Olympic champion, Katarina Johnson-Thompson counts to 12 before doing the high jump and sets all her kit out the night before in the order she will wear them.
Tennis superstar Rafael Nadal has many rituals during a match: how he places is bottles, using a towel after each shot and his pre-shot touching ritual.
In our archery competition days, both my hubby and I had our own shot routine. I’m not superstitious in the least but a set routine helped me focus and get into the zone.
Why do people have rituals before a performance? Some think it is superstition; that if they don’t carry out these rituals something will go wrong. For others it’s more about creating a routine to give a sense of calm and focus before a performance – I’m the latter.
You’ll not be surprised to know that any member of the performing arts will have their routines to prepare them ace their performance. They focus on preparing the voice, the body and the mind to help ace their performance and quieten those butterflies in the stomach.
The live online facilitator (equally applicable to the in-person trainer) is no different. We ‘perform’. We have to ‘show up’ bright and breezy, leaving any stresses and baggage at the virtual door.
My 7 pre-session rituals
I like to make sure I do part of my routine the night before my session especially if I have an early session to run. I’m not a morning person so as much preparation I can do ahead of time the better. But even if I have set everything up read the night before, I will still run through final checks in the hour before my session starts.
- Set up my workstation
- Check what’s behind me
- Check my tech
- Check my training materials and tasks
- Warm up and energise
- Log-in and prepare the virtual room
- Chill time
So let’s see what helps me at each stage.
1. Set up my workstation
This is something I try to do the night before and double check some things again before each session.
- Second laptop to log in as guest
- Connect working laptop to external monitor(s), keyboard and mouse (makes life easier)
- Connect a second large external monitor if possible (my mission control)
- Make sure my bluetooth headsets are on charge and have a spare to hand
- Pens and notepad
- Lighting position (you don’t need professional ones but make sure you are well lit)
- External webcam (inbuilt webcams aren’t always great quality; if you are an iPhone users, check out the Camo app)
- Session script (I like to print a copy as well as have a digital copy on a second screen)
- Glass of water and full water bottle
- Tissues (you never know when you are caught out by a sneeze)
2. Check what’s behind me
For a balanced professional and approachable environment, I am aware of what your participants will see behind me when on camera.
- Check what’s in shot
- Reposition objects e.g. plants, books
3. Check my tech
At least hour before my first session of the day is due to start, I run my tech checks. This is where the tech gremlins can invade. Even if you do all the right checks, technology often has a mind of its own but there are things you can do to minimise tech disruption.
- Check all is connected properly
- Reboot my laptop/PC and the second laptop to join as a guest
- Run speed test
- Headset is charged and ready
- Webcam working (privacy shutter open if using my inbuilt one)
- Turn off notifications
- Turn phone to silent (or off)
- Close all applications you won’t be using (the may cause problems with your network)
4. Check training material and tasks
I will make sure my training materials such as session notes, slides, exercises are all correct at least the night before my session. Sometimes, there may be a tweak you need to add on the day.
I try not to look at my general emails before a session. I can easily get caught up in something that distracts me. I create a rule on my email client to group course participants into a specific folder, this help keep my focus when doing pre-session email checks.
- Update slides with participant names, dates of next session etc
- Copy files I will use to a folder on desktop for easy use (it makes my life so much easier)
- Check my email for any apologies or questions from participants
- Set up and minimise third part apps e.g. Jamboard, Menitimeter, etc for activities
5. Warm up and energise
I take inspiration from stage performance warm-ups for my routine here. These are especially helpful for my early sessions. Sometimes, the first time I might speak in the morning is when I say hello online. Stretches do me good between sessions and in breaks in sessions too. Often a little karaoke to something upbeat combines my vocal warm up with my exercise – I just can’t stand still when a good tune is playing.
- Get in a few stretches
- Do a little deep breathing
- Vocal exercises to warm up the voice and loosen the muscles
6. Log in and prepare the virtual room
This is my routine 30 to 40 minutes before I open the welcome session 15 minutes before the session start time. However, unless you have prevented participants from joining until a specific time, be prepared that some may want to join very early. I’ve had people join 30 minutes early while I’m still in the middle of my set up routine. That can throw a curve ball so it’s useful to have a digital or printed checklist you can tick off. Although these are not rituals as such, I do like to do them in a set order. Not out of superstition but I am less likely to forget a step. I also like to refer to a printed checklist I can tick off just in case I get interrupted.
- Log into session
- Check my webcam feed – final check of how the background looks
- Reposition lighting to check no reflection in my glasses
- Check my audio is working
- Check/amend settings for the session (even if the system remembers the settings, I like to be doubly sure)
- Set up breakout rooms (if using)
- Set up / cue up polls (if using)
- Check files and applications prepared earlier share ok
- Upload Welcome session slides if separate from session slides
- Upload main session slides and test
- Cue up recording window for a quick click when ready to record
- Arrange windows/pods as preferred across my multi screen set up
- Send session invite reminder to participants
6. Chill time
If you have planned things well and you don’t get any really early joiners, you, as I, should enjoy a little mellow time. A little breathing space to get into the zone. This is the time I go and make myself a cup of tea and take back to my desk. A hot honey and lemon keeps my throat going if I have several sessions during the day too. I also avoid eating anything this soon before the session. I’ve made that mistake before and end up coughing.
- I grab a hot drink but not anything to eat
- Smile – it boosts my mood and gets me into a positive mindset
- Adjust posture and get comfortable
- Focus on your participants – it’s not about you
- Change my choice of music to a sedate instrumental or quiet classical
- Now I’m ready for when my co-host arrives (if I have one for the session) and to welcome early bird participants.
Share your rituals
Everyone has their own rituals and routine. What do you recognise you do from my list? What might you try? What tips can you share that have helped you get ready for your sessions.