Moving to Virtual Blog

Online Facilitators: How to deliver what your audience expects

April 14, 2015 | Posted in Concepts of Unified Learning, eLearning Best Practices by icohere

What makes a successful online facilitatorWhat makes a successful online facilitator?

Facilitators do much more than share or present information. They are responsible for the important role of facilitating the learning process. For online events, a great facilitator can mean the difference between the audience feeling inspired or falling asleep at the keyboard.

Understanding the importance of the facilitator’s role begins with understanding what your audience expects of you.  In this article, we explore the seven key audience expectations shared in a recent webinar presented by Sue Brundege, an organizational learning facilitator and coach with Integrated Work.

Create a safe, supportive, learning environment

Not all meetings and events are specifically about learning, but your audience won’t be engaged with the content unless they feel they are getting something out of it. Keep this in mind when designing an online presentation and ensure your content is geared toward making a connection, or solving a problem.  Remember, we want our audience to come away more informed and inspired.

Set aside your own assumptions, biases, judgments

When leading a group, it’s important to set aside our own judgments. This can be difficult especially when facilitating internally, such as when you are working with your own team or an audience that you know very well. To address this, pretend that you have walked in the “virtual” room and have never seen these people before. Step away from what you know about the group and listen with an open mind.

Use deep listening skills, and listen on multiple levels

The key here is be in front of the room, but not the center of attention. As the facilitator, you need to be aware of what’s happening in the room, but you want the audience to be hyper-focused on the content. Your delivery of the content should enhance their focus not detract from it.

The more experience you gain as an online facilitator, the more easily you will recognize the signals of an engaged audience. Sometimes, we don’t learn what we did wrong until after the event when we receive feedback. View the feedback constructively and use it to improve your facilitation skills.

Maximize connections between participants

If your event can make audience members feel connected to each other, you’ve hit gold. There are several tactics you can follow to foster this level of collaboration and engagement.  Before launching an online event, begin building a community around the event. This can be as robust as creating an online community or as simple as creating a private networking group on one of your social media channels.

The key is to engage participants ahead of time. The extent to which you can connect with people ahead of time or move them into sub groups will maximize the level of connection between participants. During the event, pull from discussions held in the group setting and make optimal use of polls, chats, and Q&A media.

Keep the group focused; listen for drift or confusion

As the meeting facilitator, you are the gatekeeper of information. You’re the person responsible for keeping everyone on track and focused on the content. Make the presentation flow smoothly by integrating various multimedia tools like polls and chats. These tools give the audience the opportunity to raise their hand if they hit a moment of confusion. They also add much-needed variety to content delivery, instead of watching a speaker speaking non-stop.

Keep the audience engaged by following a few key tips:

  • Remember to speak slowly. In an online environment, it’s a common mistake for speakers to move too quickly through content, because they aren’t receiving immediate audience feedback.
  • Provide a copy of the presentation to the audience in advance, so they can go through the material as it is being presented and can take notes.
  • Match the amount of material to the amount of time allotted. Don’t try to cover too much in a short amount of time. There is no way to capture all of the important aspects.

Capture, connect, synthesize, summarize key ideas

While there is no one-size template for giving a great presentation, there are best practices to follow. These include finding ways to connect the content to the audience, summarizing ideas instead of unnecessary elaboration, and keeping the content concise and on topic. The key, again, is to focus on the specific audience and their needs.

You may repeat the use of certain presentation techniques in all of your presentations, such as storytelling or persuasion, but how you present the content should depend upon what is most meaningful to the audience. For example, your audience might benefit from a guest panelist or someone to endorse the content.  If the event is a training, it might be easier for the audience to digest the material if you show the audience step-by-step how to do something.

Continually tie concepts to how they can be applied

Tying concepts to application is so important it should follow right behind focusing on the audience needs. People need to see how they can specifically use the information being presented. How does it apply to their needs? By integrating tactics mentioned earlier, like creating a community for your audience and front-end engagement, you will learn the audience needs in advance of the presentation and be able to share real-life applications of the content.

What can you add to this list? Share your advice in the comments below.

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