On a trip to Disneyland years ago, I have a distinct memory of enjoying the thrill of Thunder Mountain when suddenly the little roller coaster had some kind of technical difficulties. The ride came to a stop and within seconds – a cheery booming voice spoke out “Hang on to your hats Pardner’s – we’ll be taking off again in just a few minutes.”
What struck me most about this experience was the rapid response from the operations, which prevented passengers from panicking and doing anything foolish. The quick response engendered a sense that someone was in control, someone knew what was going on and someone would be resolving it quickly. The net result is that passengers waited contentedly until within a few minutes our little ride took off again.
The transferable lesson in this experience for Live Online Training is that when (not if, but when) things go wrong technically in your virtual classroom, participants need two things.
1) They need to know that someone is in control and that someone (you, the facilitator or you administrator) is fixing things. This does not need to be a long drawn out explanation but rather a simple brief explanation “we seem to have lost audio momentarily- give us two minutes”. The facilitator’s confidence is crucial at this time. The facilitator also must be able to think quickly on their feet to determine the best resolution. “I’d like everyone to hang up and dial back in.”
2) The second thing they need is to know they will not be sitting endlessly in a workshop that is paused while you and our resources troubleshoot a variety of potential problems. You have no more than 5 minutes before you will lose the group entirely so act quickly. I understand how challenging it can be to be on the facilitator end of that as you try and determine what has gone awry but please remember that you are already vying for your participant’s attention and being respectful of their time is vital.
The difficult thing about technical difficulties is that in my experience, they are usually one off. In other words, I’ve had unusual things happen with my technology often due to a surge in internet connectivity that can show up in a variety of ways so there is no one clear answer for every situation.
Knowing your platform, thinking on your feet and considering your participants time are the most important things you can do. Oh and words of advise “Never let them see you sweat.” Cool heads and a sense of humor prevail when technical difficulties arise.