Facilitation Skills for face-to-face and Virtual training
As a trainer, have you ever been rushed to finish a class? Or realised too late that you have more information than time? Or wondered why some of your training classes finish early and others leave you gasping for air? Even the most seasoned trainers sometimes struggle with classroom time management. Time management concerns are amplified in the virtual classroom because synchronous online class are often shorter in length. Every single minute counts. Think about it: If you have and eight-hour, face-to-face class and you lose five minutes due to a discussion tangent, you can easily make it up at another point during the day. But in a 60 minute virtual session, if you spend an extra unplanned five minutes on a topic, then you’ve lost almost 10 percent of your available time!
Maximised every minute of your classroom time. Good time management will help you have credibility with your audience and make the most of your time together. For example, if you have a face-to-face class scheduled to begin at 9am, and you start a few minutes late because you were sipping on water while walking to the front of the room, the participants would not think much of it because they can visually see you and know that it is time to start class. However, in the virtual environment, if you start a few minutes late for any reason, your participants may think, “Did I get the wrong time?” and they might disconnect from the session. Also, you may have to scramble to make up that time during class.
Think About This: It’s a best practice for virtual classes to be 60-90 minutes and no more than 120 minutes in length. If your sessions have to be longer, build in time for a break.
When you prepare for your virtual session, make sure you clearly know how much time each activity should take and how much discussion time you have. It’s up to you to manage the pace of class.
The table below, which will help you recognise and eliminate the most common time wasters in the virtual classroom.
Establish Ground Rules.
The ground rules of a training class let participants know what behaviours are expected and which ones are not allowed. Typical ground rules for any type if class might include
- Follow common courtesies for communication
- Keep sensitive information confidential
- Be on time
- Share experiences
- Participate actively.
Trainers should always establish ground rules in a training class, regardless of the delivery environment. Ground rules unique to a virtual class may include
- State your name before speaking
- Never use your telephone “hold” button
- Use mute/unmute buttons if in a noisy environment
- Ask questions verbally or via the chat window at any time.
I believe it is important for participant to set their own ground rules. In my face-to-face classes, I may start the list with suggestions, but then ask the group to decide upon the rules. Once the rules are established, I’ll often joke with the group, using an analogy from the airlines, by saying, “When someone sits in an exit row, they have to verbally agree to follow the airline’s rules for emergency exit seating. Here in our class, we also need to verbally agree to follow these rules.” Giving participants input to the ground rules list increases the likelihood of them being kept. I also ask participants to decide the “penalty” for breaking a rule. My face-to-face classes have to come up with some fun and creative ideas, such as asking the offender to wear a funny straw hat for five minutes. What works for one group may not work for another, which is why the participants have control.
In a virtual class, ground rules should still be established, and the participants should still have ownership of them. They can decide their own penalties for the rule breakers, such as asking the offender to sing a short song. The two main differences in a virtual class are the amount of time available for ground rules discussion and the types of ground rules to include.
Since virtual classes are often shorter in length than their face-to-face counterparts, you should limit the amount of time spent on logistics. Group together virtual class “housekeeping” items and the ground rules into one short discussion. You could even cover these prior to the class start time by having this information posted on screen while you’re waiting for class to begin. If you use this technique then gain the participants’ buy-in to the rules with a quick question at the beginning of class.
If you have a group of participants new to virtual training, then you may need to take a more active role in establishing ground rules. You can give them a list and ask which ones they agree with and what they would add.