We already know that working virtually isn’t the same as working face to face. So why would virtual training be any different? The simple answer is that it isn’t different at all. Training in the virtual environment comes with its own set of rules to drive engagement and keep participants from falling asleep in front of their screen.
This excellent article from Learning Solutions Magazine, Virtual Training: Are You Engaging or Boring?, has some great tips to step up your virtual training game. Here are the highlights:
Use pace to drive virtual engagement
Most learners will feel motivated to attend training if the topic is one in which they are interested, but in the case of “required” training… not so much. This is especially true of slide-based presentations, particularly those with text-heavy slides where the presenter’s main contribution is to read the slides aloud word by word. For the virtual classroom, you will need more slides, with more pictures and less text per slide, than you may be accustomed to using for physical classroom training. Design the presentation to move along smoothly with pictures telling a story.
One way to test this theory is to ask yourself a question: Could the students get the same benefit from the slide deck alone as they would get with an instructor? If the answer is “yes,” then you haven’t designed your content for a virtual training session with a live instructor.
Use your skills as a virtual speaker
You must become the master of visual stimulation, and the master of show direction, and the master of focusing your learners’ attention at the right time. While all this is going on, you are unable to see them to know if you are delivering an impactful training session or if you put them to sleep. So what can you do?
Focus on inflections, speed, and the tone that you use. Learners rely not only on the quality of your content, but on how pleasant, natural, confident, and interesting you sound. Reading slides is not training. Maximum impact and higher retention levels require dynamic delivery – coupled with your visuals. Model your delivery off of radio broadcasters and ads, with changes in pitch, rate, and volume. Just like a radio personality, you can’t see the audience, and, in many cases, they cannot see you. A dynamic voice and changing visuals are key ways to bring course material to life for virtual learners.
Team up for variety
Another great tip for longer training sessions is to deliver content with a co-presenter whenever possible. This immediately adds vocal variety to your virtual sessions. Think about the news or any sporting event … there is always more than one broadcaster so personalities can interact with each other and keep the delivery more interesting.
Virtual learning goes beyond just listening
Polling is a great way to help you acquire instant and quantifiable input from your learners, and introduce some interactivity to your lesson. A good polling question can get learners thinking in depth about the material, and even determine the level of interest in a topic, and then make adjustments on the fly.
Another method to engage the learner is by using “status tools,” or emoticons, available on many conferencing platforms. Status tools or emoticons compensate for lack of visibility between the instructor and the student, replicating the visual cues you would normally get in a physical environment. Encourage all participants to use them throughout the presentation.