Tip #834: Virtual Design in Practice

“Learning is more effective when it is an active rather than a passive process.” Kurt Lewin

I have become a devotee of Cynthia Clay, President and CEO of NetSpeed Learning Solutions. She is a charming and masterful presenter. I find her programs on virtual design incredibly useful and instructive. Her website offers many wonderful resources and I strongly encourage you to take advantage of them.

Cynthia recently gave a highly interactive webinar titled Rocking the Digital Workplace: Communicating and Leading Virtually. In addition to learning her content, I decided to note how she formatted the program.

Before the webinar began, early arrivers were given an opening question: “What do you want to gain from participating in this program?” They were invited to post their responses in the chat window. A facilitator was available to welcome the participants and comment on their responses. This created an immediately engaging conversation.

When Cynthia began the program, she identified the three learning objectives then asked the participants to answer the opening question in one of two dual best vacation place chat windows: beach and mountains. She first read some of the responses in the beach window, making sure to recognize people’s contributions by using their names. She repeated this approach for the responses in the mountain window.

This was the first of many different interesting ways that Cynthia gave participants choices for where they responded in chat windows- or what they responded to.

The next activity was a poll regarding the leadership roles that people play on their virtual teams.

This was followed by a poll concerning trends for the future use of virtual teams the participants saw. In each case, she commented on the poll results.

Cynthia provided some research findings regarding the trends.

Next came information about 4 key barriers to successful leadership of virtual teams, followed by a triple chat window asking participants to list other barriers they saw that related to people, policies and practices, or system chat windows. She again read through representative samplings from each window, using the respondents’ names.

She identified 10 skill gaps that research had revealed, then had the participants respond to a poll where they could select as many skill gaps that were true of their leaders. She commented on the incoming votes and final results.

Cynthia continued to provide information and then set up chat windows to get the participants’ feedback or ideas.

For example, she introduced the idea of virtual presence, then asked the group to chat what they thought it was.  She then set up a dual chat window, last names beginning with A-K on the left and last names beginning with L-Z on the right. As with all the chats, she read out various responses, mentioning the respondents’ names, and made comments on them.

At another point, she asked, “What do virtual team members need from their leader?” and used four birthday chat windows: January-March birthdays, April-June, July-September and October-December.

There were points of information provided, then chats for feedback or ideas, interspersed with a poll here and there.

She ended by having participants share either one insight or one action in dual chat windows.

This was a one-hour program to whet people’s interest in a longer program consisting of five weekly 90-minute interactive webinars. You’ll note that she didn’t use breakout sessions or whiteboards or reactions. She kept the dialogue going in a smooth, unhurried manner.

In previous webinars I’ve attended, she’s advocated for activities every 3-4 minutes and she certainly followed that approach.

I’m intrigued by her use of multiple chat windows. She uses Adobe Connect. I need to see if this is possible on Zoom or WebEx, unless one of you can tell me.

If you have an opportunity to participate in one of Cynthia Clay’s sessions, I hope you will take advantage of that. I know you will find it worth your time.

May your learning be sweet- and safe.


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