One of the best things about working with adult learners is, most of the time, your learners probably already have prior exposure to, or understanding of, your topic. You don’t have to start at the very beginning.
You’re likely going to want to provide some context for your topic at the beginning of your presentation, but presenters who acknowledge their learners at the beginning, 1) give the group permission to get the conversation started, and 2) empower the group to tap into their own expertise and contribute to the conversation.
What does this look like? In large groups, it may be something as simple as asking a quick question in the chat:
In smaller groups, have quick breakouts to ask the same questions above, or consider one of these questions:
Acknowledging the expertise of the learners sets a collegial, “we’re all in this together” tone for the rest of the virtual presentation. You’ve also established credibility with your audience: they’re more likely to trust you because you’ve shown them respect by showcasing their prior experience.
Virtual presentations are hard because you are constantly competing against the “siren song” of your learners’ email, work deadlines, social media, family, household chores, and all the other distractions of modern adult life.
Make it easier for your learners to pay attention by regularly engaging them in interactions during your presentation. In general, try not to go more than 15 minutes before asking a question in the chat, launching a poll question, or having people move to breakout rooms.
Asking your learners to pause and reflect on the material by participating in one of those activities also helps to cement their learning. Thinking about doing a drawing for a prize? This is the time to do it! Waiting to the end may mean some learners have already dropped off the webinar to go to their next meeting or task.
Your virtual presentation should not be a singularexperience. The end of your presentation is a great place to guide the learnersto the next webinar in the series, a related eLearning course on your learning management system, a white paper on your website on an adjacent topic, or another resource you’ve created.
Adult learning theory states that adults want choices, but let’s be real…we’re also tired, and sometimes we just want someone to tell us what’s next. Make it easy to continue learning about the topic. This is a great way to direct learners to content that will generate revenue or traffic on your website or LMS, but it also cements in their minds that you are a thought leader, a person or organization they can depend on for answers, and that you’re trustworthy.
Creating your virtual presentation with these three tips in mind will ensure your learners have the opportunity to share what they already know about the topic, engage with the new material in a way that allows them to reflect on what they’re learning, and gives them direction on how to learn more about the topic. The best thing about this formula? It works for in-person, instructor-led training and interactive eLearning content development, too!
About the Author
Dr. Kristen Wall, MA, EdD is the Director of Learning Strategy and Fractional Chief Learning Officer at Blue Sky eLearn. She started her career in education as a junior high teacher, then worked in higher education for 15 years working primarily with online adult learners. Her work focused on the professional development of faculty, providing learning opportunities for over 800 adjunct faculty teaching 2,600 courses per year. In 2018 she decided to leave higher education and started work as a consultant, ultimately landing full-time with Blue Sky eLearn and working as the Director of Learning Strategy. She consults with clients across the association space, working in diverse fields like medicine, health care quality, insurance, oil and gas, and state government.
Kristen completed both a master’s and doctorate in Adult Learning. Her areas of interest include effective assessment of learning and using qualitative research to understand how adults apply what they have learned. Outside of work, she enjoys hiking, travel, and reading detective novels.
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