What is Virtual Design?

Virtual design is where we take into consideration the virtual nature of our training.

It is an indisputable fact that physical, classroom training materials do not work as successfully in a virtual environment. Much to the frustration of novice virtual trainers everywhere, simply taking the same materials and presenting them online in most cases will not work.

So, where virtual training design comes in is to specifically design slide decks, create dedicated interaction prompts and ensure regular points for feedback and questions.

Can anyone design virtual training? Well, yes. But not everyone is good at it. That’s where we come in.


Why do we need Virtual Design?

Why do we need Virtual Design?

As stated above, it isn’t as simple as just taking the predesigned physical classroom materials and delivering them online.

Inevitably, trainers who try this are met with awkward silence and tumbleweed moments. And it isn’t because they are bad trainers or the content isn’t engaging, but simply because the materials are not designed to encourage interaction virtually.

This is why virtual training design is so important.

If you need virtual training content designed from scratch, your existing classroom content virtualising, or anything in between, we're here to help. Check out the ways we can help you with Virtual Design Studio.

Content must be carefully structured in order to correctly facilitate successful and interactive engagement with participants, ensuring learning transfer and a good experience.


What are some common Virtual Design mistakes?

Everyone makes mistakes from time to time. When starting out on their virtual designing journey, virtual trainers can sometimes make some common errors when it comes to the designing process.

9 common mistakes to avoid when working in a virtual design studio.

1. Assume that the current physical classroom slide deck will work virtually.

This is often not the case. Physical classroom slide decks are geared towards having people within a shared environment that can see and interact with one another and the physically present coach. Simply lifting these slides and putting them online will lead to more than a few awkward silences.

2. Using the slide deck as a handout

A common mistake many new designers make is they view their slide deck as a ready made handout. This becomes problematic as it makes the deck text heavy. You don’t need to give your participants all the detail in the workshop itself. Instead, give them the key information in the workshop and save the heavy text/detail for your hand out instead.

3. Not using animations

Now, we aren’t talking about having a ton of fancy flash animations in your slide deck. In fact, we actively warn against having these. But many designers don’t make full use of having bullet points appear on the screen one at a time. This is important because it enables the trainer to control where their participants are looking. If you can’t make the bullets appear one at a time due to platform constraints, try using the annotation pointer to focus attention instead.

4. Using a ‘marketing approved’ slide deck template

Often, new designers find themselves working with an approved slide deck template, usually created by Marketing/Comms. Unfortunately, this layout is great for marketing, but less successful from a training perspective. Create your slides within organizational guidelines, but ensure it is fit to your purpose.

5. Designing Virtual Training is about all the PowerPoint

Spoiler alert; it’s not. Despite everything we have said so fair, virtual design is not about creating the perfect PowerPoint slide deck. Rather, it’s about delivering your learning outcomes effectively and efficiently.

6. Get it proofed by a colleague

When you’ve been working on something for a long time, you can start to get a little detail-blind. Often, virtual designers won’t get their work checked by another colleague, so when the mistakes surface, it is usually in the middle of a trainer’s delivery. Get someone else to have a look at it before you submit; it’s worth it.

7. Everything takes longer in virtual

We stress this one time and time again, but everything takes longer in the virtual world! Where designers commonly fall down is by overestimating the amount of time the trainers will have, or how long certain tasks will take. Have a trainer practice your virtual training in real time and don’t be overambitious. Trust us, you will run out of time faster than you think.

8. Don’t underestimate social time

In addition to the above, don’t underestimate the importance of social time. Many designers underestimate the value of scheduling time in their training to allow for participants to catch up, or bond with one another, which enhances the overall virtual training experience and learning transfer.

9. Don’t be afraid to go analogue

In this new virtual world, many designers make the mistake of thinking that virtual training needs to be digitally based at all times. That’s simply not true. Many participants enjoy the opportunity to get innovative and think outside the box with non-digital tools. Virtual training design doesn’t mean it needs to be limited to the virtual space.

Read more: Virtual Design: Common Mistakes and How to Fix Them

What is the step-by-step process for designing virtual training?

Here at the Virtual Training Team, we have adopted a step-by-step process to design virtual training. Virtual workshops are designed to be bitesize in nature, so ensuring that you have chosen the correct content to make the time work best for the participants is critical.

Not to mention in a virtual setting, it can be harder for new virtual trainers to hold participants’ attention. This is why the designing of the material is so important.

In this modern world, we are constantly surrounded by distractions, so keeping the attention of modern learners can be challenging. But don't worry, Catherine is here with some tips on how you can keep them engaged.

Start with the end in mind

Alright, so you need to design a new virtual training slide deck. You drag up PowerPoint and start by thinking, “Okay, slide 1…


How can you know what you want to include in the materials if you haven’t carefully considered what it is you want to achieve from this virtual workshop? How can you design virtual training without knowing what the trainer is trying to teach?

Start with the end result you want to obtain, then work back from there, making the virtual design studio process easier and more focused.

Brainstorm Content

It’s important to work through what key messages and skills designers want the participants to take away from the session.

If you are seeking to convert something that already exists as physical in-person material into a virtual workshop design, then you will have some content to begin with.

That being said, don’t rule out replacing models and processes with those that are more appropriate for the virtual environment. Set time aside to really consider what could be included.

This is key even if you are designing virtually from scratch. Be creative and remember to always keep sight of what you are trying to achieve from this virtual workshop.

Choose your content

This is one of the most ruthless steps in a virtual design studio. There are loads of great models and processes out there and you can get swamped by all the cool aspects you might want to include in your virtual design.

But it is imperative that designers come back to the purpose of the virtual workshop. If there is content that doesn’t help get the participants to the required outcome of the workshop, then it should be cut.

Virtual workshops are best delivered in a bite-sized format, so it is worth considering having shorter workshops more frequently in order to achieve the levels of content required, rather than simply increasing the length of the workshop’s runtime.

Work out the design process

This is where designers need to work out timings. Everything takes longer in the virtual space, so it is key that timings are considered carefully in the virtual design process.

For example; if you have included a particular model in the virtual workshop to explore, how will the trainer do this? Will they explain the model and then have a discussion via chat? Will they put people into smaller breakout groups to complete posters?

Ideally, designers should aim to achieve variety in the approaches, but always with purpose; why are we doing this? What do we want the participants to learn?

Consider the best practice for each suggested model and how it feeds back into the required goal.

Bring the content to life

People love stories, examples, questions, imagery and science. This section is all about adding flair and character to the content.

It is this flair that makes the content even more interesting, memorable and engaging. Designers may decide to start investigating stock photos to use in the deck, or research case studies to further bring the content to life.

Remember, flair and fun are just as important, and can definitely still be achieved alongside the required outcomes.

Bring it all together

This is where designers need to think about sequencing. They need to double check timings and order, and decide how they are going to link the content together. How does all this fuel the overall goal of the virtual workshop?

Now is the time to examine carefully the whole flow of the virtual workshop design. Is the order correct? Does it cover everything it is supposed to? What are the links between sections?

At this point in the designing studio process it can be helpful to consider some alternative options for various groups, if there are timing issues. Where can cuts be made? Where is the flex?

All helpful things for trainers to know, before delivering the virtual workshop.

Create the introduction

One the very last things to do is to consider how to get the virtual workshop going. In order to get participants engaged right off the bat, designers should ensure it starts with flair.

What will go on the welcome slide? How will the trainer grab the participants’ attention as they enter the session, and get them interacting with the delivery platform?

The welcome slide is the opportunity to start creating context for the participants straight away, and get them into the zone for the topic at hand.

In putting the thought in and really considering how to kick things off, virtual designers can ensure that the workshop gets off to the best start.

Create the slides and extra materials

Alright, now you can go into PowerPoint.

It’s time to pull all your hard work into a seamless, flowing, simple to follow slide deck, plus any extra materials you might need.


How the Virtual Training Team can help you

Sometimes, even with all the help available out there, we all need a little professional assistance to get us to the position we want to be.

That’s where we come in.

Whether you need virtual training content designed from scratch, your existing physical classroom training content virtualized, or anything in between, our virtual design studio team is here to help you.

How The Virtual Design Team Can Help You?

Virtual Design Consultancy

We think virtual training is like a car journey. You know where you want to be, but sometimes getting there isn’t entirely straightforward and you take a wrong turn.

If your company keeps taking wrong turns when it comes to virtual design, we are here to provide directions that will get you back on the right track.

Whether the design process has been snagged by a small technical issue, or you feel you need advice on a full strategic rollout, our experienced virtual designers have all the answers you might need.

Designing Virtual Training for you

This world we live in is even more complicated and busy than ever and it shows no signs of slowing down.

With this in mind, virtual training design may not be very high on priority lists, especially not if it means it will be rushed.

So, if you want to get your virtual training program designed right first time, you can’t really go wrong by letting the experts do it for you.

We’ve got the time and 10+ years of experience to design live virtual training workshops and programs for you, from the ground up.

Work with us to design virtual training

The old saying goes that two heads are better than one. Virtual training design can be a complex challenge which is best met in partnership. We know this all too well!

If you like the idea of working in partnership to design incredible live and interactive virtual training, we are here for you.

Training Material Conversion: Converting F2F to Virtual

This Multi-national Distribution Group Already Had High-quality Training Materials For The Development Of Their Senior Staff, But These Were Optimized For Face-to-face Sessions.

Read our Training Material Conversion Case Study here.

Convert Existing Materials

It’s not always about starting virtual training design from scratch. Thanks to the pandemic and the constantly evolving technology around us, there is plenty of physical classroom training that can be converted into virtual.

But don’t be fooled into thinking it is as easy as simply uploading your slides into a Zoom meeting. (More on that above, in case you missed it.)

Fortunately, our design experts have bags of experience in converting existing classroom materials into interactive virtual content.

We’ll take your hard work, virtualize it and then deliver it back to you, fresh and ready to take on the virtual world.

If you need virtual training content designed from scratch, your existing classroom content virtualising, or anything in between, we're here to help.

We want to know all about you and your needs, so click on the CONTACT US button at the top right and message us, so that we can help you achieve your desired learning outcomes.