Virtual training is fast gaining foothold in the corporate world as it allows employee to offer their teams many of the benefits of a live classroom session without the associated cost.
Of course, preparing for a virtual audience is quite different than planning or in-person, face to face participants. For virtual training events to be effective, greater engagement and interaction must be incorporated into the experience.
If you are planning to go virtual with your training events, then you will clearly want to guarantee that your audience is not only listening to your training materials (and not just checking their emails or doing secondary work), but enjoying them, learning from them and most importantly retaining them.
Below are a few effective strategies that you can implement to properly plan and execute your virtual training sessions.
Step 1: Invest in Stable, Reliable Virtual Technology:
The most important consideration when adopting virtual training in researching and commissioning a reliable and robust platform on which to run your event.
If you are going to take the advantage of the capability, convenience and cost effectiveness of virtual training, it only makes sense to invest in a reliable and versatile virtual platform.
There are several feature rich online meeting platforms such as MastroConference, GoToWebinar, WebEx and more. Many of these services allow users to teach multi-session online classes in a seamless manner.
There are several factors to be considered before deciding on a platform, such as:-
• Whether the session is for a small group or large audience.
• Whether the session requires live demonstrations or will it be monthly pre recorded content.
• There are multiple ways to access webinar(mobile, streaming, downloads, etc.) and not just via PC.
• Whether the platform allows the facilitator to upload shareable content to a secure location.
• Whether the platform allows the user to share the files securely.
• The availability of tools that allow all the participants to send messages, answer questions their screen or address their instructor about their lessons.
Before you decide to go on a platform or next strictly based on features and reviews and select two or three services, schedule product demos and then take them for a test drive with their free trials. Doing this will allow you to see how each service stacks up against the others.
Make sure to choose the right technology before you start with the content delivery. Take the time to look at different feature sets, go over reviews and intelligently determine which software is perfect for you.
Step 2: Seek Energetic and Skilled Facilitators:
A skilled and seasonal facilitator should be able to grab and hold the attention of the listeners, encourage participants and build connections. The facilitator must be able to facilitate the overall audience experience and skilfully tree the session in the right direction. Therefore, it is important that the facilitator not only has the correct degree of knowledge and experience in subject area, but also knows how to encourage a remote audience and keep participants hooked to the screen.
This requires a few specific traits:
• Jut as for in person conferences, if the speaker is dull, the audience get bored, its a similar case for virtual events. It is just important to be energetic, passionate and provide great content and conversation.
• Typing quickly and being able to communicate succinctly.
• Being witty.
• Multitasking (including managing group chats).
• Being patient. You will need to build in pause time to allow the people to connect to the session, type in their answers, etc.
Step 3: Find a Co-Facilitator:
In a webinar there are always two facilitators. This is for several practical reasons. While one iOS speaking or leading, the other can monitor the chats, provide feedback and address questions that arise.
Moreover, it is helpful for participants to hear two perspectives and two voices as it improves the event’s flow. Importantly, ensure each person compliments the others skills and is likely to be good match for a successful team. This is especially true if the topic is complex or a large group is attending the session.
Step 4: Build Interest With Pre-Session Activities:
A good way to build interest around the event is to get in touch with participants several times in the week leading up to date.
There are several steps that can be taken:
• Send out the expectations of the webinar well ahead of time: Create interest in the session by posting information via e-mails, company newsletters, videos, etc. The content should inform participants about the sessions and how it is going to help them improve professionally and /or personally.
• Ice- Breaker: Ice-breakers help to build a sense of community from first point of interaction. When you are about to start, get the session moving with an interesting ice-breaker. You can start with a game or something simple and unexpected. You can also ask questions and reaffirm what learning needs the session will address.
• Hold on a flipped session: Flipped session incorporates reverse instructions which has participants watching lesson material on their own before they view the main lesson. This is especially helpful because it gives the participants initial knowledge and understanding prior to the start of the training, thereby allowing more time for useful interactions.
Step 5: Pique Interest With Content Previews:
The issue here is that attendees often spend valuable time pursuing the material before paying attention at the start of the presentation.
It’s not difficult to realise that if the attendees go into the session already loosely familiar with the content, then they will be prepared mentally for the content to follow and will likely stay engaged with the presenter from the outset.
A snapshot of information is easier to manage than a detailed resource, so create and distribute a condensed version of the training manual/ printouts ahead of time, as this will allow for:
• Participants to formulate specific questions before the event.
• The conversation would have already begun in the minds of the participants.
• Prevent participants from clicking between the windows during the presentations.
Still it is important to take care that you do not provide too much information or you will find hard to keep your attendee’s attention during the event. If they like they have already got the gist of the training materials, they are much more inclined to tune out once the facilitator starts talking.
Step 6: Create a Suitable and Comfortable Environment:
Everyone is not comfortable in this type of online learning environment. Not everyone is tech savvy and some people just don’t like change. To reduce initial resistance, strive to create a comfortable environment with:
• Timing and Practice Sessions: Invite people to join the webinar 10 minutes prior so they can get comfortable as well as “live check” their audio and visuals.
• Practice: Allow everyone to play with the annotation tools, have them practice writing on the whiteboard or try out features they will use during the event.
• Environment Design: In large organisations, environmental analysis is the foremost step in designing an interactive virtual classroom training.
Organisation must consider venue design carefully due to the large variation of people and cultures and the often large side of their training groups. In addition, virtual trainers need to liaison with the organisers on the ground to understand the environment and the expectations of the audience.
Step 7: Decide Between Live Vs. Pre-recorded Webinars:
Going live is simply the best route to an engaging training session. Attendees are naturally more attentive, more willing to complete activities and are often a tad more patient when technical difficulties arise during a live event.
However, pre-recorded webinars do offer certain benefits:
• Allow people to watch at flexible times.
• The training can be distributed in several ways.
• Lower logistics planning.
Trying to quickly host a live webinar can turn into a logical disaster. Problems that may crop up include:
• Limited bandwidth
• Unavailability of replacement PCs.
• Technical support overwhelm.
In many cases, people want to take the best of both the worlds by:
• Having a live facilitator moderate the pre-recorded session. He/ she can then oversee activities and the flow of the session as necessary.
• Having key team members attend the live session and them distribute the recorded version to others. Most webinar platforms offer replay distribution services.
Step 8: Leverage Interesting and Relevant Content:
If you bring your ;earners into a tech-y virtual environments and then talk at them with a bland PowerPoint deck for an hour, everyone will leave feeling cheated.
Instead, talk with your participants and bring them into the conversation by devising a simulation, doing some role playing or collaborative learning.
• Create Interactive Learning Activities: Active employee participation is key to a successful virtual classroom training experience. Consider creating immersive activities such as scenarios and games.
• Rich eLearning Presentations: Bland slides are outdated. Instead, use interactive and versatile presentation software that offer rich learning features such as animation and special effects.
• Select Relevant Content: Engage the audience by challenging them to become active participants and learners by promoting them to think about how the subject matter relates to them, professionally or personally.
• Leverage Outside Resources: Enhance employee engagement by downloading external resources and easily, instantly sharing your screen with the participants so that everyone can see the same thing at the same time. Make it easy for the audience to collaborate on and appreciate the content.
Step 9: Endeavour To Keep Your Trainees Engaged:
Keeping the participants engaged is the first thumb rule for virtual events. Probably, you have
participated in webinars that were dearly and boring and those that were fascinating and buzzing with
Its all about creating engagement and being interactive- capturing and keeping attendees’ attention.
You want people to learn something important, something that they will appreciate. You want them to
be eager to apply what they have learned after completing the session.
• Ask Interesting and Thought- Provoking Questions: Get to the heart of the matter by asking the questions that get people talking. Think of questions that will encourage participants to chime in with the answers casually and frequently, questions that bring out some really funny answers, and others that are just enjoyable to discuss. On the other hand, try to avoid philosophical questions that require extensive discussions.
• Encourage Collaborative Learning: The whole purpose of asking questions is to encourage participants to respond in the chat. It can be frustrating for many people when presenters turn off the chat function or only allow questions to be posted to them. While you do want to limit cross-talk during your presentation, open the ‘chat floor’ and allow people to talk to each other during breakout sessions. If there is going to be a series of sessions with the same participants, this will encourage collaborative learning.
• Use A Whiteboard: Educating you attendees through illustrations will only bring good results especially if you are trying to convey specific concepts.
• Include mini activities: refrain from simply dumping information on your participants and instead spark interest with exciting mini activities.
• Show a Simulation or Animation: Depending on the complexity of the topic, an animation or full blown simulation that explains the concept might be a good idea.
• Conduct A Live Interview with a Guest Expert: Enthusiastic learners will always appreciate the chance to listen to and correspond with an expert in the field. The interview can be live or prerecorded, as long as it offers substantial values.
Step 10: Set up post-training success:
Even though virtual training has painted the board strokes for the participants, the trainer still needs to promote reinforcement and support learning transfer. As a tip, send out a transcript of the questions and answers post training, as well as, copies of any additional reading or resources that were discussed online. Providing a link to the recording, also will enable participants to revisit their learning and help them retain key concepts.