Virtual Classroom facilitators have a lot on their plate – not only are they trying to communicate the lesson, engage with students, and knowledge share, they have to be aware of the virtual classroom tools, and be able to manage conversations and feedback through chat, polls, online Q&A, as well as breakout discussions. When facilitators are facing this alone, they may choose to not take advantage of all of the tools available that could greatly increase interaction. They may feel overwhelmed at the production and facilitation aspects required. In this instance, without assistance, the facilitator may be then forced to lecture to the attendees with minimal interaction.
That’s where the virtual classroom producers come in – they act as the technological expert on the virtual platform so the facilitator can focus purely on the content and engage with participants. To make the producer and facilitator relationship the most productive possible, we offer the following tips:
- Have the producer assist with the behind the scenes activities of participant interaction such as breakout sessions. Engaging virtual classroom events include activities that solicit information from participants especially in a breakout session debrief. In addition to handling the organizing, prepping, and ending the breakout sessions, the producer will help collect their feedback and ensure it is available during the debrief with the entire group after the individual breakout exercise has ended. The producer is also invaluable in assisting participants while in the breakouts with any audio or connection issues that may arise. Often, the producer may just need to hop into the virtual breakout room to remind the participants how to use annotation or chat tools.
- Allow the producer to look out for participant technical issues and questions. If the facilitator is taking care of content and trying to process information coming from multiple places, it is helpful to have an extra person looking out for the participants. Often, this may be seeing someone has posted a question or used the raised hand feature that the facilitator may have overlooked. Virtual classroom producers can also help keep the facilitator on track if certain activities are taking up too much time.
- The virtual classroom producer helps create a seamless fast paced learning environment. By being flexible the producer can add value to the class by creating polling questions, whiteboards or breakout rooms on the fly if needed should the facilitator decide those elements would better meet the needs of the individuals of that class.
- Create a leader guide that specifically outlines production tasks. For example, include instructions for participating in the breakout, typing on the whiteboard, pasting text into the chat area. The guide should be very specific and cover the ‘when’ and the ‘why’ in addition to the ‘what’. This will help clearly define the facilitator and producer roles when it comes to the interactive elements of the class.
- Meet a few days ahead of the live classroom to review content and planned exercises and activities. This meeting is best held in the same virtual classroom platform that will be used on the day of the live event so that the facilitator/producer team can plan exactly how things are going to work. It will also give the producer a chance to walk through all the virtual elements of the classroom with the facilitator to familiarize them with their functionality. It will also allow the producer to familiarize themselves with the content a bit prior to the session.
- Establish emergency back-up procedures. What happens if the facilitator drops offline and the producer is left with the class? The answer to that question needs to be determined ahead of time. The producer should know whether to call for a break or to ask participants to complete an exercise, such as typing into chat. Also, this is the time to test that the facilitator has an excellent internet connection and phone connection, and to discuss a back-up plan if either one goes out. For instance, if their internet goes out, should the producer run the content and have the facilitator speak to it (if they can still maintain audio connection), for example.
- Create a set of ground rules. The producer needs to know how to respond to participants who get to class late or leave early. For example, if someone logs on 35 minutes into the session, should the producer tell them that class has already started and provide an alternative class time? Or offer up the class recording if it is being made available?
- Ensure that the producer has all participant and facilitator materials, such as pre-work, job aids, and other handouts. This will make it easier for him or her to support the facilitator and the participants.
- Hold a Post-Mortem after the session is over. After the live event, share notes about what went well and what could be improved in the future.
V2 | Virtual Event Manager
You’ve probably heard the term “Gamification” by now…but are you wondering what does this really mean? How can it be used effectively in my communication with my employees and customers? Gartner defines Gamification as “Gamification is the use of game mechanics to drive engagement in non-game business scenarios and to change behaviors in a target audience to achieve business outcomes. Many types of games include game mechanics such as points, challenges, leaderboards, rules and incentives that make game-play enjoyable. Gamification applies these to motivate the audience to higher and more meaningful levels of engagement. Humans are “hard-wired” to enjoy games and have a natural tendency to interact more deeply in activities that are framed in a game construct.”
We like to think that Gartner is suggesting that gamification can be used to align your audience’s goals with your own. That is what I like to think is the main objective of incorporating gamification into your business. Applying gamification techniques into certain tasks can make them more engaging, which in turn can help your audience achieve your goal, whether it be to complete a training module or fill out a survey, as an example. Gamification creates a sense of community and touches on our need for achievement and competition. Many gamification techniques such as awards, points, and levels reinforce that feeling of achievement and make more monotonous tasks fun by receiving that reward. These techniques can lead to higher employee engagement, retention, and completion rates. Examples of gamification can be found all over. Upwork lays out several examples of gamification in several SaaS apps. For example, “Twitch is a well-known video streaming platform and a mine of gamification ideas. Leveling up, getting achievements, climbing up in the rankings, comparing your stats—Twitch successfully adapts these and many other gamification techniques:
- Also, here’s a gamified motivation for users to upgrade their plans. Twitch premium members have an ability to earn in-game loot like characters, vehicles, skins, virtual currency, etc.
- Moreover, Twitch goes beyond just giving badges: it enables streamers to reward most loyal viewers themselves with custom loyalty badges.”
Incorporating gamification can be an incredibly effective tool in your webinars, whether they are e-learning based, or more of a marketing centric webinar. The big fear a lot of people have about incorporating gamification into their webinar is that it will trivialize their presentation, and from our experience, that just isn’t the case. Sure, for some presentations you may need to maintain a specific tone, but gamification doesn’t have to be silly. You can use polls for instance not only to get information from your audience, but also to engage them more, by asking them to guess, or make suggestions. Social Media, and other group collaboration tools such as breakout sessions on certain platforms like WebEx and Adobe Connect are a great way to get people engaged and learning from each other.
Need help figuring out how to integrate gamification into your next webinar? V2 is always here to help!
Jessica Bradford | Virtual Event Manager
Using a webcam on large webinars or even on smaller collaborative team sessions helps you engage with your audience and your colleagues. With the use of Skype, Zoom, WebEx, and many other web and communication platforms, in combination with the fact that all laptops and tablets have built-in webcams, makes video easier than ever. We thought we would share some simple tricks to help you look your best on webcam, because let’s face it — webcam isn’t like TV – you don’t have professional lighting or a production team directing you (usually). We guarantee if you follow these simple tips you will look professional on your webcam.
- Make sure you have the best internet connection possible – You don’t want your video to look choppy or pixelated because you are on a slow Wi-Fi connection. If planning on presenting or speaking on a webcam, be plugged into your modem directly, and test the webcam quality out ahead of time.
- Dress professional (at least from the shoulders up!) Looking put together and well groomed, and sitting up straight – these things will make you feel confident and ready to shine.
- Raise your laptop or device up so the lens is just about at the top of your head. This is the best angle, especially for the wide-angle lenses that are used in most webcams. You also don’t want to sit too close to the lens, sit back a bit as the wide-angle lens can exaggerate features a bit the closer you are.
- Lighting – This is a BIG one. Make sure you are not back lit, and turn off any overhead fluorescent lights if possible. The best is to have a lamp or desk light right over your computer centered with your webcam lens. This will illuminate your face the best.
- Smile, and look at the lens when you are speaking, not your video screen. It is in our nature to want to look at ourselves everyone now again but remember looking at the lens is akin to making eye contact with your audience.
Virtual Event Manager | V2
Videos are a great asset to a webcast – especially if they are interesting and pertinent to your content. It breaks up the presentation, and allows your speakers a little break as well. However, if you are going to incorporate videos into your webcast, there are a few key technical items you should consider first.
You want to make sure that the videos are in the best file format recommended by the webcasting platform that you are using. We typically recommend an .mp4, it’s a pretty universal format on most platforms from WebEx to ON24. You also want to make sure that the files size and bitrate of the video are small enough to play and be consumed by your attendees without causing issues. The best way to do this is to look at the bitrate of your file and compress it down to as small as possible without impacting the quality of the video. What exactly is the bitrate you ask? You’ve probably heard the term but let’s break it down to the different “pieces.”
In all video files, you have the video data, audio data, and “Overhead Container” which has the data about the video and the codec type – these are basically the instructions that a computer would use to play the file. The Bitrate is the number of “bits per second” (bps) at which data in a video is being delivered. The size of the file and the quality of the image and sound are both controlled by the bit rate used. The higher the bit rate, the better the potential quality and the larger the file size. Lower bit rates should be used for international audience or events with a large number of people accessing the webcast from the same network. Higher overall bit rates may be utilized, but when exceeding 800 Kbps, many attendees may experience latency, buffering or playback issues.
If you are looking at the details of a file, you will also notice a Frame Per second rate or (fps). For low movement videos, such as instructional videos and live webcams, a 15fps frame rate will provide a clear and quality stream to the audience. Higher frame rates are permissible but do consider that 24+ fps is utilized for HD video and broadcast television; 15 fps will greatly reduce the file size without noticeably affecting quality. If a cursor is the only constant motion, 1 fps may be sufficient.
For most webinar platforms, video clips are displayed in the slide viewing area, so to keep things consistent, we recommend matching the video frame size to the same aspect ratio as your slides. So if you are using slides that are 16:9 (widescreen), you would ideally want your video to be 16:9. If your slides are 4:3, then your video frame should also be 4:3 so it fits in the space without being stretched or resized. Dimensions for videos – for 16:9 ratio you would want 640 x 360, 480 x 270 and 320 x 180. For 4:3, you would want 640 x 480, 440 x 330, 400 x 300 and 320 x240 pixels.
Audio Format and Specs
AAC Audio format is preferred if using H.264, with MP3 the mobile stream might encounter issues. 32 Kbps audio is sufficient and will allow the video to be encoded at a higher bit rate. Anything over 96 Kbps for the mono audio stream is superfluous unless the audio was recorded in a studio.
So next time you are creating a video for your webinar or webcast, keep the specifications and tips above in mind to ensure your video will shine without the risk of streaming issues for your attendees. V2 is happy to assist with any file compression or clean up needed to ensure your videos play flawlessly.
In her TED talk, Rebecca Kleinberger discusses her studies on how we use and understand our voice and the voices of others. In her studies she states that changes in the voice can mean many things, from depression, to hormonal changes, to even detecting pregnancy. She describes our three voices – our Outward, Inward, and Inner voices. Our outward voice is the voice we use when we are speaking with others, it’s the sound that others hear. Our Inward voice is the voice we hear as we are speaking, and the two can sound quite different, as our inward voice is being processed through our bone and inner ear. Our inner voice is what we hear when we read something silently, what we hear when we are thinking or dreaming. Though we can’t always control it, we can always engage with our inner voice.
Why is it that we do not like the sound of our outward voice on recordings? Well, as described above, we are used to hearing our inward voice when we speak. So thus, the thought many of us have which is: “Is that really what I sound like?” is because our outward voice is indeed different from our inward voice. Our inward voice travels through our bones (bone conduction), so it will sound deeper and more harmonious, then it travels through our inner ear, and the cochlea which then processes the sound. We find that seasoned speakers are very comfortable with their inward and outward voices. The trick we have found to getting comfortable with your recorded voice is to practice your presentations, and listen to your recording. Your voice is an amazing thing and can be changed in volume and tone with deeper breaths, posture, and breathing exercises. Play with your inward and outward voices until you find a voice that sounds best for your presentation and audience.
V2 | Virtual Event Manager
For those new to the virtual world of webinar presentations, virtual stage fright can be a real fear. Although for those who suffer from stage fright, it can ease your fears a bit if you aren’t on camera and are just speaking to slides and demos. However, in my experience the silence and lack of eye contact from live attendees on a webinar can be difficult for even seasoned public speaking professionals. For many, that lack of in person audience acknowledgement can be tough to gauge interaction and interest.
What causes stage fright? The reasons for having stage fright vary from person to person, but commonly those with stage fright lack self-confidence. Some may have anxiety from being unprepared, forgetting their lines, and being negatively judged by their audience. Stage Fright is at its core a physiological response, commonly referred to as “Fight or Flight.” When presented with a stimulus, our reaction is either excitement or fear. This triggers the release of adrenaline, which gives us a huge boost of energy to stay and fight the stimulus or flight – to run away from the stimulus. The classic symptoms of stage fright – stomach pain, shaking, trembling, vomiting and shortness of breath, are the side effects of this burst of adrenaline coursing through our bodies.
Whether you are giving a live presentation or a virtual one, you are probably wondering, how do I overcome my stage fright? We thought we would share a few easy techniques that if practiced can help you quell your anxiety.
- Get your Sweat on! – This may seem counter intuitive, but redirecting the energy causing your stage fright symptoms to exercise can help focus your energy away from your nerves. Try doing your normal exercise routine that morning to help alleviate some stress, and even right before your presentation, try rubbing your hands together really fast to pass on all your nervous energy.
- Just Breathe. Focus on your breath. Breath deeply, and exhale and inhale at least 15 to 25 times. This will help your mind and body relax.
- Practice your Presentation. Practicing and knowing your speech inside and out will help you feel prepared and less anxious about forgetting your lines. Repeat it until you know it by heart without having to look at your notes.
- Eat Healthy. This may seem like another strange one, but the foods you eat can affect your anxiety level. Avoid drinking caffeine prior to your performance as these will only make you more jittery, also avoid that soda so you don’t accidentally burp halfway through your presentation!
- Drink Water. Drink some water before your presentation to avoid your mouth from going dry – however be careful not to drink too much to avoid feeling like you need to go the bathroom while you are speaking.
In his charming TED talk, graphic designer and folk singer-songwriter Joe Kowan talks about how he beat stage fright. He actually wrote a song about stage fright describing exactly how he was feeling while it was happening, and by exploiting his anxiety and allowing the audience to feel it along with him, he was able to overtime, over come it.
We hope you’ve found this article helpful the next time you are confronted with the old “fight” or “flight” stimulus response. You would think that by now, our bodies would recognize the difference between a virtual presentation and a Grizzly Bear. We are here for you and V2 will do whatever we can to easy your anxiety along the way.
V2 | Virtual Event Manager
Everyone’s lives are busy and packed with a million things to do – whether it be in your personal or professional life. We’ve all heard the term “multi-task” and we all do it, perhaps even on a daily basis. However, we must ask ourselves, how efficient is multi-tasking? Yes, maybe we are accomplishing multiple tasks at once, but how efficient are we completing those tasks? In his TED talk, “Forget Multi-tasking, Try Mono Tasking” Paolo Cardini talks about the busy world in which we live and how technology and endless apps allow us to “multi-task.” You might be cooking dinner, talking to a friend, and trying to send an email all at once, and then you smell something burning right as you are about to hit send. This is the fallacy that can happen when we try to multi-task – something can get forgotten or not done to the best of our abilities. He playfully shows images of our iphones paired down to a single calling function, and a simple “compass” app to bring us back to a simpler time when we focused on one thing at a time.
Planning events, whether in person or in the virtual landscape can be a daunting task, with many facets – from marketing to scheduling to finding speaker talent and narrowing down a topic. Those things take enough of your time without having to focus on all the behind the scenes technology – such as webcast schedule and setup, branding, video compatibility, emails, and reports. That’s where we come in. Let V2 help take care of all the logistics so you don’t have to multi-task when it comes to your event, and you can “mono-task” on one thing at a time. Our mission is to make your life a little less stressful, so you can focus on the message, not the mess-ups.
V2 | Virtual Event Manager