This blog post addresses everyone involved in virtual trainings or live webinars. By that I mean anyone that conducts these sessions or participates in them.
The virtual classroom can be used as part of blended programs to complement face-to-face and on-demand learning methods.
For several years, I have been working in an international training team and we have been handling live webinars and recorded webinars since 2010. But this year, we have run an exceptionally high number of live webinars (for a well-known reason) and gained much experience. In years without a pandemic, product trainers would fly all over the world to meet colleagues and customers. But in 2020, we could do so in only two cases right at the start of the year.
Webinars are a vibrant, effective, and increasingly popular medium which can help to achieve learning goals. Such webinars can replicate the classroom learning experience and involve group discussions, peer-to-peer coaching, video content, actors and role plays, interactive polls, and one-to-ones with the facilitator. We can have globally diverse audiences in the same ‘room’, bringing different people together, who may never normally meet due to their very different geographic locations. This can enhance engagement, nourish the group feeling, and encourage collaboration much quicker than rolling out learning programs across different locations one at a time.
“We are able to have globally diverse audiences in the same ‘room’, bringing different people together, who may never normally meet due to their very different geographic locations.”
All of this is possible using several virtual platforms for communication and training. For example, product stories, new features, and even best practices can be shared, and powerful messages can be delivered within and outside of the organization. This is much more powerful than simply sending out an email. Another aspect is that the easily made recordings of live virtual training sessions can be shared as offline resources too. Anyone that could not participate due to conflicting arrangements or different time zones can watch on demand. Colleagues or external parties can easily catch up, without having to wait for it to run again. Recordings are essentially ‘reusable assets’ for us and for people throughout our organization. They can be watched on demand by international distributors as an example.
“Recordings are essentially ‘reusable assets’ for us”
Virtual training can range from a rather simple set-up to ‘TV-like shows’ depending on the importance and available budget for the training event. Most of the trainings will run on a rather simple set-up via online training platforms or standard tools like Skype for business or Microsoft Teams.
Tips & tricks for live webinars
Here are 6 important aspects to consider if you want to go into the world of live webinars.
- Virtual learning is applicable for any topic area but, like face-to-face training, it needs to be designed specifically to make it engaging and practical for learners. It will take the same or more time to plan and create a virtual training as it would for a face-to-face training.
- Interacting with the audience is very different in virtual trainings compared to face-to-face trainings. How to use exercises, how you hold attention in a virtual classroom, and how you manage breaks in the learning is different.
- The virtual sessions can feel like an unnatural, technical environment. With the right amount of presentation, break-out rooms for smaller groups to ‘come together’, and of course Q&A sessions, it is possible to keep the participants engaged. Make sure that participants get audio and video rights at the right point in time. Make sure that their internet connection and device fulfils the webinar requirements.
- Presenters need to have the right attitude to keep the energy, excitement, and enthusiasm in front of a camera high, as high as it is in front of people, and you need to be very good at multitasking to manage the interactions and questions all at once. It is also recommended to have multiple presenters and a dedicated person to host the chat function if available.
- Use whiteboards for example as the ‘flip chart’ in the room. Using a white board with a ‘normal’ mouse is not recommended. Instead, use a pen to draw on a touch screen if available.
- Finally, set the expectations of learners. Ground rules and guidelines should be provided for learners. This is to help them to understand the possibilities but also the limitations. Only then will they enjoy the virtual session and know how to make the most of the experience. However, they’ll also need to ensure that they’re not disturbed during the session (even though they might be in the office), nor should they be answering emails while they’re in the ‘room’. Clarifying these things upfront with the participants can also help a session to run more smoothly.
In closing, I would like to emphasize that virtual trainings or live webinars have helped us tremendously, especially in the year 2020. But we also expect to continue with them, and we want to continue to learn how we can improve our skills as trainers.
I hope you find this short article helpful and encouraging to integrate virtual trainings into your practice. I welcome your comments to this post.
Stay safe, stay healthy.