In the last two years, work training has become almost entirely virtual. This shift offers several advantages, like lower travel costs and reaching a broader audience. There is no reason for virtual training to be dull or uninspiring.
Do you have a team, like sales, that would benefit from a virtual or online training program? Chances are you do. Many managers are married to the notion that face-to-face interactions and charismatic delivery are exclusive to live sales training, making a traditional approach more effective. However, when it's done right, virtual training can be just as effective as its in-person alternative.
In many ways, this shift makes sense since virtual training is easily scalable. But this shift paved the way for other challenges. In particular, how do you create virtual training sessions that keep teams engaged while making them feel like they're receiving the same level of training that they would in person?
How To Make Virtual Training Engaging
Here are ten things that separate good virtual trainings from great ones:
1. Making training interactive
Tools like polling tools, polls, or a virtual voting app can help keep learners engaged during your session. These apps allow you to pose questions that influence the flow of the conversation, which encourages group involvement and collaboration among participants and provides valuable insights.
2. Having a clear purpose
Every virtual training should have a purpose, and all learners must know upfront why they are being trained. It can be as simple as "so you can do your job better" or "today we're going to cover X, Y, and Z."
This allows learners to get acquainted with the subject matter at hand. Once they understand its importance, their perception of how engaging the session will improve dramatically.
3. Real-world examples of how to use the skill
Your virtual training won't be practical if attendees don't see how the new skill or information will make them more productive on the job or help them grow in their careers. Make sure your attendees can see how this new skill will directly contribute to the bottom line or promote professional growth by providing examples during your session and when answering questions—even hypothetical ones.
In a way, you want to give them the illusion of being in an in-person setting where they have a real-life conversation with their instructor.
4. Tools that take the learning further
Tools allow learners to practice what they learned during training on their schedule—which shows that your organization cares about helping them retain this new information for long-term use. This also helps convert live stream training into practical on-demand activities since many employees find it challenging to integrate new skills and knowledge into their work without any practice.
5. Letting trainees ask questions as they go
When learners ask questions during a live-streamed training, it gives them the impression that they are in an active conversation with another human being—and not just a robot pretending to be one.
To get your attendees used to asking questions during the session, make sure you tell them ahead of time that you will be available to answer questions throughout the course. It's also helpful to show them how to type their query into the chat box at different times—especially if something comes up that they want to ask but can't wait for due to its importance.
TIP: Make sure your technology affords easy back and forth dialog during the live session. Some tools like GoToMeeting make this easy by showing a "call back" button in the chat box, which allows you to call upon whichever user is asking questions while you remain engaged with all of your other learners in real-time.
6. Including gamified elements
Granted, they're not fun for everyone--but intermittent quizzes and trivia questions on your subject matter can be very engaging and help boost participant retention rates. They also show what teams have learned so far because there is usually some collaboration involved when someone wants to answer a trivia question correctly. In addition, quizzes can help warm attendees up to ask further questions after the session has ended—especially if they were the ones to answer the trivia question correctly.
7. Encouraging questions and dialogue between learners
Encouraging group involvement in virtual training can help make it more engaging, open-ended, and nonlinear. Group involvement is especially effective if you have asked an audience to collaborate or pool their resources during a session. In addition, audience members who participate tend to remember content better because they feel more involved in the learning process: They apply their knowledge and experience by thinking through challenges and answering questions as a team with other participants.
8. Live demonstrations on how to apply the material you're covering
Encouraging live demonstrations of how to master specific skills will allow learners to follow along and make the material more meaningful. Live demonstrations can also help show your audience how other experts in the industry apply these skills daily—and this is very engaging for people who want to learn new skills to do their jobs better.
Remember, you're not just showing them how something works--you are giving them an inside look at exactly what's necessary to produce results when trying to master that skill.
9. Humor or personal anecdotes
Personal stories or humor that illustrates a point during training will go a long way towards making your session stand out as engaging content. It gives attendees real-life examples of what not to do and why certain things happen the way they do. Humor and personal stories are especially good at connecting the dots between a concept or process and how it plays out in the real world--while keeping things entertaining for people who might otherwise tune out after hours of training.
10. Assessing what people have learned so far
During interactive sessions, giving learners something to work towards can be very motivating and engaging content that they will remember long after your session has ended. It's also helpful to sneak in some fun questions here and there because quizzes tend to be more memorable than straightforward lecture material—and they help reinforce subjects the audience just learned.
What to Do if You Don't Have a Large Audience
If you are having a hard time getting engagement in your live virtual training sessions, one of the best things to do is try and repeat what you've already done. Look at the topics that got the most attention or used the most questions from participants. Then try and replicate those points during future sessions--or sprinkle them throughout if they're excellent points to make with your audience.
Remember: people who pay attention tend to ask lots of questions because they believe the information will help them do their jobs better or be more effective within their department or organization. So encourage engagement by making sure your content keeps this in mind.