Great Virtual Training
And when I say delivering, I’m talking about delivering literally hundreds of sessions to the most widely diverse audience you can imagine.
These sessions include international outsourcing companies, dental supply companies, software companies, financial companies and even distributors for irrigation systems, not to mention pet insurance and sporting goods. Well, you get the picture – categories as broad as you can imagine.
All of this experience has helped me become great at virtual training & facilitation.
I’ve come to love delivering virtual workshops and moreover, I know my virtual training truly teaches. I hear it from my participants ALL the time. Based on I’ve learned over these four years, I’d like to share a few of my top secrets for virtual training delivery.
Four Secrets for Great Virtual Training
Virtual Training Secret # 1) – Serve your audience above your content. While the content matters, it only matters if it’s being absorbed by your participants. Great facilitators learn to read their audience which is easy to do in an instructor led class. Without “reading” your virtual audience and responding to their needs, you are nothing more than a talking head … one that they can and will easily tune out. Reading your audience starts with, subtle things like:
a. Noticing how quickly participants are responding to polls and chats.
b. Being aware of whether or not they are asking you questions.
c. Seeing how they respond in breakout session.
I know there are a number of virtual training software platforms that will show the facilitator various levels of learner engagement but I like using the simple old fashioned way: check in with them.
When you’ve taught your learners how to engage with you virtually and set the expectation that you want their interactions, simply follow the virtual training basics and check in with them. If I hear ‘crickets’ on the other end of the call, I ask questions and wait for them to respond, for example
“Does this seem like it will work for you?” … Then, wait them out.
You can also inquire about how they plan to apply what you’re teaching. The key here is to be more wedded to the audience than you are to the content. And when you get a response such as “We can’t do that at my company”, or “That doesn’t work for us because…” you need to course correct. Skip that chunk of material or find a way to make it resonate with them.
Instigating a dialog among the participants is another great way to drive engagement. “Bob, you say that your department doesn’t use this skill/feature, Sue, what about your department? Do you use/need this?”
If you modify what you’re delivering appropriately, and show them that THEY matter more than the content, your audience will be so appreciative to you for hitting their relevance needs that engagement will automatically go up.
Virtual Training Secret # 2. – Orchestrate the visual experience of your workshop like a film director. Virtual learning really is THAT visual. No matter how great your content, you need to be sure that you are creating the visual experience and a virtual training environment that will optimize learning and keep people visually engaged. The reason is text on slides gets boring really quickly. How do you do that, you may be wondering? For starters, be sure that your content is visually appealing. Start with an exciting PowerPoint template. And I’m not talking about the corporate template that everyone has seen over and over again. Surprise your participants with a template that is something new, bold and/or refreshing.
But that’s not enough. Keep your text to a minimum and you the facilitator will bring the content to life with the details. The 5 X 5 rule for presentations (5 bullets per page, 5 words per bullet) is a good goal to strive for. Then add in lots of fun visuals.
Finally, when it’s time to present, use pointers and highlighters to keep the group on ‘point.’
Virtual Training Secret # 3 – Develop the vocal skills of a radio personality. Have you ever noticed the appeal that a great radio voice has? Think of your favorite hosts from NPR and you’ll know what I’m talking about. I can listen to Garrison Keillor or Stuart McClain of the Vinyl Café for hours without getting bored. So to support your great visual content, develop a voice that people will enjoy listening to. A voice that will keep them engaged.
Your voice needs to reflect energy and enthusiasm through strong vocal projection. Your voice needs to sound credible and confident through clear articulation. You voice needs to be loud enough to be easily heard but never so loud that people want to mute you. Your inflection needs to draw people in to what you’re teaching, underscoring those things that are important. And finally your participants will appreciate a voice that knows the merit and timing for a good healthy pause.
Your voice is the vehicle for you personality when you’re teaching virtually so invest the time and effort to really develop this component for virtual training.
Virtual Training Secret #4 – Know Thy Platform –Whatever platform you’re delivering from (Adobe, Webex, Lync, GoToMeeting) will have it’s own unique foibles. So PREPARE! A great virtual facilitator must log in the hours up front to do three things effectively: 1) navigate your way around the classroom elegantly 2) guide others around the platform to solve the problems they are facing and by the way, their screen will in most cases look differently than yours and 3) troubleshoot common problems and not so common problems.
A great facilitator needs to be ready to address most any eventuality during delivery. Unfortunately these are not always predictable. For instance, I’ve had audio suddenly go out for no rational reason: theirs, mine or both. I’ve had one participant in a class that couldn’t ‘raise hand’ like everyone else and had to remember to check in with them periodically.
I’ve had challenges I could never have dreamed of occur periodically and there was simply no preparation that could have readied me. So, a great facilitator also needs to be able to think on her feet when these occasions occur and remember the golden rule: Don’t bring the participants into the drama of your facilitation world. They don’t care and they don’t want their time wasted. Try and solve the problem elegantly but most of all, quickly. If you can’t resolve it in 5 minutes or less, reschedule your class – you will have lost the participants and your credibility if you go longer than that.