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Facilitating Effective Training in a Virtual Environment

by Glenn Sharp – President/CEO Sharp Leadership Development

One of the realities of the COVID-19 outbreak is that most of us have had to change the way we conduct business. One of the most important principles I teach as a leadership coach is “The Best Ability is Adaptability.” For some, that means figuring out how to continue to manage their folks and provide effective meetings/trainings in a virtual environment.

But can virtual events be as effective as in person events? The answer is “almost”. We know there is no contest between virtual and in person effectiveness. However, we need to do what we can to supply our folks with the development and information they need right now and there are ways to ensure the virtual format is interesting, interactive and fun for the participants. Virtual live training can be almost as effective as in person if you have the right tools and knowhow.

Let’s look at an example of what Sharp Leadership Development did for one of our clients.

One of our clients wanted to resume training for their team, however they had a few individuals that were still a bit wary of gathering in a group regardless of social distancing and masks. So, we adapted. We set up a hybrid training event which included the live audience and a live camera showing the facilitator and the classroom which allowed remote users to join in on the workshop. We used a robust online platform to provide a way for the remote users to see me, the classroom, the PowerPoint slides and the ability to ask questions via “chat”. We could even put the online participants in a breakout room together to work on group activities. As the facilitator, I used wireless earbuds so that the online participants could hear me clearly and I could ask them questions to ensure engagement.

What did the online participants think? They loved it! Here is what one of them had to say:

I just wanted to take a minute to thank you for everything you did to make the remote time management training go so smoothly this morning. We could hear great thanks to the earbuds Glenn was using. The breakout rooms you set up worked great so we could do the exercises for the breakout sessions. We could see everything going on in the room. It was like we were there! Thanks again for making it all so seamless!

For fully virtual workshops we go a step further. In our office studio we have a monitor behind our camera so I can see the online participants facial expressions when they ask me questions. I can engage with them one on one or as a group in ways like polls, chat, breakouts and open mic.

All this technology provides a fantastic alternative to live in-person meetings/training; however, the virtual format is difficult without a producer. As I facilitate, my producer is off camera making sure the technology is working properly, fielding questions from the participants or troubleshooting any issues the participants might have with the virtual platform. The producer can place the participants into virtual breakout rooms when they have an exercise to complete and bring them back to the main room at my prompting. A producer allows you as the facilitator to focus your efforts on facilitating rather than being distracted by the multitude of challenges that can go along with virtual events.

All that being said, a facilitator still needs to keep his/her participants engaged. The harsh reality in the virtual format is that some participants tune out, work on other tasks, or even walk away from a virtual event once they see their name appear in the attendance box. There are ways to lessen the likelihood of this happening during your meeting/training. The main way is through constant engagement. To learn more about some of the techniques I use for consistent participant engagement, join us on August 20th for the webinar Dispelling the Myth That Live Online Learning Is Not Effective. In this workshop I’ll go into the many techniques I use to keep my audience engaged online. I hope to see you there!

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