As major live events are canceled around the world, and employees are urging staff to work from home, that presentation you’ve been diligently working on might now be virtual. The response to the COVID-19 pandemic has seen many enterprise training programs turn into remote experiences. However, amidst all the chaos, we’re quickly learning how to work better together… virtually.
As a Learning and Development (L&D) manager or HR administrator, the adjustment to virtual delivery can be quite intimidating. Responding to the learner becomes more difficult when you’re gazing through a computer screen. Additionally, building effective rapport is challenging when your audience is muted and largely hidden.
But more importantly, an enterprise L&D manager has to make sure that their new virtual training workshops are as vibrant and engaging as their in-person training sessions used to be.
“You can’t just take an in-person program and deliver it virtually,” explained Sari Wilde, managing vice president of Gartner’s HR practice. “To make it work, you may need to rethink the content, facilitator, delivery approach, and possibly even change expectations for learning objectives.”
Managers can take certain steps to help ensure the success of new virtual workplace practices, including learning and development. From hosting webinars on Zoom, and increasing learner engagement with Slack, here are a few tips you can use to deliver powerful virtual training.
Key Elements of Impactful Virtual Training
Attention spans are minimal and when it is a virtual presentation, distractions are even more. Moreover, everyone is multi-tasking while working from home, it’s important that your virtual engagement is concise and to the point. Excessive information through endless slides and long-form text is the surest way to lose your audience.
It is important to significantly shorten, or spread out training so that participants can focus and absorb the learning in a virtual setting.
The use of varying delivery formats such as slides, videos, images, and Q&A sessions can be helpful in maintaining dynamism and contrast in virtual communication.
As Nancy Duarte rightly points in her book, Resonate, great speakers capture attention by toggling back and forth between what is and what could be. So, don’t only tell your audience about the solution — talk about the problem and then the solution. For example, if you have a tech-heavy presentation, throw in a story for more emotional appeal. The juxtaposition in the presentation will break the monotony and help you capture your audience’s attention, thereby helping you get your point across.
There are compelling ways to keep learners engaged throughout the session through stories, page design, and interactivity. Whether you use stories as units of information to communicate key concepts, as a way to structure the information, or as a thread throughout your learning module they are excellent tools for increasing retention in training activities.
Immersive Course Design
With live presentations, you can use expressive body language like hand gestures, facial expressions, and eye contact to keep your learners engaged. However, virtually, you have to rely heavily on the content in your presentation. Bland slides are outdated. Instead, use interactive and versatile presentation software that offers rich learning features such as animation and special effects.
Course design must be varied and include images, short videos, and bold visuals. Be sure to minimize your text on each slide and incorporate numbered and bulleted lists. Keep learners focused during a virtual training module by the use of clean, simple graphics with high contrast and readability. It also helps to include audio and video, infographics, charts, and newspaper clippings to assist in reinforcing your main idea.
It is essential to have a captivating and experienced trainer who is able to attract and sustain participant’s attention. The presenter has to work more to keep the audience energy high while maintaining control of the group dynamics. That means having a professional grasp on how to use vocal contrast, facial expressions, and hand movements to get key points across – all within the confines of a tiny digital screen.
As the trainer, Firstly do not let the first time you use your presentation technology (audio tools, webinar software, etc.) be in front of your audience. Secondly, record yourself presenting in Zoom or Google Meets from start to finish. Thirdly, watch the recording later and make improvements. Finally, test your microphone. Ensure that your voice is clear, audible. What may seem like a minor mishap in a live presentation can be extremely noticeable in a virtual setting. This is because headphones usually pick-up background noise very easily. Ensure that the room where you conduct the meeting is a reasonably quiet place. The practice is extremely crucial for trainers who are new to virtual delivery. Working with skilled or certified external trainers is another option to consider, especially if time doesn’t permit you to build your internal talent.
As Cynthia Clay, the president of NetSpeed Learning Solutions rightly states, “The best virtual facilitators combine an energetic style, comfort with technology and a desire to connect personally with participants on the other side of the web camera,”.
Remember, it’s not about interaction for the sake of interaction. It’s about engaging participants in their own learning. Recalling Confucius’ proverb: “What I hear, I forget. What I see, I remember. What I do, I understand.” This age-old adage still applies to today’s virtual learning.
Leading organizations are finding clever ways to create interactivity in a virtual environment — through polling, small group chats, diagnostics, video, and ice breakers to make training feel more personal.
Think about ways participants can use all of the online tools available to them. If you use handouts, have participants ‘raise their hand’ when finished with a worksheet exercise. When asking questions, direct participants to respond via chat. When surveying the group, create challenging poll questions to check for knowledge or to get participants thinking. Here is a list of common platform tools and ways you can use them to engage your learners:
If the audience you’re addressing is small, involvement can be direct. You can also encourage them to ask questions and thereby foster open communication. If your audience is large, then the live chat option is a great way to promote learner interaction.
The use of multiple engagement tools like Zoom, Slack, and Google Meet can help trainers to keep learners engaged in a back-and-forth dialogue. This process of giving and receiving feedback effectively advances the goals of Enterprise Education.
Intuitive Learning Platform
To find the best web conference platform for an organization is an important step in the move to virtual learning. Are you planning to host a webinar for more than 500 people? That’s a very different use than the delivery of engaging virtual classes to a group of 25 to 50 people. Are most of your users tech-savvy or tech-phobic? The answer to these questions might drive you to select very different platforms.
As an L&D manager, you must be aware that most LMS companies will offer a free trial. This helps you to test and compare platforms before you can make a significant financial commitment. For example, you wouldn’t commit to buying a car before taking it for a test drive, so why would you buy a virtual training platform before trying it out? The learning technology in a virtual setting has to be intuitive and functional for both the Administrators as well as the end-users.
We know how hard it can be to suddenly be thrown into a new remote work environment. Hence, this makes the process of onboarding and continuous training all the more challenging. That being said, even in a virtual environment the rules do not change. Learners who are paying more attention and actively participating in content consumption are going to retain more information and pick up new skills.
Paying close attention to these tips will certainly assist you in the planning and delivery of your virtual presentations, webinars and online training courses.
To know more about how you can use KloudLearn to provide online training for free, click here.