20 tips to facilitate a virtual training workshop — The rookie’s handbook

A set of blue, green, yellow and orange steps, representing facilitating virtual training workshops.

Running or facilitating a virtual training workshop can be considered a daunting task for new virtual trainers. More complicated than a standard virtual meeting, there is a lot to remember, between the content, the tech and ensuring your participants are fully engaged.

New trainers could be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed by all this, which is why we have decided to pull together a handy guidebook of all the things we wish someone had told us when we first started doing virtual training.

We have done all the hard work for you, made the mistakes and found the best practices of virtual training so you don’t have to.

Our top 20 tips on how to facilitate a virtual training workshop

In no particular order:

1. Get everyone on webcam

Much like in virtual meetings, getting everyone on a webcam with you can increase the feeling of human connectivity and communication between both trainer and participants. Having your camera on as the trainer is important but giving your participants the opportunity to see and interact with each other via video is also key.

2. Try for one device per person

Virtual training works much better when it is attended by one participant per one device. With more people heading back into the office, hybrid meetings and training are on the rise. So even if a few people have gathered together in a room with conference facilities, still encourage them to log in on their own laptops so they can individually contribute in the chat and polls.  

3. Schedule breaks for long sessions

If your virtual training has been effectively designed, then you shouldn’t have any trouble holding participants’ attention and keeping them engaged. But for those longer sessions it is worth scheduling in time for a quick break, allowing them to take a comfort break, grab a drink or just stretch their legs for a moment. This lets them come back for the next portion of the workshop refreshed and ready to continue.

4. Manage the audio

Just as good audio is integral to a successful virtual meeting, so it is for a virtual workshop, as the main tool of communication. This being said, limiting participants by asking them to go on mute can be a huge killer of engagement. Instead, encourage participants to manage their mute, if for example they are dealing with excessive background noise, or feedback. Most platforms also give you, as host, this power, so don’t be afraid to manage the mute if you need to.

5. Be inclusive

Holding larger group discussion with all the participants allows a sense of togetherness and wider inclusivity to form during a virtual workshop. Make sure that whole group discussions are a part of your engagement during the workshop; some of the best conversations happen when a wider array of people are involved to give their thoughts and ideas.

6. Watch your timing

Running to time is important, especially in a virtual setting. Many participants need the virtual workshop to finish on time because they are going straight into another virtual meeting after. In order to maintain a positive virtual experience, be careful of your timings and also finish when you are supposed to.

7. Remember, everything takes longer in virtual settings

Further to the point above, everything takes longer in the virtual setting. You have to factor this in when planning your sessions so that participants don’t feel rushed or cut off by your timings. Consider factoring in extra time for breakout groups, tasks or small group conversations.

Want some extra time tips? Watch our short video —  Learn 3 different time tips to make your virtual workshop brilliant —  for some helpful tips for managing time during a virtual workshop.

8. Know where you can flex

You don’t have to be rigid with your timings in the workshop. If participants are having a great conversation and you want to let them continue, do so. But know where you can flex on other aspects of your content to ensure that the objectives are met, but that you still finish on time.

9. Ensure ongoing clarity

Don’t wait until the end to ask for questions! Encourage questions all the way through your workshop in order to ensure that full clarity and understanding is present throughout.

10. Make the most of polls and anonymous voting

Give your participants the opportunity to weigh in on discussions or display their understanding with the poll function. The polling features on most platforms are improving the whole time.  Prep them in advance so that it’s one less thing to have to think about during the workshop itself.

11. Collaborate on whiteboards

Virtual whiteboards are a great all-hands-on way of getting your group to brainstorm or collaborate.  Most platforms  have built in whiteboards or you can use external whiteboards like Mural or Miro.  Many whiteboards also have ready-to-go templates that you can use for activities as they are or you can adapt them for your own needs.

12. Practice, practice, practice

This one goes without saying, but practice is key. Practice your content, practice using your platform; putting participants into breakout groups and calling them back, uploading documents, sharing your screen and presenting your PowerPoint. The more you practice, the smoother your delivery experience will be.

13. Be aware of your surroundings

What’s happening in your background? How does it look? Is it professional? How much background noise are you competing with? These are all factors to consider in your delivery, in order to run a smooth virtual workshop. You need to be clear and easily visible with few distractions.

You can watch our short demonstration video here.

14. Encourage feedback

Feedback is what helps us grow and develop as individuals. It is important to ask for feedback on your sessions, especially when first starting out, which can help you to identify the areas of your workshop are working well and by contrast, those that still need some improvement. After all, we are all of us constantly learning and improving!

15. Look into your webcam

Eye contact is important when delivering virtual training, and while it is tempting to look at the faces of your participants, it is best practice to look directly into your camera. This gives your participants the feeling of true eye contact with you, and can help to increase connectivity and communication, by strengthening that human connection despite a lack of co-location.

16. Check what your participants see

When starting out, it can be worthwhile to test your setup and delivery practice with a second device prior to your actual live delivery session. This allows you to see what your participants see, as they screen and set up can be different to your own. In order to facilitate a smooth experience, it can be helpful to know how their screen may be displayed.

17. Drop the slides

Don’t get us wrong — we love a good slide deck! A well-designed deck will only enhance learning. But for those moments when a rich discussion takes off…stop sharing your slides and go back to gallery viewing so everyone can see each other. It makes for a more collaborative and natural conversation.

18. Use the annotation tools

Most platforms have annotation tools like arrows, text and laser pointers.  You can use these to direct the attention of your participants to where you want them to look at the screen. You can also use them to get  your participants involved in pointing and annotating on the screen too.

19. Keep a learner log for participation and detail

For many virtual trainers, a learner log is a golden tool. It helps you to remember key pieces of information about participants; from how engaged they have been, to details about them that will help you to engage, especially on an ongoing basis. Learn how to use a learner log in this short video — it will change the way you interact with participants forever.

20. Flair — be personable

When you start out as a virtual trainer, it can be easy to become fixated on the technical side of delivery; the platform, the content, the functionality, the technicalities. Often, we find that trainers forget to use their most important tool when facilitating; their personality. Remember, bring your own personal flair to your delivery and to have fun. If you are enjoying yourself, your participants will too. 

Final thoughts

We hope that these facilitating a virtual workshop tips will help you to become the relaxed, confident and competent virtual trainer that you want to be.

Remember, the bottom line is practice, practice, practice.

But if you need additional help, you can always reach out to us too. We’d be happy to talk to you about all things virtual training.

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