9 Tips for Facilitating Virtual Learning with Hundreds of Participants

Yesterday, I facilitated an ASTD Virtual Conference Session with 586 LIVE participants.  Due to the number of participants, most of the interactive tools and tricks that I typically utilize in a virtual session were not available.  As I debriefed this session with a few of my amazing colleagues, I gathered some data points and feedback about what to continue and how to change for the next virtual opportunity.

Some background and data points:

  • Topic:  9 Elements to Design Learning and Influence Behavior
  • Session was modified from the Live Session facilitated in Orlando (ASTD ICE 2011) for 172 participants
  • Larry Straining provided outstanding support before, during and after  both sessions
  • 9 days prior to the Live Virtual Session, there were 477 registrants (“most popular of the series” according to ASTD staff, Love to hear that!)
  • 9 days prior to the Live Session, Design for Interaction Changed due to technical capabilities
  • Technical Support team included Jennifer Wilhelm and Kristen Husak from ASTD Digital Media team,), Karl Cantrelle (Portico Learning provided quiet space and WebEx connection), Jeffrey Seeger (managed slide transition & multiple monitors)
  • 75 Minutes prior to the Live Virtual Session Start time, the system reached capacity of 1,000 registrations
  • Chat was not visible due to the speed and volume which would have caused a distraction
  • 1624 Chat messages were generated in 56 minutes

Reflecting on this experience, here are some things I learned to continue or change:

  1. Partner with a Co-Facilitator to create a conversational environment, monitor chat and share participant’s questions & ideas
  2. Practice timing and content with the co-facilitator prior to the session
  3. Plan with the technical support team how each element of the session will be implemented (introductions, chat, time monitoring, Q&A, etc.)
  4. Encourage Interaction through Chat and any tools available (twitter, etc)
  5. Include Names and Sources of Information on the Slide
  6. Speak Slow
  7. Change visual / slide every 60 seconds which include images and short phrases (no animation)
  8. Schedule time to respond to participants after the session
  9. Share feedback from participants after the session (question, ideas generated, summarized chat log, resources, etc)

I would love to learn more from you about how you facilitate large groups in the virtual world.