This is part one of our interview series with Genny May from Illumina Executive Development.
A master facilitator, Genny brings life to her learning programs through storytelling and an engaging, facilitative delivery style.
Her emphasis on group learning and interactive, experiential application of the material, complemented by a highly visual learning methodology, greatly enhances retention and prompts real, sustainable behavioural change.
Here, she shares her tips on how to transform an impersonal online experience into a rich learning opportunity.

As my programs are highly interactive, it is naturally more difficult to replicate this ‘in-person’ experience through a screen. Focusing on good program design and implementing some simple techniques, it is possible to connect and engage with your virtual audience despite the distance.

1. Slice your content into bite sized chunks

It’s more difficult to sustain a dynamic group discussion virtually, so it helps to break down your program into shorter content sessions. Whenever possible, a ‘one model, many applications and examples’ approach, will bring the content to life and provide a practical roadmap for people to actually use or practice what was covered. The value they then gain will encourage them to keep engaged in the overall program.

A good tip is to ensure any pre-program materials requires them to think about their real time experience. When these reflections become the basis of ‘in program chats’ and examples, the virtual program becomes more relevant and real.

2. Keep it interactive

Peer interaction is not easy in a virtual session, so account for the challenge by injecting organic interaction opportunities in your program planning.

For example, explain a theory or model and then have participants split into separate, smaller groups for a period, to practice or discuss pre-prepared ‘so what’ questions. When the groups re-convene, they are more energised and their insights and questions can be more effectively shared, again ensuring the time on-line is as valuable and efficient as possible.

3. Manage the conversation

In person, it is somewhat easier to facilitate the flow of conversation. It’s a whole different challenge when everyone is online.

We’ve all had the pleasure of participating in a teleconference with people speaking over each other to the point many give up trying to contribute. It’s all too easy to lose interest if the conversation runs off the rails.

A tip is to implement protocols in advance. For instance, instead of people talking at any time, agree on a signal or method that indicates someone has a question or comment. This allows the facilitator to invite people into the conversation in a measured and respectful way, ensuring all participants have the opportunity to be involved.

It is also helpful to advise ahead of time, that each person may be asked to comment or input directly at some point during the session. This encourages people to stay engaged, while allowing the facilitator to ensure everyone is appropriately heard and involved.

To maintain attention, it is also good to keep the conversation a little shorter than you might in a face to face environment. By also providing participants with a way of sending through questions or comments that weren’t addressed so they can followed up at a later time, ensures everyone achieves the clarity and understanding that they need.

About Genny

Genny is a highly skilled strategist, trainer and facilitator Genny is the co-founder and Director of Illumina Executive Development, a boutique consultancy offering the development and implementation of training, small & large group facilitation, and one-on-one executive coaching for personal and organisational improvement.

Genny has worked with clients such as PWC, American Express and Telstra.

Learn more about Genny at Illumina.

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