging, feel free to share them with us in the comments section.
If you wish to know more about the deliver virtually engaging sessions, check out our Knowledge Happy Hour webinar by ISIM Alumna, Kanchan Tendulkar: