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8 Tips for Virtual Trainers

Posted by Melissa Grey Satterfield on 7/29/13 4:00 AM
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In a recent Training 101 workshop, one of my clients asked for tips on conducting synchronous virtual training. While live instructor-led training is still the most widely used method of delivering training, synchronous virtual training is rapidly gaining traction. Travel restrictions, budget cuts, and a technology-savvy workforce have led many companies to rethink how they continue to meet the training needs of their employees. There are oodles of books, online tutorials and blogs for trainers looking for tips to sharpen their virtual training skills.


The following eight tips will help you be a successful virtual trainer:

1. Establish ground rules for participation. Ask for agreement from your participants – they might not know what’s expected. A few good ground rules to include are: please resist distractions, close your office door, don’t check email, contribute to discussions by typing in the Chat tool, and respond to polls. Ask your group, “Does everyone agree to engage and fully participate during the next hour?”


2. Master the software. Know all the tips and tricks of your preferred virtual classroom software. Some of the more common features include: document sharing (display PowerPoint slides), chat, polling, annotation, virtual white boards, raise hand/change status, breakout groups, and application sharing.


3. Plan for contingencies. Things can and will go wrong. Consider having a producer or co-pilot on the session who can assist with all technical details and/or help solve the problem. Have a second computer at your desk to glance at periodically so you can see what the participants see. Good virtual training facilitators don’t magically avoid all problems, but they recover from them well. Always have a Plan B.


4. Pare down text. Don’t include your entire script on your slides. Stay focused on key tasks or ideas (one idea per slide). Create a downloadable handout or post-course job aid for additional or “nice to know” information.


5. Prompt for participation. Participants need to be encouraged and reminded to participate, especially in a virtual environment. Tell your participants that everyone will be expected to participate right up front! The general rule of thumb for a synchronous virtual training class is to engage participants at least every three to five minutes.


6. Ask questions, wait for the responses. Questions should be specific with an emphasis on how participants should respond (“Let’s have everyone respond to this next question in the chat window.”). Use your participants’ names when only one person should respond (“Joe, could you elaborate on your comment in the chat window?”).


7. Harness your voice. Voice is a key component of your virtual training delivery. Pay attention to your volume, rate, tone, and overall sound. Speak fast enough so the participants don’t get bored, yet slow enough that they understand (150 words per minute is a good guideline). Ultimately, your voice communicates who you are as a virtual trainer.


8. Use feedback to improve. Becoming an effective online trainer is an evolutionary process. Own your mistakes and learn from them. Solicit feedback (via a reaction survey) on the following elements of your delivery: voice, word choices, rate of speech, and clear activity instructions. Take part in virtual trainings whenever possible; it’s a great way to find out what works and what doesn’t. As Albert Einstein once said, “If you do what you always did, you will get what you always got.”


One of my favorite quotations, from American football coach Vince Lombardi goes, “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” What are you doing to perfect your virtual training skills?

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Melissa has been a course leader with Langevin since 2000. She graduated from the University of Nevada where she studied broadcast communications. During her college years, Melissa worked as an on-air personality for several radio and TV stations in Las Vegas. She’s always been a bit of a performer, which is probably why training is such a good fit for her. Before coming to Langevin, she was a senior training specialist and course developer for an organization based in L.A. Melissa knows the challenges trainers face, as well as the rewards that come with improving job performance. Her training mantra is summed up best by something she learned during her very first Langevin workshop, “Never do for the learners what the learners can do for themselves.” When not in the classroom, Melissa loves travelling, relaxing at the beach, cooking, and hosting dinner parties.

Topics: virtual trainer, virtual classroom

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Our very own world-class course leaders share their experiences, tips, best practices, and expertise on virtual training, instructional design, needs analysis, e-learning, delivery, evaluation, presentation skills, facilitation, and much more!

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