If you have ever been a teacher like me, you’ll know the importance of setting ground rules. Without them, children in a class don’t know what the boundaries are, misunderstand expectations and experience a lack of structure so things can get out of control quickly.
When I first taught children using Webinar software, I found I needed to convert my classroom ground rules into the online environment. However, I was not using webcams for a variety of reasons. So there were no visual cues at all and the ground rules had to work solely via the Webinar tools I had at my disposal.
I found tat I just needed to be clear which tools were used for what purpose. That way, everyone could get on with the session knowing what to do if they had a problem or wanted to contribute. Even more importantly, they knew what was not allowed.
Interestingly, I’ve also found that this is similar whatever the audience – even adults.
It’s human nature that people like to know how a seminar is going to be run – where the boundaries are – face-to-face or online.
In my experience the vast majority relax and get more out of the session when everyone knows what’s expected and I certainly can’t remember anyone objecting to the setting of simple, easy-to-follow ground rules.
Ground rules are best set right at start of the Webinar and should be firm but in keeping with the audience and the purpose. In fact, it’s arguable that they need to be stricter if the audience is larger because the session is more difficult to control for the host or moderator.
Often ground rules can be the same for children and adults – e.g. (if your software has these features):
- a ‘virtual hand raise’ to gain attention
- a ‘tick’ for yes and a ‘cross’ for no
- text chat for comments or questions
- always use a ‘tick’ to indicate you can see the new slide or webpage (without having to be asked by the host/presenter)
There’s no need to be complex – in fact the simpler and easier to remember, the better.
A different type of ground rule might be to gain a mandate for running the session in a particular way. For example, you might need to gain permission right at the start if you know you are going to have to run over time or you might need to make the audience aware that you will have to mute the teleconference/VoIP if the background noise becomes too loud. As long as you make it clear from the outset how the audience can continue to participate, there should be no problems setting these kind of ground rules.
…be crystal clear about the ground rules at start of the Webinar session and repeat if necessary later. The ground rules which are appropriate will depend on the needs of the audience but try to keep them consistent in a series of Webinars. In my experience, everyone is happier if they know what the ground rules are and if they are seen to be consistently applied.