Ever had this experience as a virtual member of a face-to-face team meeting? You dial into a conference phone. You can’t hear what people are saying. You can’t see the documents, slides, or whiteboards people are referencing, and there is no easy way for you to get the group’s attention to ask a question or clarify a point.
As a virtual team member, unequal access to information and a feeling of being left out can erode your trust and lower your emotional commitment—two critical factors for overall team success.
Yet when you are a dial-in participant, pushing for inclusion without sounding like a whiner usually isn’t worth the effort. As a result, unless they are called on to participate, many virtual team members give up and simply listen to the meeting while they read and answer their email.
Don’t let this happen to the virtual members of your team. Here are three ways to keep your virtual teammates engaged:
- Go completely virtual. Meetings where everyone is virtual will force better habits such as “around the room” input and sending reports in advance so everyone has access. Make sure each meeting agenda deliberately includes time for everyone to participate in the lively chat necessary for this social team approach.
- Use a buddy system. If you must have some in the room and some out, assign every virtual team member a “buddy” in the room. Set up additional communication modes such as instant messaging or chatting between buddies. This way, the virtual team member can ask questions without disturbing the whole group and each person calling in has an advocate who can send last-minute documents, describe what is happening, or intervene when necessary for clarification.
- Consider creating a cardboard Carl/Caroline. One creative team leader I worked with created large, cardboard-backed photos of each virtual team member. The visibility of a cardboard Carl or Caroline in each meeting provided great humor and increased engagement. “Caroline looks like she has a question.” “Let’s ask Carl what he thinks!” These are fun and natural ways to ensure all team members stay visibly engaged and emotionally committed to the team. Other teams use an empty chair with a name, or a name tent—but there is something about a photo that adds life to the meeting. Be aware, though, that your virtual team member may ask for a cardboard photo of you and the rest of the team—that’s a good thing!
We all have attended deadly team meetings, and most of us probably have neglected a virtual team member, inadvertently, at least once. Keep your virtual team members engaged. Try one or more of these strategies and bring life and energy to your next virtual engagement!
About the author
Carmela Sperlazza Southers is a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies. Her posts on increasing organizational, team, and leader effectiveness in the virtual work world appear on the fourth Monday of every month.
As the world becomes more connected by technology, there is a growing expectation that modern professionals are accessible and responsive. Often, this means stretching boundaries and developing new skills to conduct business with people in far-reaching time zones and geographies.
One of the basic requirements in today’s new connected world is “virtualosity” when it comes to responsiveness and engagement.
For HR, OD, and training professionals, “virtualosity” means acknowledging and meeting the needs of participants who are located across a widely-dispersed network, and using new technology and enhanced instructional design to keep your audience engaged.
Close your eyes for a moment. Place yourself in a traditional learning situation. What’s happening? The teacher is at the front of the room, right? Who is doing the talking? The teacher, right? Who is standing, moving around the room? Who is engaged with the ideas and the information? Whose voice do you hear most of the time? Who’s excited? The teacher, the teacher, and the teacher.
In her new book, Brilliance by Design, Vicki Halsey explains that if organizations want participants to be as knowledgeable and excited about the content as the teacher, they need to shift the focus from the teacher to the participants.
In any good design 70 percent of the total learning event time needs to be the learners practicing new skills, working with them, and teaching others. Only 30 percent of the time should be devoted to the teacher teaching the skills to them.
That means that instructors need to focus less on what they are going to say and instead devote a full 70 percent of their time and energy on creating activities that embed learning.
As Halsey explains, “Active involvement with concepts—versus passive listening—enhances learning and application. The more active, rigorous practice the learner does with your content, the more automatic and natural it will be to use that content.”
To help presenters make the shift, Halsey suggests a six-step ENGAGE Model to replace the old “sit ’n’ get” model with “woo ’n’ do” so learners are actively drawn in and perform activities that reinforce the learning.
Energize learners by challenging thought patterns with pre-reading before session
Navigate content by presenting it in small chunks with interactive experiences
Generate meaning by helping learners determine the significance of the content in their lives
Apply to the real world by helping learners put into practice what they’ve learned
Gauge and celebrate by creating ways to assess and celebrate what has been accomplished
Extend learning to action by following up and helping learners create action plans
Where is your training focused? Is it on the material and your role, or is it on giving students a majority of the time to practice and engage the new skills? Shift the focus for greater success and application.
To learn more about Halsey’s new book, visit her book page at Amazon. To see Vicki in action with engaging content check out her recorded webinar on Managing and Developing People to Be Their Best: The three keys to becoming a smart, flexible, and successful leader
Join The Ken Blanchard Companies for a special complimentary webinar and online chat beginning today at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time (12:00 noon Eastern). Senior Consulting Partner Carmela Southers will be speaking on the topic of Leading In A Virtual World. The webinar is free and seats are still available if you would like to join over 500 people expected to participate.
Immediately after the webinar, Carmela will be answering questions here at LeaderChat for about 30 minutes. To participate in the online discussion, follow these simple instructions.
Instructions for Participating in the Online Chat
- Click on the COMMENTS link above
- Type in your question for Carmela
- Push SUBMIT COMMENT
It’s as easy as that! Carmela will answer as many questions as possible in the order they are received. Be sure to press F5 to refresh your screen occasionally to see the latest responses.
We hope you can join us later today for this special complimentary event courtesy of Cisco WebEx and The Ken Blanchard Companies. Click here for more information on participating.
Join Cathy Huett and Randy Conley of The Ken Blanchard Companies right here on LeaderChat beginning at 10:05 a.m. Pacific Time for a 30-minute Q&A session.
Cathy and Randy will be stopping by immediately after they finish their WebEx sponsored webinar on Mind Shift: Exploring Misconceptions about Virtual Training. In this special event, Cathy and Randy will be exploring the fact and fiction of virtual training and sharing best practices for creating a successful online program.
If you have a question that you would like to ask Cathy or Randy, just click on the COMMENTS hyperlink above. (Once you’ve typed in your comment hit SUBMIT COMMENT.) Cathy and Randy will answer as many questions as possible during the 30-minute online Q&A.
If you can’t stay for the entire 30-minute chat, but would like to see all of the questions and responses, you can always stop by later or click on the RSS FEED button on the right-hand column and you’ll receive updates automatically.
With the cutbacks in travel budgets, more companies are looking to technology as a medium for training their employees. Each day, people are writing about effective methods for keeping learners engaged inside of the virtual classroom. Most of us are becoming familiar with these techniques, but there’s still a piece of the puzzle that’s missing…
Where is your sidekick?!
I’m talking about someone who is there with you to ensure that the technology won’t get in the way of learning. I’ve seen too many virtual classroom sessions where learners can’t join the teleconference, are unable to view presentation slides, they can’t annotate, etc… Some of these sessions were even cancelled because the trainer could not get the technology to cooperate!
Even if the technical problems aren’t that bad, the trainer is usually too busy teaching to help the learner resolve some of the smaller issues, so the learner gets left behind in the wonderful world of multitasking because they cannot resolve the problem.
As someone who has been in this sidekick role, here’s why I recommend using a virtual classroom “Producer”:
- You can spend your time actually training, instead of troubleshooting. I can help learners with their technical challenges without being a distraction to the rest of the group.
- It adds a second voice to the training. Most people can stand one voice over a phone line for a limited period of time. I act as the technology “liaison” and tell your learners how to use the functions of the virtual classroom to add some variety.
- I handle some of the more complicated features of the virtual classroom behind the scenes. This eliminates some of the lag time between speaking and sending documents to the learners through the virtual classroom, as an example. This also helps to provide smoother transitions between activities.
These are all reasons I label my role as a sidekick, “Producer.” I handle “producing” the training while you can concentrate on the most import part…the material.
What about you? What’s your worst virtual training horror story in regards to a technical glitch and how did you go about resolving the problem? Click Here To Leave A Comment
Join Blanchard associates AlanYoungblood and Randy Conley, right here on LeaderChat beginning at 10:05 a.m. Pacific Time for a 30-minute Q&A session. Alan and Randy will be stopping by right after they finish their WebEx sponsored webinar on Virtual Classroom Solutions, a special look at how to create engaging learning experiences in an online environment. Over 400 people will be participating in the webinar and gathering here afterwards to ask follow-up questions.
To post a question now, click on the COMMENTS hyperlink near the title of this post. Type in your question in the space provided and hit SUBMIT COMMENT.
Join Dr. Vicki Halsey, VP of Applied Learning for The Ken Blanchard Companies, right here on LeaderChat beginning at 10:05 a.m. Pacific Time for a 50-minute Q&A session.
Dr. Vicki will be stopping by right after she finishes a webinar being hosted by our friends at WebEx on Best Practice Blended Training Designs. Over 300 human resource and training professionals are expected to participate in the webinar and many will be gathering here to ask follow-up questions.
If you have a question that you would like to ask Vicki, just enter this thread or click on the COMMENTS hyperlink near the title of this post. Type in your question in the space provided and hit SUBMIT COMMENT. Vicki will answer as many questions as possible until she has to leave at 11:00 a.m. Pacific.
And if you can’t stay, be sure to stop by later and see all the questions that were asked. Or better yet, hit the RSS FEED button on the right-hand column and receive updates on a daily basis!
How do you quickly retool your existing classroom training for virtual delivery? That’s a question many training directors are facing as cost cutting travel restrictions have put a large number of classroom-based training programs on hold.
I think that’s why we’ve seen such a large registration for tomorrow’s webinar on Best Practice Blended Training Designs featuring Blanchard’s VP of Applied Learning Vicki Halsey. Originally we had anticipated about 200 people registering for this event, but at last count we were nearing 500 people.
In a 50-minute online WebEx presentation Vicki will be sharing some of the virtual training designs she has created for large Fortune 500 companies. Participants will get a chance to see how other companies have successfully converted classroom designs into virtual programs.
Vicki will also be joining us here at LeaderChat immediately after her presentation to continue the conversation and answer questions. If you’d like to participate in either event, they are both free.