How to Facilitate Virtual Training

How to Facilitate Virtual Training

Facilitating virtual training can feel daunting at first. With many different platforms to choose from and ever-changing software, it may seem difficult to know where to start. To help those of you who are feeling a bit lost in the virtual world, we have compiled tips for three key areas of virtual training that apply whether you’re using Teams or Zoom – and should even withstand the next software update.

Breakout Groups

We all know the feeling.  We are in a breakout group, and then suddenly, the facilitator appears.  We all react differently to this situation.  Some of us close down and go quiet; others begin speaking for the first time, knowing that they are being observed.

At The Virtual Training Team, we have spent countless hours experimenting with breakout groups, working to ensure our groups run as effectively as possible. Our Director Of Learning, Catherine Nicholson recorded a short video with three time checks that we use and these have provided enormous benefit.  The three-time checks are:

  • Outcome time checks
  • Process time checks
  • Countdown time checks

You can watch the short video by clicking the link here.

Time Works Differently in the Virtual World

Often all things training take longer than we expect in the virtual world.  You need to keep in mind technical difficulties when delivering virtually.  Things like, “let me share my screen” might take a few seconds and a few questions too! “Do you see my screen?” “Oops, there’s a delay.”  Then we have the infamous “You’re on mute.”  We’ve all been there.

This is not to say there are no unexpected issues in the in-person training world.  More than a few times, I have rushed from one meeting room to another and forgotten my markers, picked up the wrong handouts and only realised after I have distributed them. It happens, just as technical problems happen when delivering virtually. 

The key takeaway here is that things take longer than expected; we just need to take account of this to help our training delivery really zing.

Cognitive Load

Make your slides brain-friendly.  Cognitive load is one of the biggest hurdles that I face as an instructional designer.  We are obsessed with it at The Virtual Training Team, but few people seem to be talking about it.

Cognitive load is the amount of processing a person’s working memory (formerly short-term memory) is doing at any given time. 
Why does cognitive load matter?

Working memory can easily and often become overloaded.  If a participant’s working memory is overloaded, they may not understand the context of what’s being coached. 
Tips to avoid cognitive overload include:

  • Cut out non-essential information.  
  • Avoid blocks of text. 
  • Present text that is easy to read and digest.

When our coaches deliver workshops using PowerPoint we provide them with a skeleton slide deck. We value whitespace and believe every element on our slides must have a purpose. Purpose is our number 1 principle (we have 6 key principles) and it underpins everything that we do in learning.

You can read more about why we value purpose so highly.

There are many small changes that you can make to your slides to reduce cognitive load and ensure participants can focus, and engage, throughout your workshops. 

If you are still unsure of how to facilitate virtual training, or if you want to learn how to facilitate virtual training at the highest level, we offer a Train the Trainer Programme. Our TTT is designed specifically for experienced in-person facilitators and trainers to make the jump to becoming expert in virtual training design and delivery.

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