I met a cool guy today. He was so cool I felt cooler just talking to him. Seriously.
It all happened at the new local skatepark this afternoon. I took my son to the park so that he could test his developing scooter skills and have fun. He rides around for an hour and I watch. Typically, because I have zero experience in scootering or skateboarding, I just sit back and enjoy watching my son teaching himself new skills. I am also on stand-by for first aid if required.
Today, however I met Theo George. I kept an eye on my son but I also became a student as I watched Theo teach how to do “drop-ins” to a group of six pre-teenagers. Theo is an amazing skateboarder. He is an even better teacher.
I watched as Theo helped these kids despite them have varying levels of confidence and skills. For every kid he unfailingly gave them lots of individual attention when it was their turn. You could tell he was living in the moment. He wasn’t distracted in any way. He was having fun celebrating every little success moment. He made it fun for them too. He laughed. A lot.
Every time one of the kids did something impressive he laughed. They did something silly. He laughed with them. They fell over. He laughed with them. And he had them laughing and having fun too.
Theo was also very supportive, encouraging, nurturing. When they were unsure or afraid he held their hands. Yes, literally. By doing this, he stopped them from falling awkwardly and removed any scope for them to suffer any serious injury. He was very safety conscious, and given my role at the park as a stand-by first aider I was impressed.
Theo’s words and actions gave the kids the confidence to believe in themselves. He did this by constantly talking with them. If he wasn’t laughing he was talking. And listening too. His communication skills were first class.
As I watched Theo I started to think about how his teaching example demonstrated how we should teach during our webinars. As a result, I have identified 3 skateboarding teaching skills to aid webinar presenters skills. Take action on these 3 items to drop-in to greater success with your webinars.
1. Maintain regular communication with all your webinar participants
Theo was masterful at keeping half an eye on all the kids at all times. Better still, he kept them engaged at all times. If one of the kids waiting for their turn was starting to become distracted or bored Theo would call their name and ask them a question or tell them something encouraging. All the kids would listen to everything Theo said, so even though Theo would say something aimed at only one participant everyone else would hear it and also remain more engaged with him and his training.
Webinar presenters need to also maintain regular communication with all of our webinar participants. We have multiple tools at our disposal to help us, including our voice, chat and poll/test functions. Pro-actively asking questions and listening and acknowledging our participants’ responses is a very helpful approach for maintaining regular communication with all our webinar participants. We need to always remember that communication is a two-way street. Our webinar participants will be more engaged if they feel that we are talking “with them” rather than “to them”. For maximum effectiveness we should make a deliberate effort to give them chances to contribute so that we can sometimes listen to our participants rather than have them exclusively listening to us.
2. Make a deliberate effort not to leave anyone behind without compromising the effectiveness of the webinar for everyone else
During Theo’s session one of the boys was visibly scared. Theo would help him get into position but the youngster would freeze and be unable to reposition his foot to start the manoeuvre. It reminded me of my teenage years when as part of our school’s diving program I would climb up the 5 meter platform full of confidence, position my feet at the front of the platform, and then look down. Despite doing this many times I have never taken a dive from the 5 meter platform. As a side note – I really need to do that one day, don’t I?
I loved Theo’s response to the boy’s difficulties. He held his hands, he asked the boy to hold onto Theo’s shoulders, he counted down 3-2-1, Theo tried lots of strategies. Then, when it became clear that the boy wasn’t yet ready to commit, Theo asked him to take a breather for a few minutes while Theo took time to help others.
Like Theo’s example, we should made a deliberate effort not to leave anyone behind without compromising the effectiveness of our webinar for everyone else. All presenters to groups, whether they are delivering their training through face-to-face training or using webinars or other live streaming technologies have to perform a balancing act. How do we move through our training at a speed that is optimal for both our fastest and our slowest learners? This is difficult, especially if you are not aware of this issue and its potential consequences of not deliberately pacing yourself.
Our instincts will typically tell us to present the content at a speed so that we could absorb the information effectively if we were the participants. However, this is often a flawed approach. It doesn’t matter who we are relative to the skills and mindsets of our participants. We need to pace our delivery based upon their needs (not ours).
The good news is that we can almost ensure our success with #2 if we are already succeeding with #1. This is because the best way for us to optimally pace our delivery is to keep the communication lines open with our participants. Their feedback can guide us as to whether or not we are progressing too quickly or too slowly. We can then make adjustments, which leads us on to #3.
3. Adjust your webinar delivery to provide maximum value
With about 30 minutes remaining in his session Theo indicated that he was about to relocate his group to another section of the skatepark so that they could develop another skill. However, many of his groups were just starting to develop confidence with their drop-in technique. As a keen observer I could see that most of the group did not want to move on but instead wanted to keep improving their drop-in technique under Theo’s guidance. Theo noticed this too and consequently delayed moving the group for another 10 minutes. Nice work, Mr. George.
Don’t rigidly stick to your plan that you created before your webinar. Adjust your delivery methods and timings so that your webinar provides maximum value to your participants. Don’t hesitate to make reasonable adjustments so that all your learners’ experiences are optimised. I know I preach that “Perfect Preparation Prevents Poor Performance” but being flexible enough to make adjustments as you deliver your webinars will also produce improved performance. Be willing to make adjustments and your webinar participants will be the winners.
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