Zoom was a life savior as the global crisis confined all of us to our more or less organized home offices. However, we all learned the hard way about Zoom fatigue, and today it’s hard to find anybody who is actually excited about Zoom meetings.
There seems to be an unspoken consensus that having your camera off and the mic on mute is the best way to deal with video conferencing. Unfortunately, the consensus also applies to training, and this doesn’t bode well for trainers.
Holding an audience’s attention is hard enough without them being sick and tired before you even start. That’s what you need to get creative when navigating the challenges of training a remote workforce. So let’s explore a few tips for making Zoom training more engaging:
1. Don’t treat training sessions like meetings
Even if you use the same tool, make sure your course feels and looks like a genuine learning intervention instead of a meeting. Take a look at what facilitators used to do in the “old days” of classroom training and adapt those things to the digital environment:
- Be there a bit early to greet and chat with those who also show up a few minutes before the start time;
- Play upbeat music to generate a good atmosphere;
- Use icebreakers to kick things off and engage learners as much as you can.
I found it very useful to talk about breaks from the start – learners tend to be more focused and manage their own attention and effort better if they know when the pauses are.
2. Be on screen more than off-screen
You can ask participants to have their cameras on throughout the session, but you won’t be able to force them to do so. Yet, you should lead by example and be on screen as much as possible instead of talking from behind a presentation. Seeing your face is not the same as being in the same room, but it’s still a lot closer to it than a voice and a screen.
I’m not advocating the banishment of slide presentations, but overusing them can be boring, and the chances of having good engagement dwindle significantly. Instead, it’s better to be present, share stories, and engage in casual on-topic conversation than to soldier on through impersonal content.
3. Make learning interactive
This advice is relevant for any type of learning intervention. Learners who are not involved lose interest very quickly. Information retention rates suffer, and you end up with a serious waste of time for all concerned.
There are many ways in which you can use the video conferencing app to ensure course interactivity. You can have quizzes, polls, separate rooms for smaller discussions, and people sharing their screens and thoughts on an important matter, etc.
It’s important to be mindful of how well the participants know the tool. If it takes a long time to explain how a certain function works and you have to troubleshoot their issues, you’ll lose the engaging power of interactivity.
4. Keep content to a minimum
Since Zoom fatigue is a major issue of this troubled period, keeping things short and sweet is highly advisable. Remember that self-directed learning is very popular these days. You can always offer the right resources and allow learners to dive deeper into a subject if they find it interesting or need to because their job requires it.
Focus on what is essential and trim the learning material to avoid tediousness. However, it’s important to keep the extra engaging elements – the music, the chit-chat, the icebreakers – because setting the right atmosphere is crucial. Your goal is to avoid cognitive overload, not to shave off minutes from the module.
5. Include games in your training activities
Again, a universal piece of advice that also applies to remote training. Games are engaging and fun. They can save a lagging party, an awkward meeting when the people don’t quite click, and they can certainly do a world of good for training sessions delivered via video conference.
Of course, you can gamify some of the content, but in the context of finding ways to keep your remote training engaging, include some games that are not directly related to the material you are presenting. For example, if you are facilitating a module on leadership, you can have three truths and a lie type of quizzes about historical leaders. You can include quirky, memorable facts to boost the fun element.
Finding ways to keep remote learning engaging is a big challenge for learning professionals. Indeed, video conferencing became our go-to method for everything, but that’s not a good enough reason to drop the ball. These tips will help make your sessions more enjoyable, but you should also be on the lookout for innovative approaches.
Raluca Cristescu is a Faculty of Letters graduate with over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.