Virtual, instructor-led training is here to stay. In the past few months, many instructors and trainers have had to adapt to a virtual world. Trainers who embrace virtual platforms and adapt the best have an advantage over those who don’t. So, I thought it might be a good idea to cover a few Virtual Instructor-Led training best practices. So in this session, I’m going to cover a few tools and tips for virtual instructor-led training. In addition, I’ll start with exactly what virtual instructor-led” training is and how it is different from other types of training.
What Is Virtual Instructor-Led Training?
To some of you, this definition may seem pretty obvious. However, there is a little confusion because people use different words and phrases to describe various online training types. Here are a few of these types of training along with synonyms that people use to describe them.
- Virtual Instructor-Led Training: These are training sessions that are delivered live via a virtual meeting platform like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or GoTo Meeting.
- Online Training: Online training sessions are typically prerecorded sessions that can be accessed on-demand.
- Live Webinars: Webinars can be live and they can also be instructor-led. However, they are typically a one-sided delivery. Most often, when you view a webinar, the audience isn’t really a part of the process. As a result, they are kind of a hybrid between the first two delivery types.
By the way, the tools and tips that I will cover can also work well for online training and webinar training as well. However, the focus here is on the live training that is interactive with the audience.
Virtual Instructor-Led Training Best Practices
Before you start to design your training session, you have to understand the difference between the different delivery methods. For instance, if a viewer can watch the video replay of your live session and get the same results, you may be missing out on some of the main value of the live session. The key difference is the interaction with the audience. So, if you are delivering a monologue to your live audience, you may want to make a few adjustments.
Make Your Virtual Training Sessions Shorter and More Focused.
If you want to see your team members roll their eyes, use these words in a meeting. “We are going to do an eight-hour Zoom training session on Monday.” You will likely hear a few groans as well.
One of the major benefits of live, interactive training is that the instructor can break up the training into bite-sized pieces. That is a much better way to develop a skill, by the way. Often, with in-person meetings, since it is so costly to get a group together, we want to jam as much content into the session as possible. (By the way, that is a terrible way to conduct in-person training as well. But that is beside the point.)
When we are scheduling virtual training, though, that cost to get the group together is removed from the equation. Let me give you an example. Let’s say that a company invests in a new piece of software that will be used in 50 different offices worldwide. If you have to book travel for a minimum of 50 different people, you’d want to make sure that you only had to do it once. However, the odds that each of those people will be an expert at using the software after just a couple of days is unlikely.
With a virtually delivery, though, you could conduct a single hour with an overview of the software. Then, give the participants time to experiment with the software. A couple of days later, the group could meet again to cover just a few specific components of the software. Then, the participants could have some time to master those few components before returning for additional training. Since people learn by doing, they will learn the process much faster this way.
Include Discussions to Make Sure Your Delivery is Interactive.
One of the other major benefits of a virtual instructor-led training is that a good instructor can make the session interactive. A big mistake that a lot of trainers make is they focus too much on what they will and are saying. While they do this, they disregard the interaction with the group.
For example, let’s say that a man asks a woman out on a date. Then, the man spends the entire dinner talking about himself never allowing his date to say anything. Do you think he will get a second date?
Virtual training instructors, in a sense, are on a first date with their participants. The more that the instructor talks in a monologue format, the less the group will like it. I suggest that instructors add discussions throughout their sessions. Some of you may be thinking, “That is easier said than done, though.” To help, I will cover a few tips later to get the group to give you feedback.
For more details about this, visit 9 Reliable Ways to Add Audience Participation to Your Presentation.
Make Sure You Give Tangible Take-Aways to the Participants.
The best training sessions deliver tangible results for participants. Meeting planners often focus on audience satisfaction to determine the value of training. This is a mistake. Well, it is, at least, an improper focus. Yes, we want the audience to enjoy the training. However, if the training doesn’t add value, it is a waste of everyone’s time.
Of course, if you include both, you hit a home run.
One of the things that I like to do is ask myself what result does my audience need to receive from this training? I want to be very clear about the tangible result before I create any content. Then, design the content to make sure the audience receives that result.
For instance, when we created the virtual version of the Fearless Presentations ® we were a little hesitant. We had spent a couple of decades building a brand. Folks knew that if they came to a Fearless Presentations ® class, we helped them reduce (or eliminate) nervousness. We had to make sure that if someone attended the virtual class, they also got that result. So, we reduced the number of attendees. In addition, we added more practice time for each participant. So far, the results have been fantastic. As an instructor myself, I find that the people who have attended the virtual class are getting even better results. The feedback the participants give us backs this up.
So spend time making sure your participants get a tangible result from your training.
Virtual Instructor-Led Training Tools and Tips.
Below are a few tips and best practices for your virtual training sessions. The closer you stick to these guidelines, the better your training sessions will be.
- Use Breakout Rooms in Your Virtual Meetings.
Zoom was the first platform to create breakout rooms, but many others have followed suit. This is one of the most important tools for great virtual instructor-led sessions. After you teach for a while, break the meeting up into smaller groups. Give the groups specific assignments to increase application. For instance, if you are doing safety training and you cover 10 safety tips, have the groups rank the tips by importance. Then, close down the breakout rooms and have a spokesperson for each group explain their list.
If you think about it, all of the tips you are giving to the group are important. However, by getting each group to not only explain the importance of each but also defend why, the content is reinforced. They are telling each other how important the content is.
- Ask Open-Ended Questions in Your Instructor-Led Training Sessions.
Get your audience to participate in the meeting by asking open-ended questions. It is best to ask your audience about their opinion. That way, as long as they voice their opinion, they are correct. So, instead of asking a question like, “Do you think the idea that I have presented will work?” change it to an opinion. An alternative is, “What do you think are the pros and cons of this idea?” Or, if you want to make sure they give you the positives, try something like this. “What advantages do you see from this idea?”
The key here is to stay away from yes or no questions. Remember, we are trying to get the group to talk.
- Use the Think/Write/Share Technique.
If you are presenting to a fairly stoic crowd, get them to open up using the Think/Write/Share method. Ask your open-ended question. However, this time, ask the group to write down the first three things that pop into their minds. Then, send them to a breakout room to tell their group what they wrote down. (Just as an FYI, you can do this without sending them to a breakout room if this seems a little odd or out of character.)
When you get the group back in the main session, ask them to report what their group came up with. The process works just like asking the open-ended question alone. However, you will get more people to participate if you give them a chance to write down their ideas. It is easier for someone to read what they wrote than it is to give their opinion off the cuff. (It takes some of the risk out of the process.)
- Give Lots of Real-Life Examples.
The attention span of people today is very short. In virtual meetings, it is even shorter. However, when you get into a good example or story, the participants take a little mental vacation. They begin to see a mini-movie in their heads. As a result, the meeting becomes more interesting.
Your virtual audience will stay with you longer and pay attention to the entire story.
For more details about this, visit The 5 Steps of Storytelling or Improving Your Storytelling with Better Introductions and Conclusions.
- Design Shorter Sessions and Take a Break Every Hour or So.
The most important virtual instructor-led training tip is to keep it short. The shorter your Zoom training session, the more your audience will love it — and you. If you have a lot of content, make sure to take a break every hour or so. It is real easy to do. Just say something like, “We’ve been going about an hour, and we are about half-way. Why don’t we take a quick 10-minute break?” Most people just turn their microphones and cameras off. However, they are still able to see you. So, when you come back on screen, most everyone will turn their cameras back on.
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