Making technical training more engaging in the virtual world

Image of woman leaping through the air to get across making technical training more engaging.

Are you designing or delivering virtual training that is technical, scientific or just plain dry due to the data-heaviness of the slides and content?

We know how it feels… trying to get the balance between delivering all the content your participants need to know, whilst keeping them engaged and able to absorb everything they need to remember!

Often in technical training, you have to demonstrate that you have covered all of the information so that participants can be ‘signed off’ as completing the training.  This is often driven by policies, science departments, compliance or even the law.  The challenge with this of course though, is that participants can be overwhelmed with too much data and actually retain less information, even though lots of data was covered.

So how do we make technical training sticky?  By sticky, we mean sticky enough so that participants stick around until the end, they pay attention, they don’t fall asleep, they don’t multi-task, they learn more and oh… actually enjoy themselves at the same time!?

Techniques to make technical training more engaging

We’ve got you covered.  Here are 10 techniques that our clients use to make their technical training more engaging. These clients are spread across pharma, financial services, audit, compliance, biotech, science, tax, health and safety, law and more.

1. Who creates the slide-decks?  Make friends with them 

For technical training, it is often the technical experts who create the training materials – or for technical product this might be marketing or comms departments.  The point here is that they are not designed with learning in mind.  They are often a brochure or technical document with everything you need to know.

Offer to help to adapt a version of these for the training itself that is more accessible and interactive.

2. Create a separate handout 

Okay, so we get it… you still HAVE to provide all of the content to participants.  Fine.  Give them all of that as their take-away handout.  Make lots of references to it in your workshop but then strip out the detail from your slide-deck and distill the key points that will help your participants understand and retain what they need to know.

3. Let go of your grip on the slides 

It does take a shift in mindset to accept that ‘not everything has to be on the slides’.  This is especially so if you have a comprehensive take-away document too.  If the powers that be still insist on you incorporating the detail heavy slides into your workshop, then add extra slides to focus on the key points you need your participants to learn and retain, to help with their technical training.

4. Control your participants’ attention 

Let’s assume for a second that you are still stuck with content heavy slides.  This can be overwhelming for participants… “where should I be looking?”,  “which bit are we referring to right now?”.  There is also the danger that they skip ahead, scanning the whole page and ignoring the section you want them to be looking at.  Consider using pointers, animations and annotations to highlight the section of the screen you want participants to be focusing on at any one time.

5. State the (not so) obvious 

If you have graphs, charts of data-heavy content to share, consider this… what is the key point we need participants to take away from this.  Most charts have a purpose, a ‘so what’.  What is it for yours?  Then consider having the full data in the take-away materials and just the headlines in your slides.  Or, if that is not possible, find a way to visually highlight the key data points you want to discuss (as in the previous point).

6. Go analogue 

Before venturing into the virtual world, many technical trainers relied on good old flipcharts and pens to bring diagrams, processes and content to life.  Well here’s the good news.  Just because we are delivering training in a digital way, we can still use analogue approaches!  Use digital whiteboards with a USB drawing tablet to achieve the same effect, or even easier step further back from your webcam and use an actual flipchart or whiteboard!

7. Get up close and personal 

Do you have a piece of equipment or a process that you need to demonstrate?  You could record a video where you move the camera around to show the different elements you need to showcase.  Better still, use 2 webcams.  One webcam is on you, the trainer whilst the other webcam (possible controlled by another person) focusses in on the equipment whilst you explain the process.  This works really well live as participants can ask questions, request that you go back to another section which you can’t do in a pre-recorded video.

8. Use analogies 

Are there any example analogies that you can use to bring a complicated process to life?  For example when explaining an investment product, you might show how it is similar to building a house – having the foundations in place etc.  Then as you build further rooms on your house, it becomes more valuable, but also more costly to maintain.  Analogies can help to make complex concepts easier to explain, be understood and sticky.

9. Build in interaction 

Even the most riveting of presentations can send us to sleep if they are just that… a presentation.  Make your technical training interactive by asking questions, building in quizzes, having the group annotate on the screen, use polling, gamification and ‘guess the stat’!  Of course the most interactive way of interacting is conversation.  Encourage verbal input from your group along with camera’s on to boost the impact of everyone being together, sharing ideas.

10. Have a go 

Find ways to hand over to your participants so they can try on their new learning for size.  This could be in the form of a scenario puzzle to resolve i.e. “what would you do in this situation?” or a calculation to complete.  Providing practical opportunities to get involved will keep your group engaged.  Also consider having this happen in smaller breakout groups where individuals can open up more and then present the breakout group findings back to the bigger group.

What’s next?

If you want to hear more examples of how we help technical trainers make the move to the virtual world, check out this podcast where our creative director is interviewed by Pilar Orti on just this topic: Podcast on online workshop training

So there you have it!  If you can, stop saying “we’re stuck with the slides that legal/marketing/comms/science give us”  and make them more fit for purpose.  Or, if you truly are stuck with them, then try out some of these techniques to make your training pack a punch and get sticky.

Want our help?  We can train your trainers to feel more confident delivering in a virtual environment, or we can help you to convert your current training to be more engaging for virtual delivery. 

Get in touch.

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