Reflections on Don’t plan to present, plan to engage.

We had a great turnout for our first TLC of the season with a whopping 75 participants turning up.  I think it is fair to say that as the numbers logging in crept up we began to get nervous about our ability to deliver on the promise of an engaging webinar.  We had built lots of use of the chat tool into the session and on several occasions the contributions quickly filled and scrolled up the screen.  To be honest a glut of contributions is a much nicer problem to have than a lack of them and although I think we probably missed some valuable input we definitely managed to capture the bulk of the ideas being shared and we hope participants valued the opportunity to contribute.  Team teaching definitely helps in this respect and we felt the technique of a presenter introducing and setting up an activity and feeding back in real time, while the other cuts and pastes key contributions onto the white board for further discussion worked well.  We could fine tune our skills to paste larger more easily readable text onto the white board in future.

We had very few problems with audio quality for participants, although:

  • A couple of people seemed to get themselves logged in twice and experience some annoying echo.
  • One or two were unable to turn their microphone on when given the opportunity.
  • Several encountered problems problems using the draw tools during a task.

Interestingly, solutions to at least one problem (the draw tools) emerged from other participants via the chat tool – a form of crowd sourced IT support which enabled us to discover that we had at least one contribution from as far afield as the USA.

These issues allowed us to explore some of the issues around facilitator and participant skills development.  There was a general agreement that some ground work is required through low risk skills development activities such as ice breaker activities, particularly in the context of fully distance learning course rather than one off events such as this TLC.

We tried out several different question and answer techniques from the use of the status tool, through anonymous polls and open text responses to enabling the participant audio tools to speak.  Colleagues shared some great ideas too many to summarise here so please check out the recording of the webinar.

View the webinar recording in our TLC webinars archive. A quick overview of contents and timings is below.


  1. 00:00:00 – Introductions and Outline
  2. 00:05:50 – ‘Don’t Plan to Present’ Presentation
  3. 00:10:38 – Activity 1: Why do webinars become passive (Chat Box Discussion)
  4. 00:29:09 – Activity 2: Creating and Effective Learning Environment (Polling Activities)
  5. 00:49:11 – Activity 2: Creating and Effective Learning Environment (Low risk text activities and white board activities / session planning)
  6. 01:03:42 – Activity 3: The Art of Asking Questions (Poll activities, free text activities)
  7. 01:10:11 – Thoughts and Reflections
  8. 01:13:46 – Last Activity (Topics and Formats) and Summing Up

In our summary, we emphasised the following key points which seemed to meet with broad approval.

  • Always ask yourself “What are the participants doing?” – if all they are doing is listening then maybe you are missing an opportunity.
  • Aim to create an effective learning spare – this involves some ground work with user skills development but it primarily about inclusive learning design.
  • Use questions for more that testing factual recall – among other things questions can be used to canvas opinions, challenge preconceptions, test understanding and application of theory to scenarios all of which can be triggers for further discussion.
  • The 20 minute rule – try not to talk at participants for long periods of time without getting them active. Several people commented that this should probably be a 10 minutes rule and we think they are probably right.

As we said in our summary we barely scratched the surface of the possibilities that web conferencing technologies offer.  Fortunately, we have a while series of TLC in which to explore the possibilities.

Please get in touch with Rod (, Calum ( or Ale ( with your ideas and offers for contributions

This entry was posted in Uncategorized by Rod Cullen. Bookmark the permalink.

About Rod Cullen

I am a Senior Lecturer in Learning and Teaching Technologies in the Learning Innovation Team at Manchester Metropolitan University. I have gained considerable experience over almost 20 years in design, delivery and evaluation of online learning, teaching and assessment. I am particularly interested in assessment and feedback practice as well as the emerging role of web conferencing technologies to support blended and distance learning.

One thought on “Reflections on Don’t plan to present, plan to engage.

  1. Pingback: Reflections on setting up and running the TLC Badges debate | Teaching and Learning Conversations

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