So you’re used to running trainings in person, and now you have to figure out how to run them online? Don’t worry, our virtual training tips and simple steps have you covered, whether you’re training a hotel sales team, onboarding new event marketing managers, or teaching the ins and outs of a new hotel operations tool. While running a virtual training can feel like a formidable task if you’re new to working mostly online, after a few trial runs you’ll be just fine.
And, the even better news is that when managed correctly, a virtual training can help your company save valuable time and resources. So how can you ensure that your attendees listen, and even better, retain their learnings? In this article we’ll reveal a few pro tips and helpful online tools, plus important music selections, to make your virtual training sessions a big success.
Discover 29 virtual training tips to run effective sessions
Similar to an offline event, the key to a good virtual training is to guarantee that your audience is listening to the training (and not just checking their email or phone) while also having the opportunity to practice the skills they're learning. Here are some virtual training tips you can implement to execute a successful session.
1. Make sure you have stable technology.
One of the most important decisions when switching to virtual training is utilising reliable and robust technology that’s easy to use. Create dynamic scheduling and maximise engagement with Cvent’s mobile app, and manage training sign-ups with Cvent’s user-friendly registration. Then, pair it with a software that will allow for easy and secure access, as well as allow users to listen to audio and watch video. There are several feature-rich online meeting platforms that can complement your Cvent virtual tools such as Zoom, GoToWebinar, WebEx, and Join.me.
2. Implement virtual icebreakers.
Icebreakers help in building a human connection, and can be especially useful when you run online trainings. Get the session moving with an interesting icebreaker. Create a trivia game on the training topic and see what participants already know, or encourage everyone to show up with a virtual background from their favorite movie or something else they're passionate about. This is a great way to get the conversation started and settle people's nerves.
3. Create impactful slides.
Great content will win in every medium – so you can keep the slides you would have used offline, with just a few small tweaks. Put the main takeaway as the header on each slide, in a complete short sentence. Emphasise key points by highlighting the text, and use bullet points instead of paragraphs. Use high-quality images that are applicable to the topic. You might consider adding some memes, as humor can help keep online audiences engaged, or adding some Mad Lib-style fill-in-the-blanks.
4. Encourage active participation.
Maintain a calm, charismatic, and informative tone throughout the training. Encourage learners to ask questions, share their experiences, and collaborate. You may consider enabling your webcam and even asking the attendees to do the same. While not everyone wants to show their face on camera, it will keep everyone engaged and ensure that they're at the computer for the duration of the training. Call on participants who have not yet volunteered to answer any questions, to let them know you do see them, and that their opinion matters.
5. Set clear goals, ground rules, and expectations.
It can be enticing for your participants to work on other projects during the session now that you’re not together in person, so at the beginning of the online training, ask everyone to shut down all other programmes, including their emails, and put away their devices. Moreover, show your attendees how to ask a question by walking them through the hands-up button, chat pane, or polling. Let your attendees know beforehand if there will be questions or quizzes during the presentation, so they can be prepared to be focused.
6. Hold breakout groups.
Breakout rooms are very valuable, especially in the formulation of ideas, and allow for true creativity and application of what is taught. Consider including 4-10 participants per "room" to maximise engagement. Once done, make sure to have all groups present back to the whole training class. GoToMeeting, Adobe Connect, and Zoom are examples of platforms that allow you to create breakout rooms.
7. Utilise the chat window.
Using the chat feature within your video tool is a convenient alternative to pausing for questions. You can also get attendees to respond to a question, especially participants who tend to be shy about speaking up. Although, in order to stay focused on your slides, if possible, dedicate a member from your team to monitor the chat window and filter the questions. Adobe Connect, WebEx, and Zoom are examples of platforms that offer a chat feature.
8. Create a poll.
Polls are a great way to ensure your attendees are involved and giving feedback real time. You can create polls to quiz participants’ knowledge and their understanding of a topic. It can also be a great way to create competitions or measure engagement. For example, you can create a contest and award points for every correct answer. The attendee or team with the maximum points at the end wins a "virtual prize," such as an Amazon or Starbucks gift card.
9. Use a whiteboard.
Teaching your attendees through illustration will bring great results online, as it does in person. A virtual whiteboard is a blank screen and it can be used to type, write, or draw upon with the available annotation tools on the programme. For instance, at the beginning of the session, you could divide the participants into two teams and ask them to list their learning objectives from the training. Attendees can then type on screen to brainstorm their ideas. Tools like Miro make this quite easy to do.
10. Schedule breaks into the agenda.
Attendees are less likely to be distracted if they know they'll have 10-15 minutes to themselves at the end of the session. Resume your session after a break with an activity – a quiz, poll, or something of the sort. This will make sure that attendees are engaged, again. During breaks, use a placeholder slide with music, as well as a countdown timer.
Tip: Make sure to mute your microphone as well as pause the recording at the start of each break and turn it back on when you resume.
How to keep your attendees engaged
When you're training attendees online, making sure that they're paying attention presents its own unique set of challenges. Here’s how to make the necessary adjustments to the design and delivery of your online content to keep your virtual audience engaged.
11. Start your training on time.
Arrival times for online trainings are rarely consistent, largely due to connectivity and log-on issues. But that does not necessarily mean that you should frustrate the people who joined on time: make their time well spent! For example, hold a poll that your on-time audience can answer, which leads into the training topic.
12. Use “minimum viable slides.”
Slide after slide of data, even if organised in bullet points, will only disengage your attendees. Instead, select the least number of slides that will get the job done. If you have too many slides, you will feel pressured to go through them all and may move too quickly for your attendees to retain the information. For example, if you have 30 minutes for your training, 25 slides is far too many. Try to limit yourself to 5 or so slides of content, and 5 slides of engaging activities.
13. Interact with your attendees.
If you don’t actively engage your audience, they won't pay as much attention and the training might not be as fruitful as you’d hoped. Acknowledging your attendees and encouraging them to participate will make them feel involved. For example, put aside a few minutes and get to know your attendees better by asking a yes/no question and having everyone raise their hand for a yes.
14. Host virtual roundtable discussions.
We’ve already mentioned how breakout rooms can help with brainstorming ideas, but they’re also a meaningful way for attendees to connect with one another. Once you have your attendees split into different breakout rooms, make sure that each room has a list of guiding questions, as it will give your participants a sense of purpose for their communication and dialogue with one another.
15. Create fun in-between sessions.
In addition to the breaks listed above, create moments between each of your sessions to make sure your attendees are not bored or zoned out. This will also capture their attention and make the entire session fun and engaging. For example, do a quick chair yoga or meditation session to keep everyone’s minds sharp.
The dos and don'ts of a successful training
Most instructors are comfortable with their personal style in the classroom or office setting. The secret sauce to a successful virtual training is to also develop an online style. Here are some dos and don’ts to ensure your training is successful.
16. Do make the training interactive.
As we noted above, be sure to mix it up with sharing a few slides, ask for input via text chat and then request for an attendee to come off mute and elaborate on their response. The topics of discussion should be related to your training.
17. Do encourage camera use.
Encourage attendees to have their video turned on, as this will create an immediate connection. Get comfortable using your webcam and also use it briefly to introduce yourself. Skype, Zoom, WebEx, and most other modern virtual meeting platforms, have the option to include video.
18. Do push for participation in chat and Q&A.
Virtual training requires that you manage group interaction. Encourage your participants to interact in the chat window, and in breakout groups.
19. Do educate participants about the platform at the beginning.
At the beginning of the virtual session, set the expectations. Review the basics like how to use the chat window for responding to questions, writing on whiteboards, raising their virtual hands, and voting in polls. Basically, prepare for technical issues.
20. Do consider going old-school.
Use slides where it makes sense. But don't feel the need to keep them up the entire time you're talking. When you're telling stories, let the participants see you, and only you. And be sure to speak in an engaging manner — hand gestures and facial expressions are a great way to do this.
21. Don’t go more than 10 minutes without interaction.
While there are many ways to connect with your audience, such as polls and questions, the key is to do it at regular intervals. If you don’t engage with your attendees every 10 or so minutes, they will have the tendency to lose interest.
22. Don’t schedule sessions that are too long.
Try not to schedule sessions that go longer than 1.5 hours. For a virtual session, ensure that you go through all the material to cover and only add pieces that would be best suited for a trainer-led virtual session. Don’t ever go longer than 90 minutes without a break — 75 is even better.
23. Don’t read to your audience.
When presenting slides, avoid reading each bullet-point word for word. Instead, provide a short summary of the slide by paraphrasing. What works best is if you can also tell a story or give an example that will help bring the text to life.
24. Don’t use too much text on the slides.
Try fewer words and more image-rich slides to help bring your story or learning elements to life. Watching relevant visuals while listening to a story helps participants process and retain the message. If you have text in your slides, know that your audience is reading them and not listening to you. If necessary, give them time to read.
25. Don’t assume that everyone knows how to use the functions of your platform.
Not everyone is an expert in virtual meetings. Don’t distribute attendees to small groups without preparing them for the assigned activity, or without telling them what's about to happen.
The best virtual training resources
One of the most effective ways to stay healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic is to work from home, and virtual training will be one of the most effective tools to succeed in those situations. Here are a few robust platforms that make virtual trainings as fun as possible for your attendees.
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. These tools also allow you to track all the training engagement and give a complete view into your attendees’ event activity history. 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.
27. 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. When it’s time to get started, download the Cisco Webex Meetings extension or run a temporary app to join the meeting. 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 another helpful video training app that can be used along with Cvent tools, provided attendees take a few minutes to acquaint themselves with the tool’s features. Zoom Meetings is a go-to-choice for work-related trainings due to its stability and reliability. As a trainer, you can now see a security button on the toolbar during active calls. This button gives hosts quick access to important security features, such as locking the meeting, enabling a waiting room for any additional guests who try to join, and giving participants permission to share their screens, chat, and so forth (and is a response to the frequency of Zoombombing). Plus, with Zoom's highly-popular virtual backgrounds, you can make it look like you’re in front of the Golden Gate Bridge or Statue of Liberty instead of your messy 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.
GoToTraining is a relatively new service provided by GoToWebinar that can be used with your Cvent tools, and it's an easy-to-use software solution with a modern user interface and numerous features that will improve your online training. You can broadcast an image of your whiteboard to attendees and share your updates in real time. Additionally, encourage small-group interaction with breakouts and also can share your desktop or a specific application to attendees. Your participants can join training sessions from their iPhone, iPad or Android devices.
The keys to setting up post-training success
Reflection is one of the most efficient ways to cement the knowledge, identify gaps in training, and identify the barriers to a strong transfer of learning. Send follow-up emails to trainees immediately after the training. Include a “homework assignment” for them to apply what they just learned. Then reinforce key learning points with a virtual exercise a week later, and arrange additional post-training follow-up sessions as needed to provide supplemental lessons. Or use these opportunities to allow trainees to apply their knowledge on the job to practice their skills or discuss their experiences by giving them a specific mock project on work on.
Online learners are more likely to engage when they know that their opinions are valuable to you. As such, you should ask your audience for ongoing e-learning feedback. Conduct surveys and social media polls to get their input, or invite them to participate in focus groups for an upcoming e-learning course. This will allow you to improve your e-learning strategy and ensure that your content is still on target. For example, this is a great way to find out if your training content still matches the preferences and expectations of online learners.
Create a monthly newsletter your online learners can opt-in to as the final call to action in your training presentation. Focus on a new discussion topic in each edition, including useful tips and tricks. The key is to inspire online learners and provide them with real value. You can also invite subject matter experts to write guest posts and provide a unique perspective.
And finally, create an e-learning podcast or video series that describes a new topic each month. You can upload podcasts directly to your e-learning course site or platform. There are also several video sharing sites that can help you reach your target audience. These online resources allow you to attract new online learners and keep them in the loop. For best results, set a schedule in advance so that online learners know when to tune in.
Now it's time to put these virtual training tips into practice!
Just like in-person training, virtual training requires a strong facilitator and attention to detail. As long as the training is properly planned, informative, and engaging, it will ensure that employees get a great experience, which will increase the content retention. Now you’re prepared to use the best tools and virtual technology to create a successful online session, translating your offline training experience into a memorable work-from-home experience. Done properly, your trainings will continue to inspire a culture of learning that goes beyond your usual classroom!