Foodies and chefs will recognize the French phrase, mise en place (pronounced MEEZ ahn plahs), which translates to “put in place.” In the world of cooking it means having all your ingredients prepared and ready to go before you start cooking. It’s tempting to jump right in and turn on the stove as soon as your first few ingredients are ready to go. But great chefs know that it pays to prepare everything in advance to prevent problems and avoid chaos in the kitchen when it’s time to put meals together.
If you facilitate in the virtual classroom you know that there are factors that can derail session, some of which are out of the facilitator’s control, but others that a facilitator can mitigate. One key to successful training in the virtual classroom is meticulous planning and preparation, just like the mise en place technique.
Consider these ten things to do before you say “welcome” to your virtual audience and start your session:
1. View your slides in your virtual classroom tool. Confirm that all images and text display properly and see if slide transitions work.
2. Rehearse your session with a mock audience. Ask them for feedback on your facilitation technique, timing and level of interactivity.
3. Record yourself in the virtual classroom. Listen to your voice. Is it engaging or monotonous? Did you vary your pace of speech?
4. Prepare the materials that you will send to participants post-meeting. If you plan to send an online evaluation, prepare it in advance. Or if you plan to send follow up materials, prepare an email in draft form so you can send it right away, while the course material is fresh in everyone’s mind.
5. Send instructions to participants on how to test their computer. Doing this in advance gives participants time to install plug-ins, deal with firewall issues or other access issues.
6. Remind participants about the session time, day and how to access the virtual classroom. I typically send this reminder three times: the day the person enrolls, the day before the session and a few hours before the session begins.
7. Develop plan B. Think of everything that could go wrong and plan accordingly. Have a back up computer, back up headset or phone, screen shots of any applications or websites you plan to show. My building has bi-annual fire drills, so I’ll even go so far as to check with security to see if a fire drill is planned so I can prepare for that potential disruption.
8. Create a list of contact names for technical support. When you need technical assistance, speed is key. If you have contact names ready at your fingertips, you will be one step closer to resolving the problem.
9. Print a list of participants. The list should contain name, photo (if available), title, location or whatever information is important to help you remember who is who.
10.Eliminate distractions. Close your door and put a sign on it, turn your mobile device to vibrate and turn off instant messaging tools that you will not use during your session.
Follow these ten preparation steps to ensure your next virtual classroom training is a satisfying feast for you and your audience!