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Seven steps to managing learner engagement in live, online sessions

Trainers often ask me: What are some key steps to stimulating learner engagement to help ensure a successful online event – while not inviting technical problems?


I recommend these seven items: Test. Clarify. Script. Confirm network throughput. Plan pauses. Use Polls. Ask questions. Read on:

1. Test everything in advance. Login, test audio, click through materials, and practice application sharing and managing the interface. If possible, use a second device to simulate the participant’s viewpoint, including login and testing.

2. Clarify how the software tools you’re using will support your session design. If you've planned a brainstorming activity, think through how that activity will play out online. Are participants going to speak their responses? Do they know how to control their own audio? Do they know how to type in chat? How will you get them to do what you ask?

3. Script key phrases. How comfortable are you speaking micro-instructions like “Please respond by typing in chat” or “Click the Raise Hand button to volunteer” to prompt learners how and when to use tools? If you don’t have experience delivering such phrases smoothly, script and practice them in advance.

4. Confirm your network (bandwidth) throughput. Run Ookla’s Speed Test regularly. If your network speed falls into the low single digits, your sessions will stumble. For better consistency, responsiveness, and audio quality, use only a strong and consistent – ideally, wired – internet connection. In addition, shutting down unneeded apps and your web camera will free up resources.

5. Pause purposefully. To avoid talking nonstop throughout your live session, plan moments when you’ll ask questions – and then pause to allow learners time to process and respond. Pausing also affords the presenter a minute to breathe, take in learner responses, and prepare to react.

6. Use Polls to pre-test participants’ knowledge before the lesson, and/or post-test later to confirm that learning happened. Polls also can support scenarios and games.

7. Most important, plan to ask lots of questions throughout your session. Use open-ended questions to invite participants to share opinions or experiences. Make use of the binary polling (Agree or Disagree icons) to get basic feedback for questions like, “Are you able to hear me?” and “Have you ever experienced this scenario?”

Remember: Always set up and test your backup plan. If it’s not ready to implement in the middle of the session, it’s not a plan, it’s just an idea.

Still have questions about delivering consistently polished online sessions? Contact me at 585.370.2341 or


Updated 3.29.21

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