Browse Tag by live online learning
Online learning

7 pre-performance rituals for a live online session

A very tidy computer work desk with two monitors and two closed laptops, notebook, phone, mouse, keyboard and small camera ready for the working day.
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

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.  


Pre-performance preparation

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.

  1. Set up my workstation
  2. Check what’s behind me
  3. Check my tech
  4. Check my training materials and tasks
  5. Warm up and energise
  6. Log-in and prepare the virtual room
  7. 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.

  • Declutter
  • 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.

Online learning

An Olympic Online Opportunity

Photo by Simon Connellan on Unsplash

At 12:49 on Wednesday 6 July 2005, I was travelling in Staffordshire to a training venue listening for the imminent announcement of who was going to ‘win’ the Olympic Games for 2012.  Now, I’m not a big sports fanatic but I couldn’t help but join in very excitedly with a big ‘WHOOP WHOOP!’ as Jacque Rogge made the announcement ….. LONDON!

Seven years later and it’s nearly here and Olympic fever has begun.  But along with the kudos comes chaos.  Now we’re hearing about all the disruption the Games are going to create.  It’s already started with Olympic organisers creating an Olympic route network meaning roadworks.

With the disruption to day to day business with journeys to work affected, higher than usual annual leave requests, pressures on transport systems and road networks, the advice given in the ‘preparing your business for the games‘ LOC publication to businesses is:

Millions of additional trips are expected on public transport and the road network in London and the UK … This could potentially disrupt your employees’ journeys, business travel, deliveries/collections, and the operations of suppliers, other contractors and freight.  To keep your businesses running, you should aim to reduce the need to travel and make essential journeys at less busy times or by using different modes or routes.

Over the past few months several delegates on my courses have talked about their organisations being encouraged to allow staff to work from home where they’re not needed to be in the office/building.

Of course, this doesn’t just mean problems for day to day working but also day to day training/learning.  Fortunately, if key people in these organisations are on the ball, they will see there is a way around some of this disruption.  Where live conversations are needed to take place, whether it’s to discuss on ongoing project or as part of a planned training course, we have the technology.  We’ve been communicating via e-mail for years.  

The concept of collaborating remotely is not new but we’ve yet to embrace the live online environment.  Perhaps it’s the fear of the unknown.  Perhaps it’s bad experiences of them in the past.  But now – and I mean now and not in a few months time as an afterthought – is the time to make the most of the technology at our fingertips and start working (and learning) smarter.  If we start investigating as soon as possible how best to engage our live online participants (audience is too passive a word), we’ll be on the winning team by a long shot.

We certainly do have an Olympic opportunity.

Online learning

Online learning doesn’t have to suck!

There was a very interesting article posted by Mashable yesterday reporting on the use of virtual classrooms in higher education. There is no point in me repeating what it says here – I’ll let you read the full report yourself but it does certainly make for interesting reading. To me there are no surprises because I know how effective virtual classrooms can be used.

When you read the article, although it is primarily looking at higher education in the States, please don’t let this cloud your thinking. When it talks about education – think learning in general. After all, set curricula in higher education can be similar to set courses in organisations.

Here are some key points I took from the article.

  1. Garbage in garbage out to quote the American phrase. It’s not the tool that makes for low-quality online learning, it’s the quality of the design and delivery. If you know how to deliver engaging, learner-centred face to face classroom session, you can, with an open mind and enhanced skills, deliver engaging and learner-centred live online classroom sessions. Just because it’s delivered online doesn’t mean you can make less of an effort – in fact you will need to make more.
  2. Blend the delivery for maximum efficiency by making the best use of resources. For example, observed assessments locally were face to face as well as being assessed over video by the tutor.
  3. The ability to reach more people with minimal extra cost and physical resources. Not to mention being able to overcome travel disruptions such as those we experienced in December just gone.
  4. Encourages self-motivation and collaboration on a wider scale.

The future of learning is using the right set of tools for the job. The key to success is how to use the tool effectively.