Tag Archives: facilitation

What’s That Behind You?

Distracting Background - Office

Just what DO they put in those botanical shampoos?

In last night’s “Facilitating Over the Web” session, the discussion migrated to best use of webcams. While I was extolling the virtues of using webcams, someone in the chat box piped up: “I’d have to clean up the disaster area that’s behind me first.” Which was a very astute observation. I had taken a few moments to clean up my office space a little before the webinar began.  It’s likely the first time in months that my desk has had that much open space.

Even after a little tidying up, it’s valuable to check your background to make sure that what your learners see doesn’t distract from you, and your message. The image to the left, of course, is an example that’s easily fixed. Move the vase, or move yourself.

But what if your entire background is distracting, and something that you cannot move? And what if you don’t have the option of going elsewhere? How can you ensure that the webinar you’re facilitating remains professional, and your learners stay on task?

These folks came up with a solution:

It’s pretty basic, and reminiscent of those pop-up car screen shades. But they do a remarkable job of blocking out the background, allowing you to facilitate from wherever you may have placed your home office: the kitchen, a corner of your garage, wherever you’ve got a desk and a chair.

The WebAround comes in three colours, and frankly, I’m eyeing the green one, wondering if I can treat it as a “green screen” for my eLearning video recordings.

If you find yourself facilitating webinars, but are concerned about the professional image you’ll project if folks can see the space behind your smiling face, this product may be a decent investment.

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Enhance Virtual Training Engagement With Hashtags

“Oh, my goodness, I think there’s a chat box blowout going on here!”

#hashtagyourlife

Image from socialmedium.co.uk, #hashtagyourlife

I can hear David H. through the thin walls of our offices, and can’t help but smile. Just a few weeks earlier, he’d shared with a group of Total Trainer participants a technique for engaging his virtual audience that he just stumbled upon one day – hashtags.

A hashtag is a word or phrase, preceded by the “#” symbol, used to “tag” a longer comment – a form of metadata. It was popularized in Twitter to help users of that social media tool to search for comments by a specific topic. #learning, for example. Or #FF.

“I was watching the chat during one of my webinars and noticed that a lot of folks were talking about the same topic,” David shared. “So I said: ‘Looks like there’s a topic trending in the chat box.’ and typed #listen (that was the trending topic). And the chat box just blew up.” He splayed his hands out to illustrate.  “I thought that was pretty cool, so I tried it again.”

Now, the #chatboxblowout, as David calls the practice, is a standard facilitation technique for his webinars.

Sometimes David will comment: “I see a topic trending in the chat box…” and participants will start adding hashtags to their comments.  Sometimes the participants – particularly the Millenials – will add hashtags without any prompting. Either way, adding hashtags to the chat spurs conversation and engagement with the majority of those on the call.

An added benefit:  just as hashtags were created as a grouping/search tool in Twitter, so can David search for content in his webinar chat, by topic, should he later want to refer to a specific comment someone had made.  Being able to recognize a participant’s comments as relevant to a subsequent topic can boost morale as well as engagement, indicating to the learners that the facilitator is actually paying attention to their contributions, and prompting more meaningful dialogue.

Back in today’s training session, David is narrating the comments that are filling up his chatbox with the fervor of a soccer announcer. There’s no denying that a simple “#” has provided a great deal of excitement in his classes.  #somethingtoconsider

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