Updated: May 21
Whether you have employees working from home or offices scattered across the globe, it’s possible to transform in-person training into interactive, informative, and engaging virtual training that your participants will love.
Often in-person training is delivered in full-day sessions; however, this approach is not optimal for virtual training. It’s best to structure virtual training in a way that enables participants to learn, retain information and be engaged. This means focusing on the most relevant topics required to perform the newly desired tasks and breaking up the agenda into smaller digestible chunks. Any supporting information that doesn’t make it into the virtual session can be made into training resources, handouts or eLearning.
When designed correctly, virtual training can help your company save valuable time and resources. So how do you ensure learners listen, and even better, retain their knowledge?
1. Begin with engagement.
By acknowledging learners and encouraging them to participate, you’ll make them feel involved. This can be done very simply by setting aside a few minutes at the beginning to get to know your attendees better.
Start by going over the basics, such as how to use chat for responding to questions, whiteboards for writing, how to raise their virtual hands, and vote in polls. Then practice by asking a couple of yes/no questions and have everyone answer in the chat or raise their hand for a yes.
2. Set clear goals, ground rules, and expectations.
Having web cameras on can help you ensure everyone is attentive and participating. Ask everyone to shut down all other programs, including their emails, and put away their devices. Let your attendees know beforehand if there will be questions or quizzes during the training, so they can be prepared to be focused.
3. Follow with an interesting icebreaker to help build connections.
For example, create a trivia game on the training topic and see what participants already know. This is a great way to get the conversation started and settle people's nerves.
4. Use slides to support discussion, rather than as the primary focus.
Slides should have minimal information, emphasizing key points or takeaways, with high-quality images that are applicable to the topic. Present material in an engaging way, telling stories and giving examples, to help bring the topics to life.
5. Offer opportunities for interaction at least every 10 minutes or less.
While there are many ways to connect with your audience, such as polls and questions, the key is to do it at regular intervals. If you don’t engage with your attendees every 10 or so minutes, they will have the tendency to lose interest.
6. Incorporate breakout sessions.
Breakout rooms allow you to assign participants to smaller groups to work on assignments and reinforce learning through activities and challenges. Encourage learners to ask questions, share their experiences, and collaborate. Once done, make sure to have all groups present back to the whole training class.
7. Mix in video and guest presenters...
to enhance the learning experience and add interest in the training topics. Variety keeps engagement high!
8. Use screen shares as opportunities for collaboration.
These are great to use to get feedback on a document, share visual resources, or conduct screencast (Show Me/Try It) demonstrations.
9. Have participants use the chat feature to respond to questions.
This is especially helpful for participants who tend to be shy about speaking up. Depending on the length of the training and size of the class, you may decide to dedicate a member from your team to monitor the chat window and filter the questions.
10. Survey your learners via polls to get them involved and to give feedback.
You can create polls to quiz participants’ knowledge of a topic. One nice feature of polls is that they provide real-time results for everyone to see…and another great way for you to measure engagement.
Polls can also be a great way to create competitions. For example, you can create a contest in which points are awarded for every correct answer. The learner or team with the most points at the end wins a prize.
11. Use a whiteboard.
For example, you could divide the participants into two teams at the beginning of the class and ask them to list what they expect to take away (learning objectives) from the training. Learners can then type, write, or draw on the screen to share and brainstorm their ideas.
12. Schedule breaks.
Learners are less likely to be distracted if they know they'll have 10-15 minutes to themselves at various points throughout the class. After a break, resume training with an activity – a quiz, poll, ice breaker, etc. This will make sure that everyone is engaged, again. During breaks, use a placeholder slide with music, as well as a countdown timer.
13. Create a monthly newsletter...
your learners can opt-in to as the final call to action in your training presentation. Focus on a new discussion topic in each edition, including useful tips and tricks. The key is to inspire your learners and provide them with real value. You can also invite subject matter experts to write guest posts and provide a unique perspective.
14. Send follow-up emails to learners immediately after the training.
Include an action plan with brief assignments for them to apply what they just learned. Use these opportunities to allow learners to apply their knowledge and practice their skills back on the job, or discuss their experiences by giving them specific work scenarios to work on.
15. Ask your audience for ongoing feedback.
Conduct surveys to get their input, or invite them to participate in focus groups. This will allow you to improve your training program’s strategy and ensure that your content is still on target.
When you follow these best practices, you will ensure your employees get a great experience with virtual training that is well-planned, informative and engaging. And you may just be surprised at how easy it is to create successful virtual training that increases content retention and continues to inspire a culture of learning that goes beyond your usual classroom!