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3 step never fail debrief process for virtual training


Making Learning Connections & the Use of Intentional Silence in Virtual Training

Kassy’s 3-Step, “Never Fail” Debrief Process

The use of learning activities for interactive and engaging delivery in the virtual classroom is highly effective and it is equally important to consider how to respond to participant interactions. All too often, virtual trainers are up against time constraints and distracted by managing technology. As a result, they miss out on opportunities to appropriately respond to the thoughts, comments, and other ideas participants are sharing. This can lead to a lack of learning, the opposite of the intention! To avoid uttering the phrase, “Great, thanks for your chats. Let’s move on to the next slide,” use my three-step, never-fail debrief process to keep your learners interacting, engaging, and motivated to continue participating in the learning process.

Let’s consider the following typical debrief question: “What are the challenges we might face implementing this strategy? Let’s use chat to respond.” Be sure to “tack on the tech” or indicate which technology or feature they should use to respond; for example, say, “Please annotate in the space provided” or “Let’s use chat to respond.” The feature chosen doesn’t necessarily matter, but here are some considerations:

  • If you want people to unmute, ask them to raise their hand to manage who speaks when. Note that this will take more time to debrief so make sure that is the intention.
  • If you want sentences, or longer, more thoughtful answers, use chat.
  • If you have prepared a whiteboard or a slide with the space to type, use annotation.

If you are clear about which feature to use at any given moment, and participants know how to use what’s being requested, it will be effective. Mute yourself and do not speak until approximately 75 percent of participants have responded. Mute and take a drink of water during this time to help you remain quiet. This is called intentional silence and allows participants to think, formulate a response, locate the technology to share, and then unmute, type, or draw (whatever approach was requested). Avoid responding out loud to the first person who answer so that you don’t disrupt or even stop the thought process of everyone else. Once you’ve heard from most of the group, follow these three steps to debrief their responses:

  1. Summarize. There is generally no need to re-read, out loud and verbatim, what was shared. Summarize instead. Encourage others to read what was shared in the chat or on the whiteboard, or to reflect on what was said by those who came off mute. Demonstrate you have reviewed their replies and thought about what has been shared. Consider noting themes or similar responses and
    then go to step 2.
  2. Spotlight. This step follows the brief high-level summary by focusing in on a few key points shared by individuals. Choose one point to begin and ask the person who made it to unmute and explain. Use the individual’s name and a phrase like, “Calvin, please tell us more about that specific challenge you mentioned.” Listen to what Calvin says and call on others to share or comment. Perhaps others will agree or disagree. Encourage the conversation, guiding it in alignment with the course objectives.
  3. Bridge. Once the conversation begins to wane, or the key points have been addressed, wrap up the learning moment. Briefly state what happened, noting how it connects to what they’ve learned, and then make a transition or bridging statement that moves them forward to the next learning moment. This guides the participants on their journey, while honoring their contributions along the way. The entire process also helps you, the trainer, listen with intention and encourage learners to become an active part of their learning experiences.
3-Step Never Fail Debrief Process for virtual training

Portions of this article are excerpted from my book, Interact and Engage! 75+ Activities for Virtual
Training, Meetings, and Webinars
, ATD Press 2022. Images: Pexels.com

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