For learning to occur, two requirements must be met: 1) you must have a teacher who is ready to teach, and 2) you must have a learner who is ready to learn.
Today, we're going to focus on one aspect of being a teacher who is ready to teach in a virtual training environment (e.g. Zoom, WebEx, GoToWebinar).
Anybody can teach...right?
It's true that anybody can teach. But not everybody is a good teacher -- at least not naturally.
If you are a naturally good teacher, then know that I am envious. I am not. I have had to go to many teacher trainings, read several books, and watch many training videos so that I can do a better job teaching others. But the good news is that I have actually improved! Which means that no matter where your natural ability falls on the spectrum of awesome teaching, you can move in the direction of "More Awesome" with a little bit work.
One of keys of being an awesome teacher is to make a training session engaging and lively. This is especially true if you are doing virtual training. It can be difficult to talk to your screen, not able to see who you are talking to or whether they are paying attention.
In this post, Natasha from SpringPeople shares 7 tips on keeping virtual training sessions more lively. Take it away Natasha!
1. Invest in a Reliable Technology
This is probably one of the most important considerations while conducting an online training event. There are number of feature-rich online training platforms, many of which allow you to teach multi-session online events seamlessly. But there are many factors to consider before investing in a new platform, such as:
- The number of attendees
- Pre-recorded content or live demonstrations
- Are there multiple ways to access the live training session? Like with a smartphone, live streaming or downloading etc.
- File sharing
A trainer also needs to ensure the reliable way to schedule the online training, so attendees receive the invite with all details and can also quickly save it in their calendars. Just make sure to familiarize yourself with the software and its features so there are no surprises during the session!
2. Set Expectations Ahead of Time
The main advantage of an online training session is its flexible timings. But, it can lead to distractions. When the attendees are not being watched they may feel to get away by just checking the instant messages and emails during the training event. It is important for a trainer to mention few expectations while sending the training schedule:
- Attendees should meet before and during the online training event.
- To attend from a distraction-free environment.
- The level of participation you expect.
This can be as simple as saying, "Thanks for finding a distraction-free place to watch the training! Just a fair warning, I have been known to call on people for participation -- so make sure you're following along!"
3. Keep It Interactive
Often, online training events includes heavy text presentations. Instead, keep it light to encourage participation of attendees. This will help them feel involved and motivate them to learn. Here are a few tips to avoid lengthy lectures and a lot of text:
- Provide realistic scenarios with learning opportunities (learn more about Scenario Based Training here).
- Include stories that relate to real life benefits.
- Include questions, polls or activities to make them interact with you and with their attendees.
This doesn't have to be complicated. And if you're not used to using handouts, scenarios, or polls, keep it simple the first few times until you get the hang of it. It really doesn't take much to interact with the audience.
4. Let Them Engage With Each Other
The main drawback of an online training session is trying to maintain the attention of attendees. Sometimes, the unavoidable distractions like checking the smartphone or thinking about a lengthy to-do list will take over your trainee's attention. You can't enforce a "no checking email" policy from your computer -- but you can try to bring their interest back every few minutes by:
- Posing reflection questions and letting them share with everybody
- Setting online tasks or activities (and let them tell others what they did)
- Gain their attention by explaining consequences of NOT following procedure (bonus if the consequences are funny)
Engagement can come from laughter, answering questions, asking questions, performing a task, etc. Think about a stand-up comedian -- one person and a microphone can keep us engaged for over an hour. They do this by making us laugh every 30 seconds or so. Now, since we're not all stand-up comedians, it might be hard for us to always drive engagement. So let them talk to each other to explain, share, or ask.
5. Less is More
When it comes to an online training session, less is more! Keep the class relatively small so that each attendee will have the opportunity to participate and interact with the trainer during the event. A group of five attendees are the ideal size for an online training event.
By having a small group of attendees, it will encourage them to complete an activity, and a trainer can also offer input without making others feel judged. With a small group, each participant can learn effectively and understand the topic even better.
6. Supporting Materials
Enhance the virtual learning experience by providing supplementary activities or supporting materials like knowledge base articles, printable handouts or videos that attendees can study or watch at their leisure. Online exercises are also beneficial.
Understand your audience and create custom articles or handouts that they can use during training or easily reference after training.
You can also ask them to print your handouts and fill them out during training.
7. Know your Audience
Know your trainees, their experience level, and background. It is important to match your voice tone – pace and narrative voice to the audience level. You can more easily cover a large volume with experienced people, than you can with new hires. However, regardless of the dynamics of audiences, you should speak clearly, concisely and enthusiastically. Never rush through the content, it will lose audience’s attention.
You can do this by talking with them before the training begins. I know a great trainer who meets with the staff before training so he can get a better idea of what motivates them, what their challenges are, and what their jobs consist of. During training, he is able to bring all of that knowledge into his examples, questions, and exercises. Connecting with his "class" is much easier when he knows who they are.
What else have you found helpful when doing a virtual training?
About the guest author, Natasha: She is a Content Manager at SpringPeople. She has been in the edu-tech industry for 7+ years. She writes about online training, corporate training, training related articles which helps the audience in understanding all about training in details. SpringPeople is a global premier training provider for high-end and emerging technologies, methodologies and products. Partnered with parent organizations behind these technologies, SpringPeople delivers authentic and comprehensive training on related topics.