Moving In-Person to Virtual Training? Here are 5 Tips to Help Smooth the Transition
I have delivered tens of thousands of hours of training, both virtual training and in-person training. On even the best day, training can be painful, and I have learned the hard way what works and doesn’t work. Even today, I still get butterflies before every training and have sessions that go poorly.
With the entire world attempting to adapt to virtual work over the past few weeks, I know many plans have changed for conferences, trainings, and seminars.
For those of you who have been suddenly thrust in front of the camera, here are a few tips, so you don’t have to learn the hard way (like I did), and your virtual participants can get the most growth possible from your virtual session or class.
Virtual Training Tip #1: Establish your format for questions
Being put on the spot with unexpected questions can be anxiety inducing and even disastrous. I have become much more comfortable with unexpected questions by using these strategies:
- Call on other resources. If you think someone else on the call can answer the question better than you, ask them to answer. This approach takes the pressure off you and makes the call more interesting by mixing up the speakers.
- Use your participants. Often, I am asked hypothetical questions at companies where everyone in the room understands their processes better than me (because they actually work there; I just build their software). In these situations, I will redirect the question to the asker or other participants with something like, “Great question; what would you all do in that situation?”
- “I don’t know” is an acceptable answer, too. But I typically will note the question and try to follow up on it.
- Have a clear strategy. It is a good idea to go into a virtual training with a clear strategy on questions. Here are a few approaches I have used: Wait until the end of designated segments, participants submit questions in the chat window, wait until the end of the training (make sure you end early enough to give that enough time).
Virtual Training Tip #2: Whatever you’re thinking for session length, make it shorter
There are exceptions for everything, but generally I try to never keep anyone in a virtual meeting for more than an hour or two at a time. This means that a day-long training might need to be shortened into several 2-hour sessions over a period of several days. If you do have sessions longer than an hour, make sure to bake in periodic breaks.
Virtual Training Tip #3: Control the things you CAN control
There are things you don’t want to worry about in the middle of a 2-hour virtual meeting you are facilitating, so test them well in advance to resolve any issues before showtime:
- Internet connection: If you have poor connections, consider plugging in. I have a 50-foot ethernet cable that I can connect to my computer from virtually any room in my house. I also invested in a second WiFi access point for the second floor of my house (where I have been working since all my kids have been home doing school downstairs…I think).
- Mic quality: Sometimes, your computer or headphones just suck, and you don’t know unless you ask. So ask someone what you sound like. I purchased an external plug-and-play mic for $50 to ensure I have the best quality possible on important calls and videos.
- Computer updates: Don’t the reminders for computer updates always come at the worst time? I once had my computer force a restart in the middle of a call because I had postponed the updates for too long! Take care of these in advance.
- Chat or email notifications: It is the WORST when you are sharing your screen and then all 100 participants read the chat from your boss that pops up on your screen.
You can simply shut these tools down or turn off notifications for these tools in their settings menu. Most PCs also have a something called “Focus Mode“. When on, this will automatically mute most notifications, so you don’t have to worry about each application individually.
Virtual Training Tip #4: Know your virtual platform
I primarily use Microsoft teams for video sessions and presenting but have used many presentation/conferencing software platforms. Nearly all of them have functionality that is underutilized. For example: mute all participants, mute SPECIFIC participants, attachments, group chat, whiteboarding, presenting only specific programs, etc. Understand where the presenter options are and how to use them. Ideally, there are multiple people on the facilitator end, and one can be responsible for muting / unmuting people or tracking incoming chat questions.
Virtual Training Tip #5: Embrace the chaos
There are so many unknowns in every live event…that is what makes it EXCITING! Go into any training knowing there will be unknowns, roll with whatever comes, and embrace the unexpected. You will set the tone of the session with your confidence and ability to handle them calmly.
Apply these hard-earned tips, and I know you will deliver successful virtual presentations. Want more tips for your virtual workforce? Read these blogs: