Suresh Kumar, an international eLearning professional who has been in the virtual training world for nearly 20 years, recently wrote an article on advanced virtual training techniques. The 2020 year, while seeing an explosion in virtual training also saw huge disappointment. Obviously, virtual training will still have its place in 2021 and beyond, however (as Dr. Kumar points out) unless trainers can improve engagement, we may all force employees to the “eLearning watering trough,” but they will “refuse” to learn the lessons from the waters of knowledge.
Dr. Kumar strongly feels that the key is “better engagement.” He is correct, at Virtual Training Associates, we are constantly striving to deliver a more engaged presentation. In our areas of expertise including corporate ethics, sports ethics and prevention of sexual harassment and workplace gender discrimination, we want our classes to be as engaging as possible. We closely track with Dr. Kumar and note that these and other techniques are quite effective.
Show & Tell
Old-fashioned, old-school techniques worked for us in elementary school because they engaged us. We learned from what our fellow students presented and when a teacher-guided us, we absorbed the lessons. For example, a third-grader brings in a postcard received from her grandmother who was on vacation in Germany. The teacher then shows the class a map of the world, points out Germany and talks a bit about the region from where the card was sent.
Some of the “same” strategies are in place during effective virtual training classes. They might include:
- Sharing quizzes, video clips, podcasts, whiteboards, “materials,” and even music when appropriate.
- You don’t have to do it “all yourself.” Audiences respond to co-presenters. The co-presenter can offer a different voice or a different point of view or augment what you’ve said. The co-presenter can also answer questions and comment on material.
- Sessions have a natural flow. When it is time to stop or to take a break, don’t charge through it but take a breather. There is an intensity to virtual training that may not hold true for in-person topics.
- The technology is secondary to the message. While a high production quality is important, it is a tool to convey the message, but not the message. If the technology is distracting or the presenter is swept away with the software rather than the topic, the results can be the opposite of what was intended.
- The presenter must display a sense of purpose and a passion for the material. A monotone and a lack of engagement will shut down anything you’re trying to convey.
- The audience has gathered for a purpose and to learn from the presenter’s expertise. Reciprocate by getting to know them and to appreciate them. Who are they? What is their mission?
- Follow-up is critical, either virtually (or now that the population is mostly vaccinated) in-person. Reinforce as much as possible. Two, 40-minute sessions are often more preferable than a single 90-minute session.
- Feedback is critical both for the presenter and for audience members. Don’t shy away from hearing how you can do better.
- Check in with the audience frequently and see if they’re “getting it” and understanding what you are trying to convey.
- Assuming that for some in the audience feedback is difficult, make sure you are not making an understanding of the material difficult or that you are talking down to them.
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