This post was originally written on my blog in January 2011.

As someone who has delivered online courses on a weekly basis for the past 2 years, I’ve experienced my fair share of interruptions. In this post I offer two tips for dealing with noise-based interruptions whilst delivering online training.

Picture the scene – you’ve found a quiet room in an uninhabited part of the building and 10 minutes after starting the training, sirens wail, builders hammer and gardeners mow – yes all these have happened to me (not at the same time!). There are some noises that are unavoidable and short of stopping the course and trying to find an alternative location to deliver from, there’s not much that can be done apart from to talk a little louder!

Where I work, we use Webex to deliver the visual element of an online course but the audio is delivered via a teleconferencing system (the trainer and the delegates dial-in). Delegates often attend from their desks in open plan offices which means that there can be background noise which not only affects my concentration as a Trainer, it also affects the other delegates.

So my first tip is, whether you are using integrated VOIP or a telephone conferencing system, find out how you, as the host, can mute all participants.

Staying with the telephone, whenever an individual joins or leaves the teleconference call there will usually be a high-pitched beep. The system that we use has two distinct tones – one to indicate that somebody has joined and another to indicate that someone has left. There is also the option to require everyone to say their name when they join and an automated voice announces their arrival with “xxx has joined the conference”.

The beeps/announcements, which can be heard by all participants (not just the host), are distracting, especially when people log in late. Often, when the presentation/training has finished and it’s “question time”, people who have no questions will leave the teleconference with the result that their “leaving beep” will cut right through the question that somebody else is asking, meaning that I have to ask the delegate to repeat the question.

Tip number 2 therefore, is to disable “the beep” either altogether or immediately before the training session starts.