Are You There, Patron? It's Me, the Librarian

By , October 5, 2010 11:27 am

by Kristine Lloyd

One of the greatest challenges to web-based training, besides the technological issues, is facing an audience as hushed as a group of theatre-goers. Sure, the geographical reach is endless, although you don’t get to whisk off to Paris anymore for a day on Avenue Montaigne and a one-on-one orientation, but teaching to a group of zombies does not always instill confidence in your professorial prowess.

How can you overcome the challenges of teaching to an invisible audience? I can only speak from my own experience, both from trainings I have conducted and trainings I have attended, but here are a few tips on keeping your audience engaged:

  • No doze-inducing PowerPoints. The best use of web-based training is presenting live, demonstrating a product or function and how to use it. Admittedly, this isn’t always possible. If you do use PowerPoint, the same rules apply as if you were doing it in front of a live audience. Make it interesting, especially when your audience has no visual cues from you to supplement the content.
  • If it’s a small group, stop at logical break points and ask questions to make sure they understand the content. For larger groups, you will have to rely on the participant Q&A panel. Take breaks to answer those questions.
  • Use fun tools, such as Zoomit which works a little like an Etch-a-Sketch. If you have bad handwriting, as I do, beware or your circles will ressemble a Picasso painting.
  • Co-present to break up the class and provide a fresh voice.
  • Even if you have notes for talking points, do not rely heavily on them. If you do, “danger Will Robinson.”
  • Have fun! It’s important to try to inject a little humor into your presentation. If you have no sense of humor, well, I can’t help you there.
  • Don’t fret if you can still hear a penny drop. Just remind yourself that silence is golden.

What tips do you have for engaging your audience during online training?

3 Responses to “Are You There, Patron? It's Me, the Librarian”

  1. Thanks for the post Kristine. This is a particular challenge because you just can’t tell if you’re connecting with anyone. I like to use polling throughout a session when it makes sense. This keeps the participants engaged at some level and helps you learn more about your audience. Another thought, set up a hashtag for each session so participants can tweet. They may be more comfortable communicating in that environment than they would be using the chat function within the interface. And then be sure to monitor the tweet feed!

  2. Hi Kristine,
    Here’s a great post that I thought you might find helpful.

  3. Amy Eaton says:

    Great tips Kristine! I have hesitated to open up our Seattle training sessions for these reasons. I also find that offering the same session to both on-the-ground and remote participants is too distracting. I think the session should be for one group or the other, not both.

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