A client recently asked if we could deliver a training class virtually.  They had attended several of our  in-person courses and found them to be practical, dynamic and interactive.  However, 100% of their meetings are 100% virtual.  So, they asked us to conduct their next series of training events in the mode that they use (using Microsoft LiveMeeting).  They wanted to be able to make a direct connection between the training experience and the future sessions they would be conducting.  And, since our training is all about how to be effective, we thought this would be a fantastic opportunity to see if we could be just as dynamic, practical, and interactive virtually as we are physically.

I’m proud to say we successfully conducted their 3-day training class virtually (18 total hours in 3 days).  At the conclusion of the training, we sent out an evaluation to the participants asking them to comment on their experience.  “Best virtual class ever taken”, “Kept my attention – very interactive”, “No technical hurdles”, “It was fun”, are some of the comments we received.  While we were grateful to receive those accolades, we weren’t surprised.  Why?  Because we had intentionally planned a virtual learning experience that matched and, in some cases, exceeded the traditional classroom experience by using proven engagement techniques.

The Invisible Trainer

My greatest fear in delivering this training was that someone would log in, put the phone on mute, and check email or do other work throughout the training.  In our physical classes, we know if someone is a “workaholic” because we can see them typing or texting.  Additionally, even those appearing to be focused may not be.  Just because someone is sitting there physically doesn’t mean they are not mentally at the beach.  With those prominent dysfunctions in mind (and since I obviously couldn’t see them), I had to deploy a variety of engagement techniques to keep their attention.

For example, I used many of the tools within LiveMeeting: polls, whiteboards, slideboards, Shared Notes, and even the “raise your hand” feature within the Q&A section.  I also used a series of round-robin questioning techniques where I would frequently call on people by going “around the room” (I had the list of participants on my screen alphabetically by first name and would simply go down the list of names) asking them to answer or read something out loud.

Additionally, we converted our hard copy of the training manual into a fill-in-the-blank PDF document that allowed the participants to type directly onto it.  We showed them how to do a split-screen by having my PPT slides displayed via LiveMeeting on the left side of their screen and the training manual on the right side of the screen.  I knew that in order to avoid the “mentally at the beach” syndrome, I needed to ask them to do something every 4-5 minutes (type, answer, read, raise hand, vote, etc.).

One participant provided some feedback that initially sounded negative but was actually a great compliment.  He said, “I was frustrated by the training.” I said, “I’m sorry to hear that.  What do you mean by ‘frustrated’ and what part did that?”  He said, “Normally, when I attend virtual training classes, it’s an excellent way for me to do other work and get caught up.  This class was so engaging and interactive, I didn’t have time to do anything else.”  I said, “Thanks, that’s exactly how I planned it.”

I encourage you to add variety to your virtual training classes.  Avoid using over-wordy slides.  Get comfortable with the technology.  Speak in a voice that’s clear, articulate, and commanding. In fact, I stand when I conduct the training so that I don’t get “lazy” with my voice.  And, practice, practice, practice… (I rehearse the engagement techniques, rewrite them until they are clear and easy to understand, and then I type my final script of how I’m going to explain the exercises into the “Notes” section of PPT.)  With more and more companies going virtual, the ability to deliver an effective training class virtually is an essential skill.  After all, it’s a great day when you can deliver world-class training without leaving home!

If you’re interested in becoming a virtual trainer, or simply need a skilled facilitator for your next online meeting, contact us!