Building trust in online trainings: Top tips

How do you build trust online? Bootcamp lead trainer Nim shares their top tips and tricks for 'building the container' in a virtual setting, including some great virtual icebreakers:

This blog is part of a wider-series written by Bootcamp’s lead trainer, Nim Ralph, focused on how to run engaging online trainings in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis. To see the other blogs in the series, scroll to the end of this post.

In the previous blog, I looked at the ways you can prepare effectively for your online training session. In this blog, I look at how you can build trust and strong group dynamics virtually, once your training has begun.

In person, we often spend a lot of time in a training, workshop or meetings considering how we “build the container” – that is; develop trust between individuals, support people to feel comfortable in learning and trusting of the trainer/facilitator. 

It is definitely true that it’s harder to build real meaningful connections quickly online than it is in real life. But there are things you can do to still build connections online. 

Depending on whether you’re maintaining an existing group, or bringing folks together who haven’t met before – it’s really important to take some time on container building. 

Group Agreements:

Like in real life you might want to start with thinking about the group agreements the folks online want to make. If it’s a training or webinar you might want to pre-prepare these and just tell the group, with a workshop or meeting you might want to create them collectively. Here’s a great post on thinking about group norms. Some specific things to think about online are:

  • Be present: remove distractions like phones, other tabs open etc.
  • No online back chatting: instant messaging other participants to support engagement is great, but we need to trust each other not to be taking conflict, bitching and gossip into back channels through the meeting
  • Do not multi-task while on the call – don’t try and get other work or your online shopping done at the same time
  • Have an agreement for signalling a “hand up” to talk
  • Mute when you aren’t talking to minimise background noise and interference (If it’s a small group you might not want to do this one, as having mute on stultifies the conversation)
  • Turn on your video as much as possible

Roles:

As outlined in the prep section there are a number of roles that will really help you if you have other people around to help resource the call. That’s often a luxury though. A different solution is to ask participants to take on some of those roles. 

Roles that you could ask participants to take:

  • Note taker: live record the key learnings, outcomes or action points of the session
  • Time keeper: help you stay on track!
  • Tech support: if you have someone who knows the platforms you’re using well
  • Remote support: if there’s a participant who can only join by phone, this person can act as a “buddy” to still keep them involved and engaged with what’s going on in the video/shared docs.

Pros:

  • Helps to keep people engaged
  • Takes the huge load of your shoulders
  • People can play to their strengths
  • It helps create a sense of community

Cons: 

  • It’s not ideal if this is a training as people will not be fully focused on their own learning
  • Not everyone is great at what they think they are great at — if someone who doesn’t understand the tech well volunteers for that role, it could make your life harder. If someone offers to be the remote supporter and they aren’t a good communicator it could make the remote participant feel excluded.

Icebreakers:

The more creative you get here the better — really try and think outside the box! Here’s some ideas:

  • Have a list of fun and engaging go-round questions – not just “how are you?” or “favourite colour” but start branching out, some of my faves are:
    • What’s your favourite potato dish?
    • Who’s the most famous person you’ve met
    • If you could be a spice girl for a day – which one and why?
  • Have folks bring a photo (even better if they’ve added it to a file in advance so that you don’t lose time with people faffing about copying and pasting) and have them share it. Best if you give people a theme:
    • A photo of your workspace
    • A photo of someone who really matters to you
    • A gif that represents how you feel today
    • Use a meme maker and have people “caption” each others photos
  • Have a table in a document and in the first column have everyone right one fact about themselves no-one knows. Create a column for every participant and have them fill in whose fact they think it is in each row.

There’s more tips on virtual icebreakers here.

Read the other blogs in the series on online trainings here:

Click here for a downloadable PDF of the whole series

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Previous & Next Articles

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Running an engaging online training: Top tips

How do you stop people zoning out during an online training? How can you read facial expressions and body language when everyone is sat behind a screen? Here are Nim's top tips:

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Prepping your online training: Top tips

Preparing for an online training session can take a lot longer than real life sessions: here's a handy list of things to consider when preparing for your online training.