In today’s global market, many organizations span multiple cities, countries, and often continents. For these organizations, employee training and development can be quite expensive for the company when employees have to travel to attend conferences and seminars.
To minimize these costs, many of these organizations choose to train their global staff virtually through webinars, using online meeting tools and software. As you probably know (or should know by now), a webinar is a conference or meeting that takes place over the internet and is therefore ideal for multiple participants in multiple locations at the same time.
Virtual training is rapidly gaining traction in the corporate world, allowing employers to offer their teams the many benefits of a live course session at no associated cost.
Preparing for a virtual audience is very different from scheduling attendees, face-to-face, and physical meetings. For virtual training events to be effective, increased participation and interaction must be built into the experience.
Suppose you plan to participate in your training events virtually. In that case, you want to make sure that your audience not only listens to your training material but also enjoys them, and most importantly, ensure they are retained. Below are some effective strategies you can implement to plan and execute your virtual workouts properly.
Invest in stable and reliable virtual technology
Probably the most important thing when adopting virtual training is to research and request a solid, reliable platform to host your events.
One of the most common, albeit harmful, mistakes you can make is to start playing virtual training as a small side project that doesn’t require enough time or resources that is allocated to it.
If you intend to take advantage of virtual training’s capacity, accessibility, and efficiency, it will make sense to invest in a reliable and versatile virtual platform.
This is especially true for full courses that require classroom tools such as boardrooms, whiteboards, and voting systems.
There are several online platforms, such as Callbridge, Zoom, and others. Many of these services allow users to run multi-session online courses on an ongoing basis.
Of course, several factors should be taken into account before choosing a platform, such as:
- Are there different ways to access the webinar (mobile, streaming, download, etc.) and not just through a laptop?
- Availability of self-managed software that allows users to listen to audio, watch videos, etc.
- Availability of tools allowing all participants to send messages, answer questions on their screens, or discuss their lessons with the instructor.
- Does the platform allow users to share files securely?
- If the platform allows the facilitator to upload hosted content shared in a secure location.
- If the platform has been specially designed to support learning.
- If the platform is already used by reputable people or companies and has good reviews.
- If the session requires live demonstrations or will primarily be pre-recorded content.
- Whether the session is for a small group or a large audience.
Design materials to engage
Design matters to any coach, regardless of how it is delivered. However, it is especially important for virtual training. Less is more when it comes to creating slides, and the correct visual metaphor will always triumph over a page of text to attract students.
Consider how participants will access resources. You don’t want to click between windows while presenting. A snapshot of information is preferable to a detailed resource, which can be emailed after the session.
When bandwidth is an issue, the instructor should look for alternatives to using long webcams and videos. Text chat, collaborative whiteboard, and fun memes are all good options. Reducing the image resolution will also help reduce “lag time” issues.
Prepare pre-session activities
For early learners, there may be exercises, surveys, and word puzzles programmed into the mix. This will mentally enable them to prepare for the content to follow and set the stage for more involvement and interaction. The host can also perform technical checks, such as volume and clarity of sound, to reduce problems during the presentation.
This type of interaction helps students stay online until the start of the session, instead of going out to check their email and social media platforms.
For new users, links to short videos on YouTube about using the platform can be sent to students in advance to help them understand how to navigate the platform.
Finally, the moments before the session can help the coach connect with his audience and exchange information about himself and his team.
There should be more ways to access training content to ensure that employees can access it when and where it makes sense. For example, you can personally take an instructor-led session and upload it to an online platform for all employees, especially remote employees. You can also create a combination of the toolset to practice group activities, even if there is no one to lead them.
It is important to record your training, but not as an afterthought. Many learning teams record personal sessions and then stream their teams’ recordings remotely as if they were new content. Reusing this content will not have the same impact, as it was not designed for this mode of consumption—instead, design learning experiences for an individual experience.
Creating the time and space that employees devote to learning also helps increase the effectiveness of the training. For any employee, it can sometimes feel like the organization has not created a learning space. To combat this, consider setting up a monthly time frame (hours if need be) for employees in each office, role, and time zone when all employees are allowed to stop their normal work and devote time to learning. This way, training, and learning feel less of an obligation and more of an opportunity regardless of their position.
Don’t be scared to ask your students to turn off email notifications, phone calls and limit other distractions, but sometimes allow flexibility as they might need to attend to those things. As coaches, you also need to avoid distractions by putting away your phone and putting off notifications from your email. You need to honor your participants and make sure you are fully focused on them. It is very easy to look at the messages and lose concentration.
Log in early
Logging in 10-20 minutes before the start of the session will give you time to test the sound and familiarize yourself with the platform’s tools. If you’re presenting with more than one person, check for unnecessary comments from the microphones. This includes those that can be on a panel and can be connected remotely.
Use a hands-free headset.
While adding a hands-free headset may increase the initial setup cost, it will help you deliver a stress-free seminar. More importantly, it makes it easier for you to control other tools and functions. Additionally, a hands-free headset will improve the presentation’s audio quality, benefit live participants, as well as those who will watch the recorded training.
Involve the participants
Ensure to involve the participants early and often. With the training not being physical, you are competing for attention with everything else around the participants and on their screen. As a rule of thumb, try to involve participants every four minutes. You can use strategies such as online breakout rooms, polls/votes, questionnaires, shared whiteboard, sharing of photos, a show of hand, stretch intervals, and text chat.
Stay relevant with real-life examples and case studies.
Participants are smart and knowledgeable. They are constantly collecting new information. Then, by using case studies and real-life examples, you can increase your participation. This is not only a great way to get them to internalize their training as it leads them to problem-solving, but it also allows them to use their analytical skills. Case studies allow participants to use their experiences and skills and allow them to focus on finding out how they would solve a particular problem in real life.
Use voice and visual chat features
Messaging has grown to be an integral part of our lives, and while it may seem like a simple tool, it is one of the most powerful engagement mechanisms that can be applied to a virtual training environment. The integration of the voice and video chat functionality in a virtual workshop allows the trainer and the participants to establish a connection and helps when difficulties arise. Using a chat feature enables participation through tools such as file sharing, screen sharing, and collaborative whiteboards. The chat function creates responsibilities for the students, as they can now be seen and heard in real-time, even if they are connected remotely. Images and voices are strong environments that elicit strong emotional responses and increase engagement and knowledge retention.
Set-up after training mechanisms
The trainer should promote reinforcement and support the transfer of learning. As a suggestion, send a transcript of the post-training questions and answers, along with copies of any additional reading or resources discussed online. Providing a link to the recorded document will also allow participants to review their learning and retain key concepts.