20 Best Practices for Virtual Trainers This Stuff Ain’t Rocket Science
Have a Dartboard! If you identify and articulate the goal of your live online session at the outset of your planning process, it will help you create blueprints for your design.
G.I.G.O. Garbage In, Garbage Out. Bad design for live online sessions has inadvertently taught participants that virtual classes are a free hour . Make sure you have well planned learning objectives.
There is a vast wasteland of bad webinars and virtual training sessions out there.
All Classes Are NOT Created Equal You can separate virtual events into two large categories. Presentations are delivered by subject matter experts, which provide exposure to new knowledge and the opportunity to clarify concepts. Learning events are delivered by trainers, and allow attendees to leave the session with new actionable knowledge or skills.
Do you know the people on the bus? Make sure you understand the competency level of your attendees, both for the subject matter, and for the skills and techniques of the virtual classroom. Do all participants know how to “learn” in a virtual setting? Before starting with class content, take participants through a guided tour of the virtual classroom. Show them how to use the annotation tools, the chat box, the Q & A panel, etc.
Do You Know What Kind of Shoes They’re Wearing? Good classroom trainers shine because they have an intimate knowledge of what it’s like to learn in a classroom setting. To be an effective virtual trainer, you must have considerable experience as an e-learner. You must immerse yourself in the participant experience. Have you walked a mile in the shoes of a virtual learner before?
Every participant’s experience with e-learning can be different.
Short Attention Span Theater Without something to do, every 5 minutes or so, participants can easily become disengaged. Something to do could be a whiteboard activity, a chat exercise, a poll, an annotation activity. It should be more than “busy work” and should support the learning objectives and instruction.
How long can you keep focused during a webinar?
Remember the worst, most boring college lecture in your life… Now, remove the cute guy you talked with before and after class… That is e-learning without interactions. KEEP YOUR PARTICIPANTS ACTIVE !
Think Comic Book Comic books present fairly complex stories with very limited text, because the images deliver a significant portion of the story. Can you use images to establish a theme for your presentation? Learning with analogies and metaphors can also be extremely powerful. You could use a powerful image with just a few key words.
It’s In There…But Should It Be? You can only cover so much “stuff” during a session. Make sure you have an accurate time and events for your program. Virtual classes shouldn’t be scheduled for more than 60 – 90 (tops) minutes. What you may think is content for 60 minutes might take significantly longer. As a beginner’s rule of thumb, plan to deliver 75% of what you initially think you’ll get through. You can always have content ready to add if needed.
Remember, They Can Read Don’t create slides that you might be tempted to read verbatim. This is instant death. Assigning members of the audience to “read the first bullet” is no more effective, it just assures that one person is awake.
A Strong Opening, and a Strong Close How a program starts has a huge impact on the mind-set of attendees. An opening that is not well designed, focused, and addresses the attendees needs will make participants think “early dismissal.” To ensure a polished opening, script your initial comments – not that you’ll be reading them, but writing will crystallize your thought, allowing a clear concise opening. People always remember the last experience. Make sure your closing recaps the important concepts in a purposeful manner.
Be Prepared! Being a successful virtual trainer encompasses more than facilitating the class. Having a comprehensive list of things “to do” leading up to the event helps guarantee success. The list might include weeks before the class, completing your power point or word files and creating any polls. The day of the class might include verifying your participant list, doing a sound check, etc. Also, don’t forget to plan for the after the class follow-up.
Practice Makes… Even if you’re familiar with the material you will be presenting, talking to a computer screen while sitting by yourself in a little room is a different experience. It takes practice. Hold several practice sessions before “going live.” Don’t just practice by yourself, have someone coach you. We all know that practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent, so it is imperative to practice right.
If children practice something incorrectly, you’ll hear it that way for EVER! Even seasoned trainers need intentional practice .
Get the Most from Your Instrument Your voice, your vocal instrument is your primary connection with the audience. Work on changing your pace, tone, and inflection when you practice for your presentations. Record yourself presenting and critique yourself. Then, have someone shut their eyes and listen to you. Ask if your message was as clear and effective when they couldn’t see you.
What you See is What you Get Your visual aids, and your voice are the only means of connecting with your participants. Presenting virtually takes away your ability to connect with the audience by making eye contact, smiling, nodding, etc. Removing that eye contact between trainer and participant makes using standard bullet pointed power point slides less than effective. Your Slides become the major focal points of the synchronous event
At first “connecting” with your audience is much more challenging virtually.
The Producer Working with a producer, or a second trainer gives you an extra pair of hands and set of eyes during the training event. As much as we think that we are able to multi-task, it is very challenging to carry on a presentation while opening a poll and responding to messages in the chat window. Working with a produces can help in maintaining a high level of interaction with participants. The producer can also “seed” responses or activities on the whiteboard, and reply to questions coming through the chat window.
Tic Toc… Watch the Clock You can be sure that your participants are watching the clock, so you should too. Start on time, and control the flow so that all instructional objectives are met, and the session ends on time.
Be a DJ Successful radio broadcasters , especially the morning drive-time slots keep their energy level up, and attitudes positive. They also speak conversationally with their audience, even though they have no direct contact with them. These are two good traits of effective virtual trainers as well.
The Idle Mind is the Devil’s Playground Unless meaningful engagement is provided you can be quite certain that participants will get bored, take the opportunity to check e-mail, and take care of other routine tasks.
What is Plan B? The moment of dread will come. You will move to an activity and the file won't be there. You'll try to share an application, and your machine will lock up. You'll rest easier if you're proactive. Set up a secondary solution to all key learning methods. You do not want to have to say, "I'm sorry, we are having technical difficulties and can't give you the information you came here to see." Even if the delivery option seems low-tech and lame, fill it in. Thinks about Plan C or D option, too, especially if it's easy to do. If at all possible, the show must go on!
I never had a slice of bread, Particularly large and wide, That did not fall upon the floor, And always on the buttered side.
Can You Hear me Now? The internal microphone (on a laptop keyboard or screen panel) is a less-than optimal option for instructors because it can pick up machine noise and create an intolerable online hum. External or desktop microphones are not much better. Headsets improve sound quality and give instructors the freedom to move about naturally during their sessions.
I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Maya Angelou Present With Feeling
Have Fun! If you don’t enjoy the experience of being a virtual trainer, your participants certainly will not enjoy the experience.