Connecting with Distance Learning
I just finished my first in-house virtual training on tax return analysis. The training goes beyond live webinars, so the tricks for connecting in webinars are good, but not good enough. Interactive tools, such as polls and chats, can really strengthen connections. Some of my best ideas on connecting over long distances came from Deanna Turner, CSP, who is a master at this and was creating online sales colleges back when some of us were still putting a website together, and my sister, Kimberly Moore, CPLP (Certified Professional in Learning and Performance), who is an instructional designer with a wealth of tools.
Here are three ways to foster engagement and connect as strongly with people you will never meet as you do face-to-face with a small group in a conference room for two days.
1. Send one or more tangibles in the mail.
I use green Legos as a symbol of available cash flow in my tax return analysis class, so my attendees receive green Lego erasers, two colorful mechanical pencils, and a ruler/calculator printed with my company name and the phrase “Show Me the Money.” Each week, the leaders in the competition pull from a grab bag of Lego toys. People love gifts! Most everyone has a child, grandchild or neighbor child in their life, and a child’s gift is often enjoyed more than trying to guess what an adult would enjoy. What could you send that is different, somewhat personal and connects to what you will be presenting?
2. Use online discussion groups and get personal.
I use a private LinkedIn group. In our first week’s discussion, we pretend we are sitting around the table in the training room. Everyone shares something relevant about their work and a favorite hobby. As they comment, I jump in and say something to connect personally with each person. I have found common ground about craft hobbies (I crocheted my wedding dress), boating (I am a sea kayaker), and even farming (my granddaddy was a dairy farmer). It’s amazing how this short exercise warms up the group before we get to work. Next, everyone must join the LinkedIn group and post their profile picture. It doesn’t take long until everyone has their picture up and that helps me talk to them personally when they speak up during subsequent webinars. How do you get personal with your attendees?
3. Create teams.
In the in-house group, we formed two teams. Their first assignment was to create a cool name, an image and select team colors. I explained to the group manager how team and individual competition can keep things moving. In my opinion, it’s important that everyone is on a team and they have a team leader checking in, so no one can get lost or behind without someone knowing. The manager picked the team leaders, and I had a private conversation with each or them to explain the behind-the-scenes importance of their role. This extra effort engaged two senior-level people who might have disengaged, and instead moved them into a pivotal role. What engagement tips do you employ to connect over the miles?