3.1.2011 – Leading a Virtual Training Session

You may not be a trainer or have to do any formal training within your organization, however, as a leader you should be familiar with some basic concepts.  All of us have to coach and mentor employees at some point.  Whether it is onboarding a new team member or guiding an experienced employee through new challenges, we all become trainers at some point. 

I have done a lot of online training, formal and informal.  I have learned a few rules of thumb (some I have learned the hard way) and they may help you to coach mentor, or train your team members. 

  1. Level the playing field.  This is the same concept I mentioned a few weeks back in my post about conference calls (see Leading a (Better) Conference Call).  Blended training is very difficult; that is, training some people in person while others are listening in on a call or watching online.  Again, I prefer to keep it 100% virtual if I can’t get everyone to meet in person.  This ensures virtual participants don’t feel alienated and are not left out in favor of the in-room attendees.
  2. Keep everyone engaged – often.  A very wise, experienced online trainer once told me, “remember, you only have 7 minutes until they are asleep.”  Asleep or multi-tasking, typical attendees have the attention span of a mosquito.  During online training sessions I keep the lecturing to a bare minimum and break up the session with individual or group work, exercises, or quizzes (the polling function in most collaborative applications such as WebEx or GoToMeeting are great for this).  Think about this also applies to other meetings you have to lead.  Are you doing all the talking?  Are you continuously soliciting feedback?  How often?
  3. Leverage pre-work and homework.  Again, to cut down on training time (or lecture time) I often assign participants activities that are prerequisites and activities that can be done on their own that can reinforce what they learned.  The key challenge is ensuring it gets done.  A little pre-work and homework can help any meeting or team activity and prevent holding the proverbial meeting- to-schedule-another-meeting..  
  4. Use multi-media.  If you are just passing out information, do you need to do it in the training session?  Think about other mediums, such as a podcast or VoD (video on demand).  The training session (or meeting) should be interactive and reserved for working through issues, answering questions, creating dialogue, or virtual hands- on instruction.

 Remember that as leaders, we are always training, coaching, and mentoring.  Let me know your thoughts and what works for you.

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