My sister, Suzanne Carbonaro, is an energetic and enthusiastic educator who works as the Director of Academic Partnerships at AEFIS Inc. an assessment management platform. She recently did a virtual workshop on best practices while presenting online. It was a big hit and I found her points very useful and spot on. I asked her to share about it by writing for the #ELBlog and of course, she jumped right on it. I hope you enjoy it. If you are a Yankees fan, you should check out the blog she pens under the name SuziePinstripe for the Bleeding Yankee Blue blog. Thanks Suzanne!
As we continue to grow and learn as a nation in the wave of COVID-19, we are unleashing a number of new skills and perhaps exposing areas for growth, which would have otherwise remained hidden had this disease not asserted itself on us. For about 27 years, I was given the gift of teaching others and helping these learners address their weaknesses and apprehension of public speaking. From high school to executives, learners took courses, workshops and sessions with me as a college professor of communication and public speaking. In those years, I learned a lot about my own skills and how to upskill myself, as the times changed, new educational technology evolved and the new needs of learners arose. Recently, I was given another opportunity to share my experience and skill set with others, but this time it was over Zoom and with educators from across the country. In this post, I wanted to give you the highlights in an effort to support you as these uncertain times change the delivery of teaching and learning, likely forever.
Stemming from a need voiced by my colleagues and assessment leaders at the Association of Assessment of Learning in Higher Education (AALHE) after multiple conferences had been either postponed, canceled or moved online, I delivered a webinar entitled, “Tips to Effectively Deliver & Maximize Attendance at Virtual Presentations.” Somewhere around 180-185 learners attended the webinar live, very much concerned with ways they can continue to effectively engage their audience and deliver their own conference sessions amidst the disruptions given the circumstances. I boiled down the presentation to three main points: (1) Know Yourself; (2) Know Your Audience; and (3) Know Stuff. Which makes a lot of sense, since these are tied to research when it comes to presenting in person. But where folks get stuck is that you can’t just do that the way you always did. You have to practice with the technology. You are your own producer, director, audio engineer, videographer and yes, anchor. You likely won’t see your audience as you are speaking because you are focused on looking directly into the webcam, positioned at the upper thirds of your face. Your slides are front and center, instead of you being the main attraction. In face to face situations, the slides compliment you, but here, you compliment and add context to the slides.
You have to position your content in a way that it is meaningful for the audience and linked to their needs. Audiences are tuned into the channel of WIIFM: What’s In It For Me? And as such, helping them realize their goals and giving them actionable content are keys to your success as a presenter. As my colleague and author of the book Teach Like a Pirate, Dave Burgess says, “Position your content as if it’s amazing! If you can’t explain why someone should pay attention to what you’re saying, maybe you shouldn’t be saying it.” This is the context for which you need to Know Your Stuff! You have to reposition your content to work in a virtual environment and as such you have to learn the art of the Pulse Checks. This concept seemed to most stump the audience and it was the topic of many of the questions and chat conversations. We discussed the Pulse Checks within the framework of not just slowing your pace but also taking a break from the content to check in with the audience. There are a number of ways to do this but probably the most important is that you have someone to manage your chat box during the presentation. Brian was my trusted chat box moderator during the presentation. As an operations coordinator for the educational technology company I work for, AEFIS, Inc., Brian and I practiced together with the leaders at AALHE to get this right. AALHE would be in charge of supporting audience members who were having technology issues but Brian would synthesize the comments and questions being posed in the chat. He was invaluable to this successful presentation. Pulse Checks cannot be done without a “Brian.” But beyond having that person to moderate, you can use some polling tools such as those within the webinar software, gaming technology such as Kahoot and engagement tools such as Google Docs and Forms, Nearpod and Padlet to help support Pulse Checks.
Ultimately, the audience left the presentation with a compilation of 10 tips as actionable strategies to support their delivery of content in virtual situations. These tips are meant to be practiced slowly and not addressed all at one time. This exercise is meant to be a marathon not a sprint.
In these uncertain times, it is important to use this “pause” of our everyday lives to upskill, reskill and better address areas for growth. As educators, parents, guardians, leaders and coaches, we should be lifelong learners as we teach our students to follow the same best practice. This presentation not only served others’ needs, but it reminded me to take my own Pulse Checks to ensure I am on track with where I want to be and what I need to learn during this new normal. I am appreciative to share this experience with you and hope that it in some way it guides you toward a better understanding of how you need to operate in the wake of COVID-19.
Quote: “A man’s mind, stretched by new ideas, may never return to its original dimensions.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.