Venturing into virtual territory without a road map for success can lead to a bumpy and uncertain journey. Although virtual delivery differs from classroom delivery, there are similarities. A few simple guidelines will ensure success with your next (or first) virtual venture.
On March 27, I will host a webinar on Conducting Your First Virtual Session for training professionals looking to develop their virtual skills. I’ll share my top tips from nearly 1,000 virtual training sessions I’ve facilitated, including 200 in just the past year. The session is free, courtesy of The Ken Blanchard Companies. Here are a few topics I’ll be covering.
Setting Up for Success. Setting the context for your training initiatives is critical whether participants are meeting virtually or face-to-face. Unless the organization sets the appropriate context, only 10% to 23% of participants will do something different because of training.
Keep Them Focused. Engaging content is key in any training program, but more so in a virtual setting where participants can be tempted to multitask. The number one reason virtual training fails is poorly designed content and delivery. It’s important to know your audience’s attention span. Keep the pace quick and ensure that content is interesting, relevant, and engaging to the learner.
Pay Attention to Learning Modes. People remember 20% of what they see, 40% of what they see and hear, and 70% of what they see, hear, and do. Use polls, simulations, puzzles, and games to keep involvement and interest high. Insert creative visuals in your PowerPoint® slide decks and use virtual breakout sessions to get people talking in small groups and to mirror the experience they would have in a traditional classroom setting.
Make Sure Virtual Learners Hear Their Voice. Avoid going into lecture mode. Don’t simply read responses directly from the chat box—elaborate on them. Be specific when acknowledging participants’ comments (“Very perceptive of you, Roger. Could you say more about that?”). Keep track of who has and has not commented and encourage the silent ones. Use multiple teaching methods to explain the most important concepts and ensure that participants are using different modes of learning.
Utilize a Producer. Producers are logistical and technical experts who have pre-session, mid-session, and post-session responsibilities. They ensure that all platform functionalities and voice connections are working properly to support the success of the session. They will troubleshoot technical obstacles and unexpected circumstances during the session so that the facilitator can focus on the learner experience.
Know Your Platform. Become thoroughly familiar with your platform. Don’t assume the LMS will work perfectly just because you’ve added it to the computer system. Test and double-check everything well in advance of your launch. Test your platform, setup, and installation before the event and remind learners to log in early to avoid missing content. Make sure your producer knows the platform well and is prepared to manage the logistical and technical aspects—scheduling the conference and phone lines, sending out workshop communications, uploading slides and polls, providing technical support to participants, etc.
Incorporate Reporting, Analytics, and Assessment Capabilities. You can’t manage what you can’t measure, so tracking and analysis tools are vital to tracking progress and results for participants. Measure completion rates, attrition rates, and comprehension through skills application. Consider pre- and post-training assessments to measure performance before and after training occurs, and then benchmark progress.
Virtual training can be fast and cost effective once you know how. Like all good training experiences, if the basics are done well, the learning journey can be smooth and successful.
I hope you’ll join me—and hundreds of your peers from around the world—for the free March 27 webinar on Conducting Your First Virtual Session. Use this link to register.
About the Author
Brent Bystedt is the virtual practice leader for The Ken Blanchard Companies and is responsible for the development and mentoring of Blanchard’s virtual facilitators. In addition, he is a subject matter expert in Blanchard virtual programs and serves as the Blanchard thought leader for virtual training and delivery.