Tips for Conducting Wildly Successful Online Training
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If you are a trainer or have ever had the opportunity to present your ideas to an audience then you know that there are certain aspects to the interaction that help enrich the experience. Non-verbal cues – being able to “read the room”, group discussions to enhance engagement, and the ability to break the room into adhoc groups – basically enhanced engagement and participation.
Recent developments, COVID-19 notwithstanding, has necessitated that we conduct an increasing number of our professional interactions, including Training, online. Virtual training has myriad benefits, such as, cost savings convenience, flexible learning experience and enhanced productivity etc. However, there are some limitations that can make the tradeoff between the traditional classroom and virtual training unrewarding if unchecked. The level of engagement and influence that one has come to expect in a physical training may not be achieved by applying the same effort.
At the end of the day, the success of your online class, just like your quintessential course delivered in a face to face setting is dependent on relationships – influencing the virtual delegate, almost as much as it is on subject matter expertise.
This is my take on considerations you can make and issues to look out for to help make your online training a success:
Your Administrator is the Boss
Remember when we used to hold Training Events in Conference halls?
In the classroom you are sensitive to your students’ needs and are able to react with ease and mostly with minimal disruption. There is the ever-helpful Administration Staff and IT on speed dial, and if things get really hairy, you could always walk on over to the office to resolve administrative and technical issues. When planning and conducting an online training as well, you need to consider that dealing with a ‘small issue’ can negatively impact the trainees’ experience. Having someone log in and play administrator helps take care of those issues ranging from technical issues such as connectivity or access to course material etc. to avoid disruption.
To move people from Attention to Engagement
It’s been said that you already have your audience’s attention at the start of the presentation. That therefore the task is not to grab attention, but to nurture that attention and transform it into engagement. I have found that while it was relatively easier to do so in the classroom, what with all the gimmicks and tools, in an online training in it is easy to sit behind a desk, staring into a camera and lose your audience’s attention and sight of engagement. It helps therefore, to move when delivering the content, slowly and naturally, building energy and intensity and taking your audience with you.
Call Out Names
Participation from a live audience is almost guaranteed and as a trainer you will miss it no more than when you are staring and speaking at your computer screen with no idea if there is life on the other end. Having cameras on is one mitigation but this can be a problem where network bandwidth is a concern. My suggestion is break the ice by letting everyone introduce themselves at the outset, with their cameras on. To keep that connection going and your audience engaged you can encourage participation by singling out your trainees by name when requesting for contribution – asking a specific person a specific question, at which point they can choose to do so on video or by presenting.
All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy
Just because it’s an online training does not mean you should let the grass grow beneath your feet. There are nifty applications available to trainers to energize and excite the class. One good example is mentimeter (www.mentimeter.com) which allows you to interact with your audience via polls and competitive quizzes that introduce an element of fun and enliven your participants.
Other points worth mentioning include conducting the training sessions in short stints and incorporating health breaks in between. This increases the concentration span as the delegates are able to relax. During such breaks an exercise could be given just to ensure full participation after the break.
You could also incorporate rich media such as demos and videos to vary the pace as well as introduce something new that could be adopted by the delegates in their organizations when conducting awareness sessions.
Engaging other professionals and subject matter experts to add perspective to your training course. The professionals can log in to the training from wherever they are just to share and enrich the experience of your participants. A different opinion is a breath of fresh air into the class after only just hearing what the main trainer has to say. Having another voice brings in a better understanding of the course as well as bringing out the value of the training.
While the above is by no means exhaustive, it is as succinct a summary as I can manage of what has proved useful in my experience. That said, it is important to remember, that there is no substitute for the right content, delivered in the right format by a well-prepared and knowledgeable facilitator.
As James Bates said, “The most profound words will remain unread unless you can keep the learner engaged. You can’t see their eyes to know if they got it so … say it, show it, write it, demo it and link it to an activity.”
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