Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Raising Your Language Awareness Level

When you deliver a web conference, who are your participants and where are they from? With the reach of web, it’s possible that your audience may be more global than you think. You may spend a few minutes at the beginning of a session asking questions to determine who’s online and where are they from. You may also consider a poll question such as “Is English (Spanish, Arabic, etc.) your first language?” Responses to these types of polls give the facilitator essential information about the background of the audience to help make spoken language adjustments. For example, slang should always be kept to a minimum when the audience shares the same first language, and eliminated altogether if you have a diverse audience.

During a conference call with a team in the UK a few weeks ago, I also realized that even business words in American English and British English may cause confusion. The team referred to “bespoke e-learning solutions” which made no sense to my American ears. Now I know that bespoke means customized, but I got hung up on this word in their email communications and during the call until they sorted it out for me.

The spoken word in a web conference is so essential. Practicing what you plan to say with others from different cultures is a great way to raise your language awareness level so that what you say will be understood by everyone, regardless of where they are from.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Group vs. Individual Participation

One of my favorite courses I helped redesign for delivery in a web-conference is a workflow productivity course. During this highly interactive five-hour session, participants learn a new way of organizing to-do lists, emails and paper files. Although all participants are supposed to participate from their desk, in the most recent delivery a small group participated with laptops from a conference room. This was an unplanned twist in the delivery model, but an exception was allowed because we didn't have time to move the group back to their desks.

A very interesting group dynamic formed and I learned a great lesson – a mixed audience of individuals participating from their desks plus a group participating from a room may spell trouble. The solo participants were able to connect better with the instructor and other solo participants than the group, and consequently were able to work through the material better. At first I thought the small group would benefit from being together to help each other and exchange ideas, the small group began forming a clique, alienating the rest of the participants. Next time everyone will participate from their desks and we'll try to leave those high school clique-forming tendencies to the high schoolers!