How to build rapport in online training

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As we’re getting more comfortable with delivering online training, we’re starting to consider how to take that next step to build rapport in online training.

One way to do this is by building rapport with the learners. Building rapport in online learning, is essentially the same as if you were in the classroom. The method of rapport building remains the same, just the mechanism has changed.

This article will share with you the simple tweaks you can make to build rapport in virtual training.

How to build rapport in online training infographic of article

Welcome everyone individually as they join the training (as best you can)

Build rapport with the group through small talk whilst you wait for others to join. Say hi to everyone as they arrive and ask how they are, just as you would in a face to face training course. This small welcome can be overlooked.

I’ve attended online training where it’s silence until the training begins, or learners are left in the lobby until the course starts. This misses a golden opportunity for building rapport early on and engaging the group.

Get the group to introduce themselves and share something

Introductions are great for building rapport; it could be as basic as sharing where they work and what their role is, or something more creative. I find when I do this early on in online sessions, the learners are more likely to share throughout. Compared to in sessions where I don’t. It’s also a good way to evaluate why they’re here. If you ask them to share that, or what they’re finding challenging about the topic.

Refer to learners by name

Referring to someone by name is a great way to build rapport quickly with the group. Thank them for their contributions by name, whether it’s over the chat or microphone. i.e. ‘Great suggestion from Lukasz in the chat’. Using their name engages them in the discussion. If they hear it, they’ll feel heard and are likely to share further.

Use as much interaction as possible

Interaction keeps the group engaged and encourages them to share. The more they share encourages social learning whilst simultaneously building rapport in the group.

Use the following types of interaction to build rapport:

  • Polls can be a great way to get the group started sharing, without asking for too many personal details.
  • As the group open up you can then ask for over the mic sharing, if they’re comfortable to do so.  Sharing over the mic builds rapport as you can listen and engage with this person on a 1:1 and ask questions.
  • Breakout rooms are another great way to build rapport, as smaller group exercises create safer spaces to share.

Pick up on body language

If you’ve got cameras on, read body language as best you can. Pick up on it as reference to show you’re listening and paying attention to the group. I do this by referring to any body language from I notice from those who are on my screen. i.e. “oh, I can see Sarah nodding in agreement”. Or “John, you look a little confused by what I just shared, do you want to ask a question.”

I recognise this can be difficult with big groups or whilst your presenting but by doing it you really do engage the group and build rapport.

Make connections between content

A great way to build rapport during online training is to make connections between the groups comments or what they’ve shared and ongoing content. i.e. “In Jacob’s earlier example in the chat he mentioned xxx. Now we can see how this model may have helped him to tackle this situation.”

Be authentic

Be the real you. Bring yourself and your personality into your online training and interactions with the group and you will build rapport much quicker. Share personal stories/examples, if you do, the group will be more likely to share their own stories too.

Summary

Building rapport online doesn’t have to be a difficult process. There are some real simple tweaks you can make to engage and build rapport quickly. The main thing to remember is that its only the mechanism that changed. The concepts to build rapport in learning remain the same.

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