I was reluctant, sceptical and I’ll admit it avoiding training virtually. My belief is that environment plays an important part in learning and when I train or deliver something, I like people to be away from their normal environment. The photo above was taken in Alibaug a beautiful area just along the coast from Mumbai. I loved training with Sue Knight and Saji KP there last year. The environment encouraged rapport. And translating this to Zoom – are you kidding?!
However, having just finished delivering a programme virtually on Zoom, I was pleasantly surprised how well we were able to create interactive learning experiences and build strong rapport between ourselves and the delegates. And so, I thought I would share some tips, a sort of checklist of what I think helps create rapport in the Zoom training room.
Check the technology
As we are reliant on the technology in a virtual environment, it’s helpful if it works from the outset. Send the invitation to join a few hours in advance. If you want to ensure you have no uninvited guests in the room, make it clear in the invitation is personal and cannot be shared – that way you won’t have second-cousin John joining in unexpectedly. Ask your delegates to check their Wi-Fi connection, sound and camera before they join the main training room so you’re all good to go from the start.
First impressions matter
When you invite your delegates in from the waiting room, welcome them with a smile and acknowledge them by name if you can. We would do this in the real world and the virtual one is no different. Think about the effect of first impressions. Do they join and see you looking down at the floor sorting a cable with your sound off? Or is it you looking at your camera (so it looks like you are making eye contact with them), smiling, friendly and ready to go?
Keep an eye on the waiting room for any latecomers. Being in limbo in a virtual waiting room where they aren’t sure you can see them is the equivalent of knocking on a closed door of an already started training programme.
Settle delegates into their environment
Just as you would say where the toilets are, give the Wi-Fi code and explain how things work in a physical training room, take a bit of time to ensure everyone knows how to type in Chat, how to raise their hand, mute and unmute and so forth. This helps settle people into their virtual environment even if they are familiar with Zoom. Taking a couple of minutes to explain the various functions means everyone can take part at every stage.
It’s ok if things go wrong
Make it clear from the outset that we are all learning and create a space where it’s ok if things go wrong. Openness builds trust and enhances rapport. On our recent programme we had a power cut, Wi-Fi issues, an exercise that didn’t go to plan, background noises, interruptions and lots of other moments! Humour, sharing with the delegates what’s going on, and sharing our learning, keeps it real and enhances rapport!
Use all of Zoom’s functionality
Signpost delegates to change view. Gallery view creates a sense of speaking to and being part of a large group. Speaker view is great when the trainer is explaining a concept in a bit more detail. Mixing these gives a sense of variety and keeps things fresh. All our delegates fed back that they loved the intimacy of Breakout rooms. They described them as a safe, private space. We used them extensively just as we might ask delegates to get into pairs or discuss something in threes in a physical training room.
All in all, it was a brilliant learning experience – for all of us. So, if you are hesitant about delivering virtually (as I was) please give it a go and I am sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised too. And of course, the tips above are my opinions, views and thoughts. Please share what works best for you as the more we share, the more we can all learn.