Top tips for hosting Zoom workshops and events

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Wow, I have even more respect for teachers than I did this time last week!

A true sign of the times, I hosted my first Zoom training course last week, and – not to do things by halves – it was an intense three day long training session for 20 people.

I have to say that it was one of the most challenging, and yet bizarrely one of the most straight forward, things I have ever done – I can also confirm that it was one of the most exhausting, and rewarding projects!

The key to an effective and enjoyable training session is genuine engagement with the audience – being able to gauge their understanding and belief in what you are saying,as well as assessing real time the subjects that particularly interest them or turn them off. This is a difficult enough endeavour when face to face in a classroom, particularly with larger groups, let alone taking the session online and removing all of the critical body language.

However after surviving the week, and receiving lots of lovely feedback from my students, I thought I would share my learnings:

1. Ask all participants to mute at the start!

There’s nothing worse than when one of your audience gets background noise and takes the spotlight! It’s incredibly distracting for everybody (I’ve been on the other end of this during a Zoom yoga class when one of the participants started having a chat with her husband who had come into the room, and didn’t realise she wasn’t muted!) If you ask them to mute themselves, rather than automatically muting everyone yourself, this means that they have the freedom to un-mute to ask questions at any point.

2. Attention spans are even shorter when following a voice online

You need to rethink the format of your session – you’ll never keep people’s attention on the screen for hours on the end. Think about breaking the day into sections, broken up with substantial independent work that allows people to keep on the topic, without getting video conferencing fatigue!

3. Give yourself breathing space!

Factor in group discussions, don’t expect to be able to keep talking for hours. You don’t get the same number of questions and interaction to break up a day’s session when you’re online, so make sure you give yourself scheduled points that allow you to grab a quick mouthful of water and take a breath!

4. Accept that most people will not want their videos on

Most people are uncomfortable in front of a camera and will not want to be visible all day, and whilst you obviously want to ensure that people are still following – and awake – you don’t want them to be uncomfortable and resentful all day. I found it helpful to ask people to turn the videos on at the start so that we could put names to the faces and build a bit more of a connection, and I did the same at the end of the day when I asked if there were any questions. Not only is it better for building rapport, but you can get a feeling of satisfied people are.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek interaction

At frequent intervals, make a conscious effort to get your audience involved. Those following you will be just as keen to be involved as they would if they were face-to-face. I made it very clear that I welcomed input and questions, and when we got to the marked discussion points, I explained that people could contribute, ideally by turning on their videos and asking questions, or alternatively, by turning only the mic on and asking a question, or even by simply typing their thoughts or questions in the text box, which I could read out and respond to (by far the most popular option!)

These were just a few of my thoughts from the last week of online training, I would love to hear if anyone has any others for my next session!

If you’d be interested in any online (or face to face, socially distanced) training on any subjects around PR and communications, please do let me know as I particularly love the training part of what I do!

 

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