Previously I have rejected suggestions to run Fear-less courses online because I was not convinced that it would work effectively. Then Covid19 came along! I had to cancel a course due to start on the first day of lockdown. And I had to decide whether to shut up shop and wait it out, or to try something new! I decided to run a ‘trail’ online course via Zoom and this article is about what I found.
Let me start with my misgivings. I had two reasons for my doubts about running the Fear-less course online.
Participants reported that they were very nervous presenting online – especially when I suggested they stand up! They also reported that they gained a lot of confidence through doing the course and felt much less nervous about presenting by the end. I believe the online course worked just as well as an in-person course in terms of growing confidence.
Of course, the next time they speak to a live audience I am sure some of those nerves will return. But that happens after any public speaking course. The difference is that people have more confidence in themselves and can employ strategies to ensure the nerves don’t get the better of them.
I was especially surprised by how well the group bonded. They were supportive and encouraging of each other and gave great positive feedback as well as suggestions for improvement. I had to work a little harder to make all this happen. I used break-out rooms and the chat function and I put effort into drawing out feedback. But the group responded very well and were sad to say goodbye to each other at the end!
The sessions were also very interactive. They asked a lot of questions and we had some great discussions. Again, I had to do things a little differently – like asking targeted questions rather than open ended ones. And not rushing but allowing time for people to respond even if that meant a bit of silence at first.
There are few other things I learned. The online course had some unexpected benefits. I had a great attendance rate and people were on time! There was no rushing to get there from work and it felt like an efficient use of everyone’s time. I even had someone attend on her wedding annivesary. After the break she came back with glass of wine! Participants also had practice presenting online and using functions like screen-share to support their presentations.
I will admit there were some minor drawbacks. I encourage people not to read notes and that was a little harder to ‘police’ during an online course. Having said that I can usually tell by the tone of voice when someone is reading and so I was able to comment on that. Also, it was a little harder to teach the basics of eye contact and movement as these are different online.
All things being equal, I would still favour attending an in-person course – but only by a small margin. If an in-person course doesn’t work for you I would not hesitate to recommend an online course. Here a few things to check first:
Fear-less is now offering regular online courses. See the Our courses page for details.
This article is about real-time or ‘live’ online courses. There are also public speaking courses that can be taken at your own pace. While they will teach you a lot about the art of public speaking, they won’t provide the practical experience that you need to increase your confidence. However, there may be ways to supplement these courses with exercises that simulate the experience of speaking to a live audience. I am currently researching this and will write another article about this later in the year.
Article written by Catherine Syme
I get huge satisfaction from seeing the relief, pride, and even joy that people experience when they complete a course and reflect on the progress they have made. See what others say for some inspiring stories.