At the best of times, delivering a prepared workshop is a daunting project for any Toastmaster. In these Covid-19 related times, Toastmasters face an entirely new challenge – how to create effective training online with challenging technology.
Most techniques we use to connect with participants in classroom sessions are still relevant in the online environment. However, in order to keep participants engaged, the digital facilitator needs to adopt new techniques. The training session may include slides, breakout rooms, chat discussions and participant interactions. An uninterrupted flow is crucial for a successful
Speaking From Experience Advanced Toastmasters (SFEAT) recently conducted a two-hour online workshop. The workshop by Andrew Mertens entitled, “Secrets for Super Evaluations” was previously delivered live on several occasion to high acclaim. Aside from knowing his subject matter, Andrew is also the current District 60 Evaluation Contest champion. He knows a thing or two about evaluations!
So how can a proven workshop be transferred to the online format? What lessons can we learn from this experience? Was this workshop a success?
The event, held on May 13th, 2020, was a resounding success. Andrew delivered an exquisite workshop.
Participants reported back their high satisfaction with this two-hour training event.
In this article, we will explore ten techniques utilized by Andrew and his support team. With these tips, you too can create an effective online presentation and your club can host a successful event.
SFEAT produces a workshop series throughout the year. This experience benefits its members and equally interested District 60 and 86 Toastmasters who seek advanced communication topics.
SFEAT posted details of the event on both their FreeToastHost club website and a Facebook page. The VP of PR created a registration page with additional event details on Eventbrite. Considering the interactive nature of the workshop, it was decided to limit non-member guests to 20 – and Eventbrite was the perfect application for managing registration and subsequent communication.
SFEAT also reached out to District 60 with a request to post the prepared event marketing poster on their website and FaceBook pages.
The result of this marketing effort caught us off guard – the event was filled within 14 hours. This is a testament to both the recognition of Andrew’s expertise and the effective reach of social media marketing (in particular the respective FB pages).
We welcomed and invited participants to become familiar with SFEAT Netiquette suggestions (posted in a folder on the SFEAT club website). For security purposes, the Zoom meeting coordinates and agenda were released only 4 hours before the event.
A typical SFEAT workshop would comprise of three roles: the Toastmaster (meeting emcee), the presenter, and the timer. In the online format, we evolved the role of the timer to include moderator functionalities.
The moderator was the designated Zoom Host. In this role, he managed different Zoom capabilities: authenticating participant entry to the training room, sharing chat room discussions, and managing the breakout rooms for the three-person practical exercise. Thus, all the Zoom meeting technology in support of running the training was handled in the background by this role player.
The balance of agenda responsibilities was managed with business-like precision by the Toastmaster.
This kept the attention of the presenter clearly focused on the training content and presentation delivery. The presenter could call on the underlying technology at an instant to maintain participant engagement and training flow.
We found this solution worked extremely well. Questions and comments made in the chat were shared with the presenter at convenient times, upon request or moderator interjections. The Toastmaster had a ‘bird’s eye view’ of the event and offered valuable insights during periods of meeting transitions.
3 ZOOM TECHNOLOGY
SFEAT is fortunate to have access to a paid Zoom subscription level that permits an uninterrupted 2 hour meeting. We allowed participants to enter the meeting room upon connection. Each participant was easily identified, and we had the option to delete ‘intruders.’ The moderator made short welcome to new arrivals, while the Toastmaster requested a short self-description for establishing familiarity with each guest. It is a delicate practice (and developing skill) to manage small talk in a meeting room that is growing to 30 participants within the initial 10 minutes.
4 VISUAL ENHANCEMENT
With the Zoom capability for sharing a slide presentation, the presenter has an option to toggle between his image and the slide presentation. Andrew used this to his advantage – demonstrating visually the various effects that physical gestures can have in delivering evaluations.
5 SHARE SCREEN
This Zoom capability enables various presentation team members to share their visual slides. In our workshop event, the Toastmaster easily pulled up the meeting agenda before returning
control of the share to the presenter. This is easy and seamless, requiring little practice.
SFEAT rarely utilizes a chat function during regular meetings. However, this is a crucial function for use in a workshop. On several occasions Andrew posed a question to participants and requested responses to be typed into the Chat. In one instance, Andrew posted 4 options on a slide and asked respondents to select their preferred choice into the chat. In all cases, the moderator aggregated the responses and delivered the feedback in a manner that allowed Andrew to make use of it. For example, the presenter might ask at a logical juncture whether there are any questions. Or they might ask the moderator to share the most common response to a question or poll.
This functionality is a very effective tool for creating interaction, engagement and ‘discussion.’ Andrew could then draw on these key reflections to make generalizations that supported his training objectives.
7 BREAKOUT ROOMS
In all versions of Zoom, the administrator must first initialize the Breakout Rooms in ‘Settings.’ The moderator must be well versed in assigning participants to rooms (in our case we wished to have one SFEAT member present in every three-person room). Following the presenter’s explanation of the workshop exercise, the moderator initialized the switch which transferred everyone to their assigned discussion rooms. Following the designated time for the exercise, the moderator returned everyone to the main meeting room with the
same universal switch. Proper preparation and practice allows for flawless execution, avoiding time wasted with technical setbacks.
8 PRESENTER’S SUMMARY
Each breakout room reports back to the plenary group with the topics they discussed. The goal is to develop key impressions and possible generalizations. Each room could also share their ‘whiteboard’ where notes of the impressions made were recorded. The presenter now worked with these reflections by requesting participants to offer feedback to points raised. This facilitated discussion created new insights and stronger conclusions. The participants derive their understanding of the group’s consensus and the strengths and weaknesses of different ideas.
9 ROUNDTABLE EVALUATION
As an advanced Toastmaster club, SFEAT has adopted a round table evaluation process. This procedure allows the opportunity for everyone present to offer an evaluation comment as feedback to the presenter. This creates an array of opinions and observations that any facilitator can utilize to measure their content value and delivery effectiveness. The Toastmaster easily managed this evaluation process in the online platform.
10 POST WORKSHOP ANALYSIS
One additional participant follow-up was created with a Survey Monkey questionnaire. SFEAT incorporated the standard Toastmasters workshop follow-up questions. Questions like: How
would you rate the workshop? The presenter? Will you be able to apply the learning to future use? In addition to these, SFEAT also enquired into more details of the presentation itself, and the online experience in particular. We were pleased to learn that all the techniques we utilized were highly effective and enhanced the training experience.
Delivering a workshop can be a daunting experience. With the online technology available today, it is possible to create an enriched, engaging training event. You can leave your participants with fruitful knowledge that will serve them well long after your session. The key is to plan your process and how you will deliver your content. Your next event will be a success with an organized support team behind you. Sharing your content and facilitation skills in the Toastmasters spirit will bring satisfaction to each participant. The successful online experience is no different. Well done Andrew!
Send your request to join the next SFEAT Zoom meeting to: firstname.lastname@example.org