Think of when you get on a long phone call with someone. Do small things about it bother you? Sometimes the people on the call step over each other. Sometimes you interrupt each other. Often you misunderstand each other. And the effect compounds on a conference call and it becomes far worse.
Why does that happen?
So you switch to video calls. It’s better… but not good enough. You still interrupt each other, you still talk over each other. Why?
There is a reason that calls aren’t as effective as face-to-face communication. It is because communication is not limited to just the words we speak. Communication also contains thousands of microscopic verbal and non-verbal cues. These cues allow us to adjust our voice, pace, and energy, all without realizing it.
Without even realizing it, we’re attuned to social cues from facial reactions, body language, and thousands of pieces of feedback. We grew up learning these things.
So why do people prefer in-person communication? Why do facilitators prefer classroom sessions over virtual sessions? Precisely because of this instant feedback.
Why Do People Prefer Classroom Sessions?
Technology isn’t perfect. It is difficult to achieve the same level of connection or intimacy over technology, because it doesn’t (yet) allow instant feedback. Your internet or phone connection isn’t perfect. There is latency and there are connection issues. There is a random drop in quality.
If it was just about an occasional interruption, this wouldn’t be a problem. But it goes beyond missing a single cue here or there. When we communicate, especially in a training session, we get into flow. We get into performance mode. We’re at our absolute best as communicators. But these interruptions break our state of flow, and our performance also suffers.
It’s not like technology can never catch up to in-person communication. VR technology is evolving. The day we’re able to have perfect, no-lag VR communication, technology will allow us to remain in flow. It will be as good as a classroom session. But until that day, the classroom will always be better.
We can’t afford to wait until that technology becomes available and widely distributed. The requirement of the day is better virtual sessions.
It’s difficult to have instant feedback in a virtual session, but the good news is it is not impossible. You will be able to have a great virtual experience if you accept that the two platforms are not the same. You must adapt to the platform rather than copy classroom techniques and complain that they don’t work.
You can apply soap in a shower. You can’t apply soap in a swimming pool and get upset when the club owner throws you out.
How We Solve This Problem
At Dextr, we take this idea to heart. We learned that you can create some of the microscopic instant feedback via anonymous reactions on each slide. So we made some – Like, Dislike, Heart, and Question. If you’ve used Dextr, you would know. This is the first thing we teach people to use in our own Train the Trainer sessions.
We gave the audience the ability to provide feedback without revealing themselves and without getting in the way. They don’t have to unmute themselves and interrupt. They can show you whether they like something or not, and whether they have a doubt.
This does not solve the problem of facial cues, but it does solve the bigger problem of engagement. Giving the audience the power to anonymously make themselves heard is powerful. It makes them appreciate the session more, and stay a lot more focused.
Could You Do This Without Dextr?
Short answer: Yes, but limited. Use chat and reactions.
Long answer: Video conferencing tools usually come with a chat window. A chat window is less intrusive than unmuting, but it’s not anonymous. By sending a message, the person reveals themselves. This is often enough of a deterrent that they would rather not comment.
An even bigger downside of chat is that facilitators aren’t used to managing a chat window. Attending to chat breaks their flow in the session. They have to look to the side and read the message, and it interrupts the session. But it’s better than nothing. As a trainer, you could also have a co-host or assistant who will take care of chat and interactions for you.
Some video conferencing tools are also adopting this concept. For example, Zoom has recently expanded its list of reactions that you could use in the session. It is non-intrusive and does not break flow. However, it still isn’t anonymous and that might deter people from using them.
Whether you use Dextr or not, we encourage you to think about instant feedback. Think about how you can include non-intrusive, anonymous feedback in your virtual sessions. Having access to those makes you a more dynamic and robust trainer. Your audience will thank you for it, silently.