If you are responsible for training programs, it’s a jungle out there, especially if you’re implementing virtual training. To keep the ever-changing jungle at bay, you must learn to change as the jungle changes. Innovation is key. If you don’t learn to adapt, the jungle consumes you.
As an HR Consultant at Kinetix for the past 9 years, I’ve seen firsthand our challenges and our success in adapting to and innovating for changing circumstances. When the world first shut down last year, we needed to immediately shift how we delivered in our consulting practice specifically in our BOSS Leadership Training series from 100% live to 100% virtual. Quickly.
Our takeaway, overall, WE REALLY LIKE IT! But it’s taken some trial and error, especially finding new ways to keep participants engaged. Here are some of my insights on what works when facilitating virtual training.
Foundational Aspects for Virtual Training
First, I’ll start by providing the foundational aspects that create the best environment for people to participate.
- Limit classes to 25 people or less – Any more than that and people can blend into the masses and not participate.
- Facilitate with a moderator on your team to run the backend for you – There are a lot of engagement features and tech-prep on the backend. And it’s a lot for one person to pay attention to in addition to presenting.
- Let’s talk Slides – I’d rather you have more slides. Why? Having a few extra gives you some flexibility to change direction based on where participant conversation leads. I know, a person’s average attention span is 8 seconds. Hitting content quickly on a slide and either moving to a group discussion or the next slide provides some visual momentum and will keep people engaged for longer.
- Slide Images — Every slide should have an image on it – no stock art. The image can even take up the whole slide. At Kinetix, we like to use pop cultural images as one way to liven up the slides and allow people to create easy connections with your content. Keep it simple and expand on your bullets through your facilitation and discussions. And please, don’t have pixel-y pictures. Just don’t.
- Practice, practice, practice – I know you’re an ace, but facilitating on a virtual platform with a moderator and knowing when and how to engage your participants takes practice even if you’ve done this presentation live before.
Engagement Tools for Virtual Training
- Call on people directly – Okay, maybe this one is obvious, but I’ve been in too many presentations where people talk at me. Set this precedent from the beginning, and you’ll find people less likely to drift into their inbox while you’re presenting. “Shauna, tell me more about why you chose that answer.”
- Cameras on – A MUST. It’s easier to engage with people when you can see them, and it keeps them accountable to focus solely on your training. Be aware of the cat filter.
- Breakout Rooms – Love, love, love these. Split your participants into groups of 3 and put them into separate breakout rooms to discuss an exercise. When they come back, have 2-3 groups share about their discussion and response. Gold mine.
- Chat/Reactions – An easy, quick way to not only get participants to answer on the fly but provides a constant channel of participation without interrupting the main presentation. The moderator can monitor and call out specific responses for further discussion as needed.
- Polls – Yes! Give me all the polls. Where are responses varying? Have 2 people who answered differently explain why.
- Raise Your Hand – Virtually, it’s harder for people to let you know they have a question. This feature allows them to easily notify you without interrupting the flow.
These are the main engagement features across multiple platforms we’ve found successful at increasing engagement and participation during virtual training. I’d love to hear about any additional features you use or different ways you’ve utilized the features we’ve listed above! That “jungle” will continue to change. As the trees continue to grow, so should your engagement features and willingness to adapt.