As the challenge of Covid-19 has sent waves through the sport landscape, many are still wondering how best to respond in ways that allow life to continue, while keeping everyone as safe as is possible.
Whether face to face or virtual, conversations in sport truly matter, but too often the interactions of a face to face nature are replaced with one-directional talking slides, with people half asleep or drifting off thinking about their next meal.
When done well, attention is constant and engagement remains high, ensuring learning and follow-through. So how exactly do we do it?
Authenticity, presence, and gravitas can be hard to achieve face-to-face, but even more so when delivering remotely. This is important for participants, but even more critical for the facilitator or coach. Before talking about session engagements, themselves, but it truly helps to understand the things required first. Good tekkers lead to good sessions let’s get technical.
You’ll want at a minimum:
Fast internet: Plug your laptop/desktop into ethernet/fibre rather than rely on WIFI ideally. Test your speed. You don’t necessarily need that, but the faster you are, the easier it is to make interactions feel synchronous, rather than staggered. Some platforms deal with lag/slower connections better than others.
Good webcam: Depending on your computer your in-built webcam will have an HD option. Make sure this is switched on, so faces are clearly seen. Being able to read other people’s facial expressions is even more important virtually than face to face.
Lighting: No need to go into full selfie-mode here, but at the very least make sure your face is well lit.
Sound: Before going into your meeting check your internal microphone. Platforms like Zoom offer this option. Helps avoid staggering and delay when there is a conversation flowing.
Dual Monitors: Optional but awesome. Having two screens allows you to have videos on one screen and chat/slides, etc on another, vastly easing resource management in session.
What platform should I choose and what features are we looking for in a platform?
1. Screen sharing of slides and beyond: This is a basic need. Enough said.
2. Chat bar: for backchannel questions to the group, or to get a pulse of the room. A clear alternative
3. Attention monitoring: Not to be used punitively, but attention monitoring is a great tool built into many webinar platforms to keep a check on if you are losing the group, and need to change things up to pull people back together. Basically, it lets you know when people are multitasking/drifting... because humans do.
4. Virtual breakout rooms: Real talk— if you’re not using these, you’re letting your participants down. Using breakout rooms allows pair or small group interaction and collaboration, and also allows the trainer to move room to room engaging in small group work. These are vital for turning a lecture into a collaborative learning experience.
5. Shared whiteboards: for group work, as well as available in the breakout rooms, whiteboards are great for visualising ideas, brainstorming, and mapping out possibilities.
6. Polling/surveys: for capturing group opinions and getting feedback.
7. Participant visibility: Is the platform interface set up in ways that makes it easier to see and interact with delegates?
“Virtual learning is not the next big thing, it is the now big thing.” – Donna J. Abernathy
Great, so who has the above?
The short answer, lots of providers. But the three we have seen most commonly used are ranked as follows:
So, what should we do if our organisation only gives us sub-par ingredients?
Your people need to be able to truly connect, and the need to continue to learn and adapt is never more vital than now. "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, but rather, that which is most adaptable to change." We are constantly adapting but we must find what the new normal can be for the way we work virtually. This is something we at Eclipse have attempted to master.
Creating Real Connection
We have ticked off the essential tech need along with what platform is best for you. Here are a few additional ideas to employ tech to extend interactions beyond the normal webinar or workshop platform and make it experiential for all. As always, maximising participant engagement, retention, and follow-through is at the forefront of the work we do at Eclipse.
Slide apps: These include Mentimeter (our favourite), PearDeck, Slido, Glisser. Why would you want to use these when you already have screen sharing built into webinar platforms? Two words — Real estate. Screen sharing dominates participants screens and often makes the human side a tiny floating box. By pushing slides to second screens, the main real estate is reserved for humans. That is not always desirable, but it is great to have the option.
Survey and Polling: Yes, most webinar platforms have surveys and polls in some form, but they allow us to get an instant snapshot into the participants thinking and opinions. Doing this allows participants to quickly interactive for instant brainstorming/feedback.
Transcription: Services like Otter (our favourite) and Trint provide fast transcription of session recordings. Why would you want this? Sharing collaborations is one reason, but for us we primarily use snippets of our sessions to highlight particular communication points, for example, questioning strategies used to gain further understanding from coaches or teammates.
Scheduling: Have follow-up one on one or small group coaching sessions and don’t want to deal with back and forth emails? Services like MeetingBird connect with platforms like Zoom through integration apps like Zapier. What does that mean in plain English? When I want participants to sign up for a follow-up session, they simply click a time I have listed on my MeetingBird page and it automatically creates a shared Zoom meeting calendar invite for us.
Bridge-building: Learning shouldn’t stop when the webinar or workshop does, and you can help nudge it along. Nothing stops you connecting with fellow teammates or coaches to have a further conversation about what was discussed. Learning doesn’t stop when the facilitator is not present.
Whiteboard: Yes, most platforms have these built-in, but if you want something fancier, apps like Mural and Limnu are a huge help. Lower the tech burden and it becomes much, much easier to get people engaged.
By now I hope you have a better sense of what you need to be in place to build engaging virtual sessions. While we’re focused on developing people in sport here, many of the same tips and tricks can apply to meetings and classrooms.