Honestly, when I first got the news that this is going to happen, I was not convinced that it would really work out fine. Engaging people on virtual trainings all-day-long, during four days didn’t really seem to be the business as usual for me. But I decided that I will have no expectations, I will wait and see what comes. Of course, doing my best during the sessions, together with all my fellow trainer colleagues. I have to say now – that I am over with it -, that it can surprisingly really work out great!
How do you prepare for such a training program?
First of all – besides of course having the material – what I found really important on this virtual delivery is to have everything comfortably around me. Water and tea to drink, comfortable char to sit in all day long, appropriate lighting so that I can actually be seen properly through the webcam and a well-setup workstation.
A really good advice during these virtual trainings is to have the webcam at you eye-level. With this you can make sure that you appear on the screen most similarly to what you really look like. For me this setup requires 2 very important things: 2 shoeboxes 😀 You can also easily buy a laptop stand, but if you lack any, I am sure you can find some boxes at home which will be just perfect. No one knows it anyways – except that I shared my secret with all of you now 😀
I also consider a part of the preparation the planning of the program. If you deliver virtually and all day long – what more, for four days – that needs to be planned well. Not having these days one after the other is for example a good plan. Allowing time for the participants to digest the things learned and to have a bit of a rest from the constant webcam staring as well.
How can you engage people in front of their computer during such a long time?
The shorter the presentation parts are, the better. However, this alone would not be enough. Having group conversations, activities, pair exercises in all combinations and variations, is a must. Besides all these, frequent games, activities, energisers can also spice up the flow. In these long virtual trainings, I absolutely prefer having such icebreakers and energisers, which are not only about talking. I like when the participants stand up, move around, showing things on the webcam, etc. The more movements, the better. At least this way it can be about a bit more than just staring at your screen all day. Believe me, the attendees will also be grateful for this once the game is done – you will be able to see it on their faces and feel it from the increased energy levels.
What are the challenges?
Technology and the speed of the internet can definitely be one. Around the world the speed and quality of the internet varies. During such a long program, you can definitely experience it. This is something that can prevent participants from using their webcams or having a good quality sound when speaking. Lagging of the audio and the video is something that we are all familiar with at this point of the year of 2020. Adding to this, when someone’s computer is not working or the Teams/Zoom/Webex or whatever program itself goes mad, that is the cherry on the top. As a trainer we need utmost patience in these cases and flexibility. This year is all about re-planning and flexibility anyways, which can be observed during the virtual training sessions as well, in little. I could mention some more challenges, but based on my experience, these above ones are those, which make the biggest impact on such a delivery. Everything else is just minor details.
Can virtual delivery fully replace the face to face ones in the future?
I doubt it. It is good, it is great, I am glad we have the virtual opportunities. But I honestly think that as the world goes back to (somewhat) normal, people will be craving for the face to face trainings even more. This does not mean that the virtual ones will not happen after that. On the contrary!
Virtual deliveries gained a huge share of the training business in 2020 – being basically the only option for developing people in the vast majority of the year. Even if the world restarts at some point, this virtual option will still be needed. To connect people from different far-away parts of the world, to keep open the accessibility of out-of-country choices for everyone in the future as well.
What I think will come, is a shift. More blended trainings, more additional side-training activities virtually. There is no limit to this. I believe that we will use it later on as well, maybe in a different way, for different purposes. But now, that we are given a fair amount of time to practice it – as participants and trainers as well -, it will always be easy to get back to our comfy chair, open our webcams and participate on or deliver a training session virtually.