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Creating an immersive online training experience

Bijgewerkt op: 10 apr. 2020

Are you also getting a bit tired of webinars and other online offerings that are basically no more than a combination of watching somebody sit behind their desk and 'death by powerpoint'?

Most sessions I've seen are just the simple Powerpoint + webcam setup. But I believe there is a lot we can and must improve towards our ability of virtual collaboration, especially because we likely need to keep meeting virtually for longer than we hope for.

Once the corona virus hit the Netherlands all my Obeya trainings and customer engagements were instantly stopped. I was forced to go back to the drawing table. I needed to reach out to my years of trying to grasp what can make a real-life / physical meeting valuable for people and how does that change when we meet online. How do we use technology to enhance or at least preserve human interaction, but not loose it?

One of the key aspects of working with teams in Obeya is the human interaction part. And the key to human interaction is engagement. That's one of the reasons I'm always very careful with blindly adopting technology to replace the human interaction, without understanding what we'll gain versus what we'll loose in a meeting. So in tackling this challenge for the work that I do with Obeya, I've been very careful to consider what is needed to avoid a dull session and instead create an immersive online training experience.

Creating a compelling and immersive online experience

In the Obeya training and Obeya Kick-start services we offer, we are now able to bring you in to the Obeya with different views, angles and physical views as well as virtual. This engages your brain in different ways and will add to the level of engagement you feel with the content you're seeing as well as working with. In the end, by being more engaged the learning effect will also be stronger simply because your brain is more active and will create more connections which help strengthen memory.

In general, if you want to make your meetings more engaging, a few things are important. When we want to create an online session in which people feel engaged we should:

  • Look each other in the 'eyes' as much as possible (just like in real life). Place your camera as close as you can to where you are seeing the people on your screen. If you look one way while the camera is in the other position, it will make people feel like you're distracted.

  • Engage people with interactive content. Don't just share your screen, leaving only you in charge of what's being created, but let the participants of the meeting full access to what's being created. There are lots of tools out there that let each participant create and edit content, like Microsoft Whiteboard, Miro, Mural, iObeya and Nureva. Most offer extended free trial periods during the corona crisis.

  • Get up, stand up! How does it feel to be talking to somebody that's sitting behind their desk, using their mouse and keyboard while looking at their screen? Right, they're not involved in the conversation with you. Also, like we know from stand-up meetings, people are instantly at a different level of engagement when their body language is plain and openly directed at the other participants. As a trainer, just like in a classroom I find this important. And that's not just for people to look at, but doing this in an online training I found I'm heightening my adrenaline to healthy levels to aid me in being sharp when I teach. And the people following my training confirm they experience my energy as a trainer in a positive way.

  • Respect the look & feel of things in digital interaction tools - Some online content programs allow you to really add a personal touch to things. Try to use the templates, logos, colors and artefacts that you would use in real life also in an online / virtual environment. For me, I've built a virtual version of the life-size Obeya that uses the exact same templates, format, dimensions, etc. As such, when people walk into the Obeya room after the crisis they can pick up exactly where they left off virtually.

  • Be able to look at content and people from more than one perspective. Something as simple as showing where you are sitting can be an enriching activity because it evokes something very human in us: a basic level of interest in the other person. So what happens? We engage in small talk! Last week during the training somebody showed around her room and she turned out to be in this beautiful mountain cottage with a stunning view! I couldn't believe we spent 2 days in a training and I didn't even know that about her. Small talk and seemingly unimportant human interactions can still help create a better connection and therefore engagement on a human level.

Why bother to create an immersive experience?

In the last few weeks we invested a lot in setting up our Obeya Coaching services and getting them ready for the virtual collaboration period to come. Investment both in terms of materials as well as lots of time learning how it all works and to make it effective. I've learned through reading, watching instruction videos and trial and error about stuff like virtual and real cameras, video director software, acoustics, wireless microphones and in-ear sounds. OK I admit I'm also having fun setting this all up.

But the main reason we're doing this is because we know from experience that one cannot explain the concept of something so visual and powerful as Obeya without actually sharing the experience of being in an Obeya. So this was a huge problem when the corona crisis hit! Both our trainings and helping teams kick-start their Obeya were focused primarily on an immersive physical experience of actually building the Obeya on-site as participants were learning about the concept.

I believe in delivering quality in the things I do. And I want to see the spark in the eyes of the people I train or coach when we work together. So in order to continue with the Obeya Coaching offerings, the only way forward was to find ways that would approach that same level of immersion with content, people and interaction. At this point I'm confident the 80% of this immersion target is covered. And the remaining 20% will cost 80% more time to deliver.

I believe there is a lot we can and must improve towards our ability of virtual collaboration

So how did I create a setup that truly allows for an immersive training experience for the Obeya training?

In these last weeks I've built an Obeya studio which includes:

  • A life-size Obeya and a virtual one

  • Professional lighting and sound

  • 3-way camera system and 'live broadcasting' setup including a close-up 'action camera' to take you up close and personal in the Obeya

  • Multiple displays for content and interaction with all the participants, creating a real class-room feeling both for myself and the participants.

The pilot session in the training went really well, but don't take my word for it, one of the participants stated "Super hands on. On top of that, the training proved that - if prepared & done well - virtual trainings can be as interactive, fun and interpersonal as an in-person training. Absolutely recommended" -

Lots of learning and improving

During the first pilot early April I expected we would have less interaction and involvement than a normal training and we would probably quickly run out of things to talk about. But my hypothesis turned out the other way! In fact we were having so much interaction, looking at examples, discussing real life situations, just like you would in a real classroom. As a result as a trainer I was working hard to balance the essentials of the content and discussions to deliver the best possible learning experience. Thanks to Stephanie, Sven, Koen and Antoon I've had an awesome learning experience as a teacher as well.

Interested in learning about Obeya and experiencing this training for yourself? Have a look at the available dates:

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