Key Steps to Preparing Great Synchronous Interactions

ElluminateThese are my live blogged notes from Karen Hyder’s webinar, Key Steps to Preparing Great Synchronous Interactions from the Training Magazine Network. My side comments in italics. Any awkward phrasing, typos, or mistakes are mine, not Karen’s.

Tip #1: Get participants to commit to participate

Ask them whether they will participate or just sit and watch

She modeled this & did a poll before introducing it at a tip. Nice to model the tip & not just talk about it.

Used multiple polls at the beginning to set the expectation of continuous participation. Didn’t give people much chance to tune out, which is good.

“Death by PowerPoint online is worse than Death by PowerPoint in the classroom” (not an exact quote, but gets the gist of what she said)

Synchronous time is “premium time”: if you just want “chalk & talk,” just record it and let people watch on their own time. Lecture is a bad use of synchronous online learning.

In a classroom setting, you couldn’t ask everyone for feedback they way you can in virtual classroom. You’d have chaos with everyone talking over each other, but a backchannel chat allows it.

Feedback in chat is more helpful as a trainer than guessing what body language means. Can happen much faster than in a physical calssroom. But if you don’t plan well, it will feel chaotic.

“Interaction is in your mind, not in your mouth.” –Thiagi (as quoted by Karen)

Messy is OK. With 130 people typing on the screen you can’t read everything, but that’s OK. Just using your mind to answer it is beneficial to you as a learner, even if the trainer doesn’t validate it.

Examples of adaptations from F2F classroom:

  • Show of hands if you’ve ever = status/emoticons
  • Share example = Microphone
  • Brainstorm = chat pod
  • Demonstrate = Application share/web tour

PPTs for structure

  • Show something on the screen at all times
  • Animations when possible (in Elluminate, must do a slide for each change)
  • Point or annotate
  • Placeholder slides for polls, activities, etc. with instructions

Balance Online Activities

  • Sandwich demos with learner participation
  • Don’t just do an intro followed by 60 minutes of demo (yeah, I did too much demo during my trainings in the last two weeks…but that’s why I’m attending this to get some more ideas)
  • Practice exercise–can be asynchronous. Helps extend the time of the training
  • open-ended questions


  • Phone or VOIP–do people have headsets? do they know how to adjust sound?
  • Breakout rooms–how does audio work? do people have to hang up and dial in again? Give a time limit
  • Application/Desktop/Screen sharing–If possible, have two different machines. One where you drive, one where you watch what the audience sees. I’ve never seen this, but it’s an interesting idea. Like a monitor speaker for music performance.
  • Media file types/players–if you use Quicktime, will everyone in the audience be able to see it?

I do wish her slides were a bit less bullet points and more graphics. Even the PowerPoint 2007 Smart Art would be an improvement.

Don’t assume you can talk and read at the same time. Take a second to pause talking and read the chat

#1 most important thing: Ask More Questions

If you don’t ask questions, learners aren’t doing anything. Lots of questions, variety of questions.

Recommends against calling on someone specific–too often leads to dead air. Teaches them that you are willing to put them at risk. Hmm…I did call on specific people in the training I just did, although it was a small group & I knew they were present. Maybe I should ask for volunteers when I need responses one at a time.

If you don’t ask questions, chat will be random and off-topic. Questions increase chances of getting good feedback.

Instead of calling on people, ask who is willing to respond–have them answer a poll yes/no, then call on someone who said yes.

I also need to plan more questions throughout my training

Use questions to get and stay connected with learners.

  • Plan
  • Seed questions throughout the session
  • Tell people how they should respond
  • Wait for responses
  • Use information to connect learner & content

Questions that won’t help

  • Any questions? — Just signals that you’re moving on & done with this topic
  • Since there’s nothing in chat, I’ll assume you have no questions, right?

Ask questions that are inviting and relevant, then tell them how to respond

She puts question on slide so she doesn’t forget

Dead air is OK. This is training with real people, not morning radio. Getting used to dead air & silence was really hard moving to corporate training from middle school where I never had silence.

Question Ideas

  • Have people type examples in chat–can be short application or synthesis (like “create a poll question you could use”)
  • Open ended chat response
  • Audio response–something too long to type in chat

Think Bloom’s taxonomy for different types of questions. Helps spark ideas.

Provide permission & instruction for using tools

Participants will give feedback if you ask a lot of questions & tell them how to respond

Voice & Language

  • don’t just focus on technology, think about how your voice works
  • Be cautious of storytelling & humor, especially with global audience

Aspects of online preparation

  • Trainer
  • Participants
  • Software
  • Content
  • Producer–in the middle of all of it


  • Wordsearch for icebreaker, as people are joining–have people use the drawing tools
  • One question at a time–don’t do multipart questions–too hard to juggle

Image Credit: elluminate by shareski

5 thoughts on “Key Steps to Preparing Great Synchronous Interactions”

  1. Pingback: My History of Live Blogged Notes | Experiencing E-Learning

  2. Dear Jane,

    I was reading through this article and had some questions on my mind. Traditionally in India, story telling is considered a great technique to follow while delivering stand up classroom training. The article above cautions on using story telling when dealing with a global audience and I’m a little confused with it. Would you perhaps be able to explain with an example as to why this might not be used in the context of a global audience?

    I work with a global custodian bank’s offshore office from India. I often train on complex processes and as such it works to my advantage if I use the story telling format. If there is something else that you recommend I could try over that, I’ll be delighted to do so.

    Look forward to hearing from you.


    1. Hi Amrita,

      My name is Christy Tucker. This is my blog, and the post above is my notes from a webinar by Karen Hyder.

      The problem with storytelling with a global audience is when you rely on cultural references that might not be understood everywhere. For example, a story about something you did for Diwali would probably work great with an Indian audience, but a global audience that included Americans as well as Indians might be confused. I could tell a story about playing in the band for a football game…but outside the US, most people would picture a different sport than I was actually describing.

      If your audience is fairly uniform, storytelling and humor are much easier. People have similar cultural references and you’re less likely to accidentally offend someone. If you’re presenting free public webinars, it’s pretty easy to have many cultures represented in your audience, and then it gets trickier.

      Does that make sense?


  3. Thanks for posting your notes. I just recently facilitated my first synchronous session and learned the importance of starting things off with a bang. If you don’t start with some kind of interactive activity it’s hard to get your audience back. Start with a bang and keep the interaction coming.

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