Ryan Apodac, Trainer
It’s go time. Training is over. It’s time to put everything I’ve learned into action. Can I do this? Do I have what it takes? These are just a few of the thoughts we’ve all had on our first day after training for a new position. The unspoken question though is always “Was my trainer prepared to help me learn what I will need to succeed?” While this is nothing new, the latest trend in training pertains to the environment. As more and more companies are trending to a virtual model, Virtual Training is becoming more and more common in the workplace. Virtual Training is convenient; however one can easily overlook the important factors that can mean the difference between conducting a Virtual Training, and conducting a successful one.
Virtual Training offers its own unique opportunities. Of course the obvious flexibility of people attending from multiple locations makes coordinating and scheduling easier than ever before. Let’s take some time to review the top 10 best practices to ensure a successful Virtual Training.
10 Best Practices for Delivering Virtual Training
- Webinar Service – In lieu of the traditional classroom training projector or large screen monitor to display training materials and “slides”, it is almost impossible to conduct a successful Virtual Training without using some type of Webinar service. There are popular “name brand” services available, the key is to know which features or “creature comforts” your trainings will utilize. Some services offer features such as passing your mouse, or limiting interruptions by providing chat features, or manually muting that heavy mouth breather. Of course typically the more features you need the more expensive the service is, it’s crucial to find a balance between budget and having the tools you will need and utilize.
- Conference Call Line – Most webinar services will have audio conferencing available as a feature. This feature can seem to eliminate the need for an independent Conference Call Line, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Technical difficulties on behalf of attendees can eat up enormous amounts of time. From mute malfunctions to pesky pop-up authorization screens, anything you can do to simplify the process of communicating with you is paramount and there’s nearly nothing more simplistic than dialing the phone and entering a Conference ID. Even if you only use a Conference Line to get all of the attendees onto your webinar audio service, it’s a life saver to have available as issues may arise.
- Instant Messaging/Chat – Verbal communication is not the sole means of communication in the virtual environment. Instant Messaging/ Chat Features are a pivotal piece of virtual training. Understandably, chat messages can be a distraction to trainings, some services allow attendees to message the presenter directly. Chats can be used for pop quizzes or “temp check” of attendees to ensure everyone is able to comprehend and digest the subject matter. It’s also a safe place for those who don’t feel comfortable asking questions in front of a group to reach out with questions without interrupting the group.
- Screen Share / Audio Share – The traditional training environment allows new employees to see and hear existing employees conduct their expected activities in real life. In the Virtual Training Environment this can be a challenge. While one can demonstrate usage of systems and play recordings for new employees, it’s critical for most people to see and hear a situation in real life. As Virtual Training becomes more and more commonplace, there are new technologies emerging almost daily. Even though it may require multiple applications to do so, enabling a new employee to see and hear an existing employee at some point in training is one thing that cannot be overlooked.
- Participation / Temp Checks – Any successful trainer will tell you how important it is to “work the room” and focus attention on those attendees who are distracted by directing a question to them or standing close to them to help draw their attention back. This is one of the hardest things to accomplish in Virtual Training but here are a few tips. Ask lots of questions! But while doing so ask different attendees each time in an unpredictable fashion so everyone is on their toes and the “natural” doesn’t try to answer everything themselves. You can also ask questions and have each attendee message you privately, so everyone can answer. You can also ask each attendee to handwrite notes and scan or type and send them at the end of the training session, which helps identify anyone who was not paying good enough attention.
- Role Playing – Role playing is the best way to help someone get their feet wet in a new situation. This will help new employees get past the nerves of beginning their new position and avoiding the potential mistakes they may make. Every training will have one person who is dead set afraid of role playing in front of a group, it is a necessary evil. Try to give everyone a chance to have their turn, but be mindful of the common fear of groups. Maybe offer an option to work with you one on one if absolutely necessary, but practice makes perfect and you can’t expect a new employee to succeed without practice in a safe environment where you can coach them.
- Know Your Technology – Of course knowing the content of the training you’re conducting is a no-brainer, the factor to consider in virtual training is knowing your technology as well. From which web browser to use, to which button to click, to “all I see is a little circle spinning what do I do?” as a virtual trainer you are IT by necessity if not by choice. Make sure to research the usage of your applications on different web browsers, it’s limitations and system requirements such as updated Adobe or Java. Know your applications like the back of your hand and be prepared to prove it! Inevitably every Virtual Training has at least one technical difficulty; the key is to know how to fix it in a timely fashion to diminish the down time for the rest of the class, and more time to focus on the training at hand.
- Ice-Breakers – Ice breakers are a fun and interesting way to get to know each other in any training environment. But it is exponentially more important in a Virtual Training. While in traditional training environments attendees spend time during breaks to socialize and get to know one another, it’s hard to do that in the Virtual Training environment. As it’s sometimes hard to identify with a co-worker by voice alone, getting creative with different ice-breakers can help employees identify with each other and feel more comfortable working as a team throughout training. Ice-Breakers should be scheduled for the beginning of Training, and after any extended break. Have a couple other ideas in mind (for longer trainings) to use after heavy detail oriented segments as a way of helping to not overload your attendees.
- Get Them Hands On – In the Virtual Training Environment one of the main keys to success is getting them hands on early and frequently. Especially when it comes to systems. Most people don’t fully feel comfortable until they are able to navigate through systems themselves. Repetition is fundamental in learning systems and it will allow attendees to ask for help with things they didn’t know they didn’t know. As the old proverb says, “those who waste their time in idleness or in a non-productive manner are easily misled” and this is even more so the case in Virtual Training. Even the most honest and devoted attendee might get the urge to sneak away if they won’t be missed. Getting attendees hands on as much as possible will help mediate this risk.
- Nesting – Virtual Training, like traditional on-site training should not end in the classroom. As a Virtual Trainer it is easy to pick up and leave when the training is done. In order to ensure a new employees success it is essential to develop a nesting process. It is critical for a new employee to begin their new tasks with good habits. Identifying issues and helping solidify best practices early on is essential. Objectivity is key. As a trainer it’s easy to get in the mindset of “I can help anyone succeed”, or “I’ve invested so much time training…” The Nesting Phase is likely the last chance to identify someone who is just not going to make it, and conversely giving someone the extra coaching they need to succeed.
While there are other aspects of training in both Traditional and Virtual Training environments that are important these top 10 Best Practices should not be overlooked. Do your research on technologies you can use to facilitate the needs of your Virtual Training. Experiment with different ideas and methodology, but above all else make it fun and engaging. Just remember; “It’s better to train an employee and lose them, than to not train them and keep them!”
Ryan Apodac is responsible for training at Quality Contact Solutions, a leading outsourced telemarketing organization. With a background of more than a decade in sales, Ryan is passionate about developing and delivering training that ultimately results in improved performance for client programs. Ryan can be reached at [email protected] or 516-656-5127.