Top tips for using technology in speaking and education

From my work as a trainer, speaker and facilitator for nearly 20 years, I have seen the change in the tools being used for engagement during a live or virtual training session. I am accustomed for live training to make the interaction face to face  and happen when I have the feeling that the audience needs a little bit of an energy boost. I see it as the role of the trainer or speaker to manage the energy in the room. But on occasion workshop organisers want me to use apps to “enhance” the workshop and to be honest, when you have a strong connection with a group face to face, sending someone to an app is a complete disconnect and a distraction.

From training with motivational speakers and being part of the crew members, I learned how to use movement, dance, purposeful moves and exercises to create a deeper connection with the audience. The whole dance intro originates from these days and a snoring audience member at a conference. What was meant to be a once off, has become a regular request to open a talk with a dance or if music is not available movements like a mexican wave or stretching. The reason why this albeit simple technique works, is because you effectively create a state change, meaning a physical state change from sitting to standing. If you then also add positive music and a bit of laughter in the mix, the physical effect combines with the neurological state change from relaxing or sleepy to more fun and energetic. Or at least that is the intention.

When you are running a conference, workshop or all day training, you can introduce stand-up exercises or walk and talk exercises to achieve similar results. At recent events in Asia, I saw the use of technology being used to introduce engagement. We had both a good example of a live poll and then a bad example where the speaker lost the whole audience by sending them to download an app and then go through it, not once but twice in one talk. What was worse is that the downloads were not really related to the topic of the talk or workshop. So below here are my top tips for using technology in your education sessions

Tip 1: Ensure it works

When using technology that relies on internet access, make sure you have guaranteed access to enough wifi. The French company Klaxoon built a dedicated internet box that trainers can carry around to create the interactive, technology powered elements. If you are using apps, ensure everyone can download them and ideally have them use the app before they arrive for the event, that way people already have it on their devices and you don’t waste valuable time. If in doubt of wifi, polls still work with a show of hands, so you can always have that as your fall-back position.

Tip 2: Use technology to enhance the message

Use the technology to enhance the message, so the poll or word clouds based on people’s answers can be fun to see populate in a large audience without putting people on the spot. Finding out where people are coming from in terms of knowledge or opinions works well and creates a sense of belonging of the group, without having to reveal identity straight away. In situations where you have hierarchy potentially causing silence, this is a useful technique. When technology is used randomly to showcase a website or app, ask people to view it with you on the big screen rather than losing the connection. If they like it they will write down the app or site and that information can also be in the course notes.

Tip 3: Be mindful that not everyone is tech savvy

For every technology whizkid there is also a no-tech numpty. Both can show up in your workshop or training, so always allow for time to explain how to use the technology from apps to computers. Some people may find this incredible, but in a lot of companies and work environments not everyone has to use technology all of the time.

Tip 4: Test it and be willing to forget the tech if it doesn’t work

Always test your technology on the day and if it doesn’t work, just drop it and move on. I saw a number of great speakers completely flunk, because their technology failed. Whether it was their slides, the projector, the polls, the apps or other tools; always know enough to be able to go no-tech in an instant. If you are using video, audio or special effects in presentations, always test them before you go live.

Although these top tips are first and foremost aimed at face to face environments, they equally apply to webinars and virtual summits.

Tip 5: Gamify for a reason

When gamifying a talk with technology, do it for the right reasons, aka something you want to person to remember or something that they will benefit from. For example a prize for the first question, to encourage more questions. I use story cubes to create narrative in some of the exercises in the workshops I run, low tech which works regardless. I have seen randomised dice rolling apps work in training to give people a randomised mission or task. Voting with post-its or in an app can be a meaningful addition to decide on a course of action or a winning idea.

If you don’t find a valid reason, then just don’t get tempted to drag in gamification, it wouldn’t showcase good practise and makes people wonder about it’s relevancy.

What other top tips for technology do you have?

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