As a face-to-face trainer, reading the room and tailoring your session accordingly to the reactions of your participants comes naturally.
Often, trainers find this more challenging when training employees virtually. The absence of physical proximity makes participant engagement even more important to get right. There are so many opportunities for learner distraction in the modern digital world and virtual trainers must skilfully and continually maintain their audeince’s attention right from the beginning of every virtual workshop.
Sound like a challenge you’re currently facing?
Well don’t worry, VTTs got you covered! We’ve collated 5 fool-proof ways to ensure that your virtual training workshops engage and retain audience attention throughout.
5 top tips to help with participant engagement
1. Invest in a quality tech platform
The first and foremost step to creating a professional and memorable virtual workshop is to invest in robust technology and a feature-rich platform. As a trainer, you need to ensure that the platform comes with an efficient way to schedule the virtual training; it must also be easy for participants to navigate and get logged into.
A little time, effort, and capital will save you future worries. Just make sure to familiarise yourself with the software before your first session.
2. Plan activities in advance
Involve participants from the moment they join the meeting, with a soft opening activity that gets them engrossed from the word go, sets the tone of the ensuing discussion, and allows attendees to explore the software.
Your activities could include throwing a statement or open-ended question to the audience. Or you could break the ice with an exercise in the chat box. Even simply getting participants to introduce themselves to one another can get the ball rolling.
You might also offer a sneak peek of the content ahead — just enough to pique interest, without giving away too many details.
3. Encourage interaction and collaboration
Create avenues for interaction.
- Encourage activities in pairs — Facilitate an interactive environment online, by encouraging activities in pairs. Participants could brainstorm ideas with their partners via breakout groups, and present them back to the main group.
- Pose a question — Drive active thinking by asking participants questions. It will help you keep track of who is paying attention and who is getting distracted.
Invite communication — Be open to questions, personal stories, thoughts, doubts, and reflections – Shared insights and information can often help deepen the learning outcome.
4. Employ the power of visuals
- Audio clips
- Real-time graphics
into your virtual training to keep a good variety in your presentations. This can help keep it from becoming death by PowerPoint, but remember not to overwhelm the audience with too much activity as this will take away from the learning process.
Another great way to help with participant engagement is utilising the poll feature on your chosen platform.
- Pre-session — Attract and rivet attention right from the start. Throw open the program agenda in a poll, asking participants to select topics that interest them the most. This will keep everyone involved while creating an information bank for your next session.
- During the session — Pose questions to your audience to gauge what and how much they understand. Continuous back-and-forth like this will also help learners know each other better.
Post-session — Attendee feedback is crucial. The poll should focus on their overall experience, including the positives, drawbacks, and scope for improvement.
Gather all your poll data to spot important trends in the responses and make informed business decisions in the future. The idea is to get your trainees to express what interests them so you can prepare more relevant content.
The essential list of essentials
Besides the 5 tips discussed above, there are a plethora of ways to keep your participants engaged such as:
- Cite real-world examples and discuss current case studies to stay relevant
- The rule of thumb limits sessions to 90 minutes, including bathroom breaks
- Limit the number of participants to create a comfortable learning environment
- Prepare a set of knowledge-based articles or custom handouts for attendees to read later on.
All in all, do your best to remove all distractions from your end, prepare well, and most importantly, remember to have fun.