Enote – Online Training Best Practices

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Dear Friend,

How we meet professionally, collaborate, network, and train at The Interchange Institute has been radically influenced due to social distancing. Here are some of the tools in our toolbox:

(The Interchange Institute has been using Zoom as our chosen platform for our training workshops, meetings and our global Culture Chats. Most of these tip/ideas can be applied to other formats, e.g., Skype, GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams.)

Building Interpersonal Connections
Trying to create connections in online meetings can be challenging. Here are some icebreaking tools for online environments:

  • Invite people to bring an icon from one of their cultural roots, and to share briefly why they chose it. Flags, pictures, religious figures, coffee mugs – all these provide a tool to help people begin to explore and share their roots. Or – as we do in our training – use these icons for the classic Describe-Interpret-Evaluate training activity.
  • Ask everyone to deliver their “elevator speech.” Give them some parameters: in 30 seconds, describe what problem you solve and how you fix it. If there’s time, use breakout rooms to have pairs or small groups help each other refine their message.
  • Ask people to pick a culturally-relevant virtual background (in Zoom/Video menu). Let others guess what’s shown, then hear why they chose it.
  • Ask participants to change how their name appears on the screen to include where they currently are, or what their “home” culture is.
  • Make your own bingo game to include cultural experiences and skills. In our trainings, we have customized a Cultural Bingo game that can be played online, in person, or some combination.

Monitoring Contextual Cues
During online meetings, there is a challenge to pick up the social contextual clues that usually facilitate conversation. It’s easy to talk too long or to miss emotional reactions. Some tips:

  • Understand people differ in how they respond to this new virtual reality. Plan for introverts and extroverts.
  • Monitor participation and invite those who may need you to make an opportunity to participate.
  • Don’t waste time in ambiguity about who will speak next. Either have a designated leader who will call on people, or have each speaker call on the next one to speak. At the same time, as the leader, be sensitive to those who have not spoken much. Use the Raise Hand feature in Zoom with large groups, or just watch for those trying to speak.
  • Be explicit about how long you want each person to talk. Set the parameters at the beginning of your meeting.
  • Consider some kind of timekeeper (Countdown clock? Hand signal if time is up?) for breaks or report-outs. PowerPoint has an add-in timekeeper that works well for us.
  • Utilize the “chat” feature in your meeting platform to monitor interest or gather questions.
  • The best Zoom simulation of a real meeting is for everyone’ video to show in Gallery mode with everyone’s microphone on. Sometimes this won’t work (if there’s background noise). But work toward this goal.

Looking Your Best
Presenting yourself on video is so different than face-to-face encounters. Some tips on how to be “camera ready” and made good visual impressions:

  • Have your camera at eye level. If your camera is at the bottom of your laptop screen, put your laptop on a pile of books, or get an auxiliary camera to put on top of screen.
  • Don’t sit in front of light source/window. You will be a silhouette. Natural light from side is good. Or, you can be looking toward a light (behind camera, ideally bounced off a wall.)
  • See if you like Video Settings/Advanced – “Touch up my appearance.”
  • Background – beware of things looking like they are growing out of your hair. A blank wall is OK but it misses the opportunity to non-verbally communicate a bit about who you are. But be aware of what is on display in the background if attending the webinar from your home – do you want to be displaying your political views in this context? Be aware of anything gives away your home address. Be aware of having confidential documents on display.
  • Sit not too close, not too far from camera/microphone. Three-four feet usually works.
  • Center yourself on the screen. Still photographers advise putting a subject to the side of a shot; Zoom is different and center looks best.
  • White shirts look overexposed. If that’s what you’re wearing, put on a scarf or jacket to lessen white.
  • Don’t eat or chew gum. It is distracting and can become a focus for other participants.
  • Add your photo to your Zoom profile so that when your Video is off, there’s a photo of you. In your account, click Profile then Upload.
  • Security – be cognizant of security and protect your meeting and your participants by using such features as passwords, waiting rooms, locking the meeting after all invited guests have arrived.
  • You can limit whether participants can chat privately with each other when this is appropriate.
  • Breakout Room – a great tool to do partner work with the ability to then bring your larger group back together. Set these up ahead of time, or during the meeting.
  • Polling – use this feature to get group participation, gather opinion, test knowledge, etc.
  • White board – to visualize your thoughts to the group.
  • Sharing Screen – so that you can share materials in real time. If you want to play a video clip for your meeting group and share your screen, you have to click “Share computer sound” – there’s also a “Optimize Screen Sharing for Video Clip” button.
  • Closed captioning – good when you are working with language barriers or for those professionals teaching language
  • Invitation email can be sent in any of 9 languages (Settings).
  • Try a 5 second lag on Zoom for all participants in order to decrease the amount of frozen screen moments

Using our knowledge of intercultural transition, we are convinced that an open attitude and a willingness to make the journey from “in-person” to “live online” training and networking is not so daunting. We are trying to model what we teach and practice what we preach, to you, and to our customers, families and clients.

We are excited to be offering our Crossing Cultures with Competence training workshop in a live online format, using all these tools (and more). New format, same materials, same training, same connections, same license. See below for details. We’d love to see you there.

Your Team at The Interchange Institute:

Anne Copeland, Founder and Senior Trainer
Terri McGinnis, Senior Trainer
Tasha Arnold, Senior Trainer
Michelle Hagenburg, Senior Trainer

“It’s only after you’ve stepped outside your comfort zone that you begin to change, grow, and transform.”
– Roy T. Bennett

Because we are now in a situation that many are using all online meeting software to do their work, participants and hosts can get fatigued from too many meetings that are online. Here is a good article that addresses the stress and burnout from constant online interactions with tips on how to reduce the fatigue.

And here are some links to resources that have helped us in our transition to a more virtual world of work. We hope they are helpful:

Steve Dotto with DottoTech has useful YouTube tutorials on everything from Zoom, Google Docs, Evernote, Web/pod casts etc.


Dr. Anne P. Copeland

Dr. Anne P. Copeland

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About us

The work of understanding others and helping others understand us is our mission. 

We design and deliver specialized cross-cultural training workshops, train and consult to professionals in the field, conduct research on the process of intercultural transition, produce publications to assist newcomers to the US.

The Interchange Institute is a not-for-profit research organization established in 1997 by Dr. Anne P. Copeland. The work of smoothing intercultural transitions has never been so critical.

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Michelle Hagenberg, M. Ed.​

Senior Advisor

Michelle has worked professionally as a trainer, facilitator and coach for over 25 years, both in the US and in Germany. Michelle has taught Business English and Intercultural Communication for over 15 years in Germany and worked as a College Instructor and a Facilitator for the US Navy in the Chicago area. Since 2008 she has been working as an Intercultural Trainer, preparing families for their assignments in the United States of America, both in person and online. She thinks the Crossing Cultures with Competence training program is one of the best in its field and it very happy to have the chance work more intensely with Dr. Anne P. Copeland and the rest of this training team.

Michelle grew up in South Bend, Indiana, received her Bachelor’s degree from Purdue University in 1992 and her Masters from Kent State University in 1996 and now has been living in the Cologne area for the last twenty years. Originally coming to Germany in 2000 on a two-year German relocation assignment for a major pharmaceutical company, she decided to stay even longer, but spends as much time as she can in Michigan and Florida. She knows what it feels like to struggle as an accompanying spouse in a new land and having to learn and survive using a new language. Her fun, relaxed skills-based approach brings results in the classroom and the meeting room. Michelle earned a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction.

Terri McGinnis, M.S.

Senior Trainer​

Terri is an independent cross-cultural trainer specializing in helping families moving overseas, assisting those coming from overseas to live and work in the U.S., and providing group business briefings on China, Brazil and USA. Terri has worked with large automotive companies, automotive suppliers, oil companies, national office supply and furniture companies, the construction industry, electronic companies, IT companies, chemical companies, not to mention many other national and international companies.

A well-read and traveled individual, Terri has lived in and navigated different cultures successfully. Ms. McGinnis lived with her family as an expatriate in Beijing, China. In China, she conducted cross-cultural training programs, studied Mandarin, worked for the International School of Beijing providing classes to their staff, and provided Pilates training to individuals in the expatriate community of Beijing.

In addition to her overseas experience in China, Ms. McGinnis also lived with her family as an expatriate in Brazil for three years where she studied Portuguese. In addition to her language studies, she worked for Fiske School teaching English as a second language to Brazilian nationals. While in Brazil, the International School of Curitiba engaged her services for curriculum and staff development.

Prior to her international assignments, Ms. McGinnis was a high school teacher teaching vocational business skills. She also has eight years of experience in the automotive industry working in various HR positions.

Ms. McGinnis graduated with a Master of Science degree in Instructional Technology and a Bachelor of Science degree in Education.

Her experiences in Brazil and China have taught her to appreciate the world’s diversity and to cross cultures successfully. Her hobbies are reading, sea kayaking, paddle boarding and travel. She has two daughters attending university. She actively volunteers for her a local national club swim team.

Tasha Arnold, M.S.

Senior Trainer​

Tasha is an independent cross-cultural trainer and learning specialist with expertise in helping students, educators, senior leadership, and families transition to and from new cultural contexts. Through tailored transition and intercultural engagement programs, her goal is to help improve student achievement and educator fulfilment.

Tasha has experience working with a variety of both state and private education establishments operating in the elementary, secondary and higher education sectors. She is a certified teacher and high school principal and an approved NEASC Evaluator who visits and evaluates schools globally. Tasha has directed several research studies on educators’ experiences and perceived needs with regards to transition at their international school in order to improve the transition experience for educators, students and families in these cultural contexts. Her future work will focus on the psychological impact transition has on teacher retention.

Tasha is originally from Wisconsin, USA, where she worked as Head of Science in a local state middle school before taking up a specialist role with Chicago Public Schools as an educational consultant; there, she analyzed data on student achievement and collaborated with teachers and senior leadership to develop best practice that met the needs of a diverse and socioeconomic challenged student population. In 2011, Tasha then relocated to the UK where she has worked as a learning specialist and head of year at an international school. In the UK, Tasha has led and managed the achievement, progress and pastoral provision for neurodiverse high school students.

Tasha holds a Bachelors of Arts and Sciences Degree in both Education and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, with minors in Theology and Hispanic Literature. She has a Master’s of Science Degree in Educational Administration. She is in the final stages of completing her Doctoral degree, which has a psychological and sociological focus on teacher transition in international schools.

Tasha lives in London, UK with her husband and provides transition advice, workshops, and training on cultural competency in the USA, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Anne P. Copeland, Ph.D.

Founder and Executive Director of The Interchange Institute​

Dr. Copeland is a clinical psychologist with expertise in family and cultural transition. She provides cross-cultural training for individuals and families moving to and from the United States. She also trains others to deliver tailored, individualized cross-cultural orientation programs through the Crossing Cultures with Competence program, through which almost 500 interculturalists have been trained across the globe.

Dr. Copeland has written several books on families and transition (Studying Families, Sage 1991, Separating Together 1997, and In Their Own Voice 2011), and has authored over 90 research articles, chapters, and professional presentations.

Prior to founding The Interchange Institute in 1997, Dr. Copeland was Associate Professor of Psychology at Boston University, where she conducted research and research supervision in psychological aspects of family process assessment, ethnicity, cultural influences, immigration, development, developmental disabilities and affective development. During her tenure at the University, she relocated with her family to work in London in 1988, where she was the academic advisor for Boston University’s British Programmes.

Dr. Copeland has directed many research studies on expatriate families’ experience, including multinational in-depth analyses of the social, familial, and personal aspects of moving to a new country. Recent work focuses on the personal and family side of international short-term assignments, on the role of one’s home – its design and layout – on one’s expatriate experience, on the challenges of moving to a country that is perceived as very similar, the experiences of high school exchange host families, and the ways in which having experienced being different as a child has an impact on the expatriate experience.

Dr. Copeland lives with her husband in Boston, MA, and Barters Island, ME.