22 Steps for Running Successful Online Sessions

At Negotiation Academy we have gone 100% remote within the last few weeks. Within 4 weeks, we have learned to run all our negotiation and client communication trainings for firms all over the world in a completely online environment. With great results and feedback.

Many of the attorneys we work with will have to organize online meetings, lectures, or internal training sessions, so we have put together the best learning, tips and tricks we have accumulated along the way.

Here are our 22 tips to help you host memorable online sessions:

Image and sound

A crucial part of your online presence are your camera, light and sound.

  • Framing: make sure that your face and shoulders fill most of the screen, not too far from the camera, not too close.
  • Camera: set it up at eye level (so that you don’t look at others from above or below).
  • Light: Your face should be well lit, it is best to have a window in front of you. Never a light source behind you.
  • ¬†Background: Choose a calm, light background. No distracting objects or walls with too much “noise”. Avoid crammed bookshelves or overly eye-catching pictures or paintings.
  • Environment: Chose a quiet place. Window and door closed, children and dogs out, phone off.
  • Optimize sound: Use in a headset. Every simple cell phone headset is sufficient to provide you with a better microphone and less feedback.

Preparation

The key to a skillful online presence lies in your own preparation, especially if you are the host.

  • Know the platform and its functions well and test them beforehand.
  • What functions do you plan to use? (Slide share, chat, surveys, whiteboard, breakout rooms, recording – test them!).
  • Depending on the group size: how much / which content can you accommodate in this group size (calculate approx. 20% more time than live).
  • Backup plan. What if your Internet suddenly goes patchy on the day: Identify alternative WiFi, have phone dial-up options at hand, test sharing internet access from your cell phone, etc.
  • What if your computer starts acting up? Do you have a backup? Can someone else host the seminar?
  • Do you need a co-host? Decide what they can help you with and brief them in their tasks (e.g. administer participants, waiting room, tech support, grouping, surveys).

Participant management

Online appearances require more strictly administered processes, rules, and roles to ensure that the session runs smoothly and all participants get involved. Therefore, set some rules at the beginning and clearly communicate expectations.

  • Microphone/camera: what should stay on and when? In large seminars, it is better to switch off all microphones. In smaller groups, they can stay on to support interactivity. Participants sometimes like to remain without video on, for more interactive communication you can ask to use the camera. It is important that you, as the seminar leader, communicate how you want to handle it.
  • Share an agenda: What is the content of our event? What are the goals/takeaways? When will there be breaks?
  • What should be done in case of questions (switch on microphone, deposit in chat, ask later?)
  • Aks participants to login with their first name or surname, if necessary to rename themselves. Abbreviations distract.
  • What interaction do you expect from the participants?
  • Agree on signs: Agree on a visible sign for poor video/sound quality (e.g. point to the ears with your finger). Otherwise, if the connection is patchy, you would not notice it immediately.

Interactivity for training and lectures

Good planning is a prerequisite for interactivity. As you prepare, think about what elements you can use to engage your audience.

  • What questions will you ask at which point? How should the audience answer this? In the chat? In a survey (in zoom)? Via audio? Show of hands?
  • What examples can you use to make your content clearer? Can these be adapted to the current situation?
  • Which small exercises can you use (“show, don’t tell”) to share with participants what you mean. In Zoom you can divide participants into breakout rooms and give them small tasks (e.g. we use case studies, negotiation exercises, client communication exercises, etc).
  • What discussion points can you include? Divide participants into small groups and entrust them with specific questions. After the discussion, one speaker per group shares the group discourse.