The professional education industry experienced a rapid shift from in-person to virtual training models due to the pandemic. While businesses were shuttered and employees were working from home, virtual events became the dominant form of employee training. With virtual training normalized, hotels and venues, especially those who are having trouble maintaining staffing levels or have high turnover, can quickly and easily run trainings for your staff.
In this post, we’ll examine the rise of virtual training and its impact on trainers and trainees. We’ll explore how virtual training can benefit corporations, small businesses, and individuals, examine industry reporting, and much more. Whether you’re exploring virtual learning for the first time or looking for ways to improve upcoming training sessions, this post is for you.
Discover tips, tools, and techniques to improve virtual training
By 2026, the online learning industry is expected to reach a value of almost $50 billion, a 250% increase from 2019. This reflects the increased global acceptance of online learning and remote teaching. The rise of virtual learning has opened the door for many industries, businesses, and teams to train in new and exciting ways, providing a broad spectrum of perks and benefits.
The benefits of virtual training
In-person training is undeniably valuable in many industries, but there are benefits to virtual training that businesses and event planners should consider. Although virtual events cannot replicate all of the components of their live counterparts, they do outweigh in-person gatherings in various ways, including:
• More cost-effective than in-person training
The Journal of Technology and Behavioral Science published research in October 2022 confirming that virtual training reflects greater willingness-to-pay values and increased cost-effectiveness than in-person events. In the study, an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) was used to calculate and correlate aggregate costs of virtual training with trainee readiness and performance benchmarks. The study concluded that virtual training was less expensive for companies, trainers, and trainees. In addition, virtual training attendees reported 12-14% higher performance scores than in-person attendees.
• Easier to attend
Virtual training doesn’t require attendee travel, overnight accommodations, or extended time away from the office. Trainees can simply log on and attend; they only need a reliable internet connection and a device that supports the training platform.
• Less hectic to organize
Virtual training eliminates many of the most stressful components of event planning, like finding the perfect venue, requesting vendor quotes, or tracking dietary restrictions. Finding the right time and location to host an in-person training event—especially sizable company-wide events—can be challenging, even for the most experienced team. Planning a virtual event requires less time and resources, making it easier for trainers to connect with a broader range of employees, regardless of their physical location.
• Increased job satisfaction and employee wellness
Feeling competent and well-prepared helps boost confidence and prevent employee burnout. Those who feel more confident in their skills tend to be more motivated to improve them and seek new, exciting responsibilities. Virtual training can also improve employee wellness. A 2020 research study found that employees who engaged in mindfulness-based virtual training were more engaged, reported greater job satisfaction, and experienced a better overall sense of well-being.
• Personalized training opportunities
Create custom learning pathways or empower employees to select their own virtual training course, allowing them to self-identify areas of improvement.
• Increased employee retention rates
Offering virtual training is a fantastic way to invest in your employees and support career growth. A 2020 LinkedIn report on workplace learning found that 94% of survey respondents said they would remain with companies that invest in their development. The 2020 Global Talent Trends report also identified that companies highly rated for their employee training programs experience 53% less attrition on average than poorly rated businesses.
• Inclusive workplace culture
Break down walls that keep employees in individual boxes, focused only on their roles and responsibilities. Bring together team members with diverse backgrounds, cultures, and ideas. Encourage virtual training participants to share information, tips, and best practices to foster an inclusive and learning-focused workplace culture.
By improving all of these individual areas of a company’s performance, businesses can increase revenue, profit margins, and bottom-line financial performance. Investing in customer service training, sales, and other skills can improve effectiveness, enhancing bottom-line revenue and driving additional profits.
The basics of hosting virtual training
Virtual events offer lots of room to express your creativity. Too often, however, planners get distracted by design options and lose sight of the fundamentals. Host better virtual training events by mastering the basics.
• Create thoughtful session structures
Break training events into short segments, ten minutes to half an hour each, broken up by quick breaks. Avoid going longer than 75 minutes without a breather, and never go longer than 90. Include time for introductions, Q&A, and final thoughts.
• Include regular breaks
As we just mentioned, breaks are a critical aspect of session structure. Reduce the buildup of training stress with frequent, consistent recesses. Back-to-back sessions can affect trainees’ ability to focus, engage, and retain the material. If the training is lengthy, provide a short five-minute intermission every 20 to 30 minutes and an extended gap every 90 minutes. Include long breaks for meals, and make sure there is an opportunity for attendees to get up and move around regularly.
• Incorporate high-quality content
Include a variety of content types in virtual training events, such as video, live feed, text, and images. Create memorable, attractive slides, but keep them clean, so the presentation design doesn’t distract from the main message.
• Prioritize engagement
Audience engagement should be considered when planning every portion of a virtual training event. Choose hosts and presenters that are captivating, charismatic, and comfortable with crowd work. Add interactive tools that enable users to interact with other attendees, such as activity boards or live chat boxes. If you have a small enough group, you can allow attendees to unmute themselves to ask questions or participate in discussion.
• Invest in high-quality tools
Although the primary tool required for virtual training is reliable meeting software, teams should invest in a few high-quality virtual training materials, especially if intending to host multiple events. Purchase and install premium equipment, including:
- HD webcam
- Headset (w/ microphone)
- Lighting (e.g., ring light)
- High-speed Wi-Fi
You may need to upgrade your computer or internet connection to accommodate advanced software and high-speed data transfers. Identify your current system details and determine whether an upgrade is required.
• Use reliable meeting software
Select a virtual event platform that can accommodate your audience size and presentation style. Look for an expert-recommended virtual event platform with dedicated customer support services. Preferably, attendees would have multiple ways to connect with support services (e.g., chatbot, text, or phone) so users experiencing issues receive assistance quickly.
The best virtual training resources
Teams can choose from a wide variety of virtual training and online learning platforms, each with different tools, capabilities, and costs. Review some top-rated virtual training software solutions below, and select the option that best suits your needs.
Cvent, which integrates with GoToWebinar, Webex, and Zoom, among others, makes the creation, management, and execution of virtual training webinars quick and easy. Cvent has the tools to ensure your participants register for your training, pick the right sessions, receive the right communication around agendas, time, credits, and more.
Build impactful virtual events with interactive tools like live chat, polling, and dynamic Q&A sessions. Whether going live or pre-recording content for an upcoming session, trainers produce broadcast-quality videos using Cvent Studio. Plus, you can report all that back to other key systems, which is particularly helpful if your company requires hours of training for accreditation or certification.
Whether you're new to using Cvent or looking to master the newest products, Cvent Academy can help you sharpen your skills and boost your productivity based on your unique learning style. Take quick, self-paced online tutorials for specific product details or try a live or on-demand webinar for more in-depth instructions on getting the most out of your virtual tools.
• Cisco Webex
If you're looking for a screen-sharing and video conferencing service to go along with your current dial-in conference service and Cvent tools, then Cisco Webex Meetings is an option. An excellent option for virtual training, Webex was designed to function as an online classroom. Hosts can record the training (both audio and on-screen elements), mute and unmute participants, and more. During the training, the trainer can share their desktop, or files from their computer, including video. You can also share a virtual whiteboard for sketches and notes. All sharing features can be used in conjunction with video chat, which is helpful and not available on some services.
Zoom is an excellent choice for virtual training and online teaching in general. Due to its popularity, many individuals already have the app installed on their smartphones, desktop, or laptop, but users don’t have to download the software to join meetings.
As a trainer, you can enable a waiting room for any additional guests who try to join, give participants permission to share their screens, chat, and more. Plus, with Zoom's highly-popular virtual backgrounds, attendees can make it look like they’re in front of the Golden Gate Bridge or Statue of Liberty instead of their living room.
One feature that's well suited to remote teams is breakout rooms. From a single call, you can divide participants into groups, send them into their own private video chat, and then bring everyone back together when you're ready. It's incredibly easy to start using Zoom for video calls, and it's just as easy to get hooked on it.
EdApp is a free virtual event platform with customizable virtual templates, language translation tools, and a quiz maker. Its mobile-first design makes the app an excellent tool for trainers and virtual training attendees on the go.
Virtual training preparation tips
Proper planning and preparation are essential for hosting successful virtual training events. Maximize training potential by following these pre-event preparation tips.
• Distribute log-in information ahead of time
Provide virtual training attendees with login details via email, such as a link to the virtual meeting, the meeting room ID, and their login code. Prompt employees to download the required software or app and test their login information before the session starts. This will help ensure that the login process is seamless, and that training kicks off on time.
• Email training reminders
Sending virtual event reminders one day and one hour before the event’s start time can increase virtual attendance by up to 83%.
• Send required materials in advance
If attendees need to complete any activities before a virtual training session, send instructions and necessary materials a week or two before the event. Engaging attendees with the event material beforehand helps build excitement for the event and gets trainees thinking about the material in advance. Review pre-event activity results or ask attendees to share their responses to previously distributed prompts during the training session.
Host a meeting with other trainers and speakers. Complete a run-through of the event using the same virtual event platform and materials. Rehearse general talking points, test transitions, practice working with different platform features, and ensure that training content loads successfully. Identify individual roles and responsibilities for all hosts, and confirm the final session agenda. Use this meeting to support virtual event speakers, hosts, and organizers.
• Consider attendee count
Numbers have a lot to do with how virtual training is set up, which software is used, and how attendees participate. For example, if five trainees are present, everyone can have their cameras and microphones on without causing much confusion. However, with even 15-25 participants, attendees should be muted for most of the presentation, as background sounds from multiple microphones can get loud quickly. Instruct trainees to flash their screens, raise their hands, or interact with an on-screen chat when they want to go live.
Thoughtful event planning can significantly impact the quality of virtual training. Providing trainers with high-quality tools, content, and a conscientious agenda helps set virtual events up for success.
Ten tips for taking virtual training sessions to the next level
Increase attendance, engagement, participation, and retention with these virtual training hosting tips.
1. Open with energy
Kick-off virtual training with a charismatic and energetic host. Give each host a couple of minutes to introduce themselves and the topics they will cover. Walk attendees through the training agenda, review virtual meeting etiquette, and spend a few minutes guiding users through the software. Point out helpful menus, icons, and resource buttons.
2. Promote participation
Encourage virtual training attendees to participate throughout the session using their cameras and microphone. Inform trainees early that the session will include interactive components and invite everyone to participate when the time comes. Include a fun event icebreaker to raise energy levels, reduce tension, and enable attendees to test their video connection quickly.
3. Avoid copy-heavy content
Virtual training sessions shouldn’t revolve around text-heavy training content; include more engaging visual materials instead. Mix up content styles to keep things fresh. Include live video feed, pre-recorded video content, high-quality images, an interactive project board, and bold slides to capture attendee attention and keep it.
4. Embrace gamification
Offer virtual training attendees an immersive learning experience through gamification, which can boost engagement by up to 60%. Host live challenges or contests and encourage trainees to participate. Promote engagement by offering prizes, perks, or reward points trainees can redeem for swag later.
5. Schedule short breakouts for high-quality group discussions
Incorporate five to ten-minute breakout sessions into your virtual training agenda. Organize trainees into small groups and send them into private chat rooms to discuss training topics, complete activities, or problem-solve as a team. Explore various breakout sessions and strategy ideas to identify which sessions get your team the most excited.
6. Enable trainee interaction
Include interactive elements like a live message board or virtual photo booth. During the event, check in with trainees regularly. Encourage them to ask questions, discuss challenges, and share “aha” moments in a message board or virtual chat room.
7. Deliver surprise gifts or swag
Schedule gifts, activity packages, or snack boxes for delivery before the event. Instruct guests that they will receive a package and should wait to open it until training. If you’re hosting an all-day or multi-day training, send a care package with coffee or a coffee mug, health snacks, cozy socks, and fidget toys.
8. Track engagement during the event
Keep attention and engagement levels high by incorporating live polling. Throughout virtual training sessions, post live opinion polls related to the training topics. Live polling tools allow audience members to connect with the material and interact during the training. In addition, attendees are more likely to stay for the entire event if they presume their attendance is visible.
9. Include a Q&A session
In every virtual training event, set aside time for a Q&A session. Encourage attendees to take notes and write down questions throughout the session. Ensure that hosts are available to attend and answer questions during this time.
10. Encourage post-event engagement
A trainer’s job doesn’t end when a virtual training session does. Confirm that you’re available to answer attendee questions, discuss topics of interest, and provide additional assistance to anyone who requests it.
Follow up with virtual training attendees
As with in-person events, attendee engagement continues even after a virtual event ends. Measure the success of your event and encourage continued education with post-event follow-up actions, such as:
• Let attendees know how to contact you with future questions
Share contact information for trainers and session hosts in case any training attendees think of questions after the session has wrapped.
• Send virtual training attendees a copy of the presentation
After the session ends, email all trainees a copy of the presentation and relevant materials. Include links to additional training materials or resources discussed during the virtual event. Provide a copy of the slideshow or a printable PDF version of it.
• Email a post-training survey
After an event, send virtual training attendees an event evaluation survey to measure the session’s success. Ask a variety of questions to gauge attendee engagement, satisfaction, and retention, such as:
- What did attendees like? What didn’t they like?
- What was their favorite part?
- What did they take away from the training?
- What would they like to see next time?
- How was the structure? Comfortable? Relaxing? Engaging?
- Did they find any part of the training boring or irrelevant?
- Was the training straightforward? Were any details confusing?
- Did they experience any technical issues or disruptions during the training?
As you host more virtual training sessions, you’ll get to know what works for you. You’ll find which platforms you prefer, which session lengths are most engaging, and which content styles best suit your training needs. Analyze attendee feedback and incorporate it to continue improving virtual events.
Still have questions about virtual training?
If you still have questions about virtual learning, events, or hosting virtual training sessions, check out the answers to frequently asked questions below.
1. What is the difference between online training and virtual training?
Several specific learning styles fall under the umbrella of technology-enhanced learning, including online, virtual, and e-learning. Simply put, online learning is education that takes place online. Unlike virtual learning, however, communication is optional in online learning. Teachers and students join the session simultaneously during virtual training, and communication is synchronous.
2. What is on-the-job virtual training?
This category of virtual training takes place while you are “on the job.” Virtual training often takes place in person during the onboarding process. Many hotels, retailers, and other businesses utilize virtual training to get new employees up-to-speed quickly through content that sparks their interest.
3. Do employees get paid for virtual training?
Yes. Anytime an employee or staff member undergoes training—live, virtual, or otherwise—they must be compensated for their time. Employers must adequately pay employees for all training activities, including the cost of attending virtual events.
Put your new virtual training knowledge to good use!
Now that you have the knowledge, skills, and resources to create top-tier virtual training events, your sessions will be better than ever. Experiment with different tools and styles to find what works best for you. Explore various virtual event types, and look for additional opportunities to engage with employees or market your business. Check out this list of 37 virtual event ideas and examples for inspiration.
Updated as of 06/14/2023: This post has been updated to include more recent data and reflect changing needs from virtual training and technology.