5 Best practices for virtual workshop design

At some point in our lives, whether in a university lecture or office training day, we’ve all been forced to sit through a presentation that would be better repurposed as a sleeping aid. Slides filled with size 8 font, overlapping graphs of information you honestly couldn’t give two hoots about and a presenter who reads… and reads… and reads… It’s the stuff of nightmares. 

As virtual training gains more traction and becomes a genuine alternative to the traditional classroom, this nightmare has the potential to get even worse. THAT lecture? In your HOME? With no one to stop you smiling blithely at the screen whilst you secretly check your emails and browse Instagram? No thank you.

With the right virtual design though, this doesn’t have to be the case! A stack of information doesn’t have to become a lifeless lecture that leaves your learners praying for the end to come; it can become an active virtual workshop that allows for genuine engagement and learning transfer.

If you are thinking of taking your training into the virtual world and want to make sure you’re doing more than helping your learners take a cheeky midday nap, then read on for our 5 best practices for virtual workshop design!

If you would like help with your virtual design, please visit our Virtual training design studio. We would love to help. 

Our 5 best practices for virtual workshop design

  1. It’s all about the learner
  2. Design for interaction
  3. Looks matter
  4. Short is sweet
  5. Expand the learning space

1. It’s all about the learner

As a virtual learning designer or coach, a training workshop is not about you. It’s not about your experience, your knowledge or even your training and design skills. It’s about one person: the learner.

The first question you should be asking yourself when you begin planning a virtual workshop is not “What do I want to tell my learners?” but “What do my learners need to get out of this?”. Everything you include should be focused on the learner and the outcomes they need to achieve.

This may mean you have to cut a slide you worked hard on, or a theory you personally swear by. Be ruthless. If it doesn’t help the learner and directly contribute to learning transfer, it won’t be as engaging and doesn’t belong in your workshop.

Want to know more about choosing content with purpose? Watch our video: How to keep learner’s attention by making your workshop super relevant.

2. Design for interaction

When delivering a virtual workshop, you’re up against a lot more than you are in a traditional classroom. You are competing against email, social media, and every other distraction on the internet. An I-will-talk-and-you-will-listen lecture isn’t going to cut it.

If you want to keep your learners engaged and your learning active, you need to design for interaction. Video meeting platforms are getting more advanced all the time with chat functions, breakout rooms, live annotation, whiteboards, stamps and emojis now commonplace.

Instead of introducing a topic with a long passage of text for the coach to read aloud, try asking the participants what they know already: ask them to rate their confidence level by posting an emoji in the chat; put them into breakout groups to discuss their prior experiences; or ask them to annotate the screen with any word associations they have with the topic.

There are so many ways to encourage interaction and conversation, and in a virtual training space where you are always competing for your learners’ attention, engagement is key.

3. Looks matter

I know, I know, looks don’t matter and you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Only your book will be judged by its cover and if you want learners to engage with your virtual workshop, looks do matter.

Now we’re not saying you need to be a graphic designer, or even that your workshop materials need to look particularly spectacular. What we are saying is that there is a difference between an attractive, accessible training workshop and slides so overloaded with retro clipart that your learners may assume they haven’t been updated since the 90s.

In our modern world, industries advance and information becomes out-of-date so quickly that your learners are unlikely to engage with material that looks dated. Neither are they likely to take much in if their cognitive load is maxed out with paragraphs of in-depth information and overly detailed slides.

Keep it simple. A clean, attractive slide featuring one or two key points of information will achieve learning transfer much more successfully than one full of small print and overlapping images. People can only take in so much information at once, and your job as the designer is to make sure their focus is on the information that really matters.

4. Short is sweet

No matter our level of interest, most of us can only focus on a learning topic for so long. This is even more true in the virtual learning space, where distractions abound!

At The virtual training team, we typically keep our workshops to between 60 and 100 mins. When tackling a more in-depth topic, we’ll allow 3 hours but always with a break in the middle. If a topic requires more than 3 hours, it requires more than a single workshop.

Keep it short. Keep it sweet.

5. Expand the learning space

The internet is vast and your workshop is only so long. There will always be articles, links, videos and more that will be of interest to your learners but may not fit within the timeframe you have for synchronous learning. So, expand the learning space!

Try providing a pre-workshop activity or post-workshop review so that participants who want to expand their learning can do so in their own time. Always include hyperlinks in your presentation when referencing another source, not only for copyright purposes but so that learners can follow-up any theories or articles they found particularly interesting.

Learning doesn’t have to end when the workshop does, and by turning your virtual design skills to pre- and post-workshop content, you can expand the learning space without overwhelming your learners.

What Next?

If you would like to learn more about virtual workshop design, check out our Train the trainer programme which includes masterclasses in Virtual design, Virtual delivery, and interaction!

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