• Adam Tarnow

How can a hologram sit in a chair?

Updated: Jan 9, 2021

This is now officially the Star Wars technology I most want. Yeah, a real lightsaber would be cool. Yes, hyperdrive would be convenient. But, the ability for my hologram to attend a meeting...this is what I want today.

To me, that looks a million times better than sitting in a Zoom meeting. I can only hope there is a team somewhere in the world right now trying to figure this out.

Until then, we’ve got to play the hand we’ve been dealt. As of today, that hand is a pandemic. This means many of us must use video conferencing tools like Zoom, Teams, WebEx, Google Hangouts, etc.

A significant part of my business is teaching/training. When the pandemic hit, it all went away. I didn’t do any live teaching for almost four months. Slowly but surely, teaching is starting to come back. The requests for live virtual training are increasing.

Virtual training is no less challenging than a virtual meeting. It’s never been easier to bore an audience and waste your client’s money with a sub-par virtual learning experience.

I’m intrigued by the challenge of how to make virtual learning engaging. After a few months, I can confidently say, it is possible not to bore people to death while hosting a live virtual learning event.

I’d love to share what I’m learning. To that end, here are ten ways I’m trying to make virtual learning more engaging for the audience.

1. Cap teaching sessions at three hours.

For now, I would not suggest hosting any “all day” classes virtually. Take your cues from Hollywood here. The average feature film runs between 90 and 120 minutes. If Hollywood doesn’t believe they can keep us engaged all day, then we shouldn’t think we’re different.

2. Try to limit teaching blocks to no longer than 22 minutes.

Why 22-minutes? That’s the average length of an episode of The Office on Netflix. After 22-minutes, something needs to change. With virtual training, you have to keep things moving. Regular changes keep people engaged.

3. Double the number of slides.

Every time you change a slide, it’s something new for the audience to view. Virtual training is a time for more slides, not fewer slides.

4. Use as many videos as possible.

Videos have and always will provide quality brain breaks. Every video conference service makes it easy to screen share. Build a playlist on YouTube, and you have everything you need for engaging brain breaks.

5. Tell as many stories as possible.

I can’t say it enough: the human brain loves stories. As a communicator, you have to learn how to tell good stories, especially in a virtual learning environment.

6. Use the breakout room feature.

Hands down, my favorite feature on Zoom is the breakout room feature. It’s essentially a virtual way to do “table time.” Here’s a video explaining more.

7. Sit on a stool, not in a chair.

When you teach in-person, you rarely sit in an office chair. Standing gives you more energy. I’ve found the happy medium with virtual training is to sit on a stool. My posture is better, my energy is better, but I’m still relaxed.

8. Ensure the camera shot includes your entire upper body.

55% of communication is body language (Google Albert Mehrabian for more on this percentage). If the camera is only capturing your face, then the audience cannot see your body language. Widen the camera shot so everyone can see your hands while you talk.

9. Use a real-time whiteboard.

This adds an interesting visual element to your training. My favorite way to do this is to share my iPad screen and use my Apple Pencil to draw or write on a blank sheet of paper in GoodNotes. Here’s an explanation.

10. Call on people and ask them to share.

For some reason, most people are still reluctant to talk on a virtual call. Take a cue from your third-grade teacher. Calling on people is a great way to get others talking.

Unfortunately, I don’t think the hologram is coming any time soon. In the meantime, don’t stop trying. Virtual learning does not have to feel “less than.” Just because you’ve tried it a few times and didn’t like it doesn’t mean you should give up on it. Try a few of the items on this list and keep working hard to engage others.

Keep inspiring with clarity,

P.S. The 11th item to this list, it would be “Invest in some decent gear.” Here’s a list of the gear I use.

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