When I was 36 I discovered that I loved training, but it wasn’t until I was 46 that I realised that being a trainer was my calling.
My journey as a trainer has been one where I have leaped before I looked and then learned from my mistakes. Rather than going through an educational process where someone taught me how to teach, it has come through feedback from people that have taken my courses and observing my delegates.
While I have run lots of webinars over the years, when one of my clients asked me to translate an existing training into a virtual workshop, I was worried!
How was I going to keep people engaged for a full 8 hours on Zoom?
Then another client asked me if I could translate their 4 day (!) training session into a live training, so I knew I had to figure this out.
This post will share some of my tips on how to run an amazing virtual training session, but also give tips for the beginner on how to be a great trainer.
So, here are a few things that I have learned about how to be a brilliant virtual trainer and how I get outstanding feedback every time I run a virtual training.
1. You Don’t Need To Be Perfect
There can be a lot of fear around running a live training.
Fear that people will ask you things that you don’t know. Fear that you are going to get it wrong. Fear that they aren’t going to like you as a trainer. It takes time to learn to trust yourself, and that trust will build up over time. Don’t be too hard on yourself in the early stages of your training journey. People will judge you a lot less than you judge yourself.
2. Start With the Learning Objectives
What are they going to be able to do or learn by the end of the training. Where are they now and what will they know by the end of the training? What can they achieve in the time that you have available?
I always mindmap out everything that I am going to cover on a training before I start. Usually, there is way too much on this mindmap, so then I have to break it down into what they really need to know to get results.
3. Think About the Flow of the Virtual Training Session
What are the beginning, the middle, and the end? What is the natural progression of the learning? What do they need to know before they know the next thing?
Honestly, I think this is why people enjoy my training so much. They can see where they are in the learning journey and the way it takes them from not knowing things to suddenly gaining that knowledge.
4. Repetition is Key
Tell your delegates what you are going to tell them. Then, tell them, and then tell them what you told them. This is an often stated teaching mantra, but it does work. Telling people the same concept more than once and in different ways will enhance the learning.
5. Break the Learning Down Into Sections
I like to signpost where we are in a training – so I group my content into sections which makes it easy for people to understand the context of what they are learning in relation to the other slides.
Here is a sample from my Google Slides training
6. Don’t Try To Cram Too Much Into Your Training
Less is more (but be careful that it’s not too little!)
Honestly, I constantly struggle with putting too much information into my training. It’s a work in progress.
When you add too much into your sessions, it is overwhelming and people don’t know where to start. Ask yourself, what are the 3 things I want someone to take away after this session with me? Now build your training around that.
7. Real Learning Comes With Implementation and Practice
Webinars are great and a brilliant way to share the knowledge and information you have around a topic. But real learning comes when people have a chance to practice, engage with and discuss the thing that they are learning. If you can, create some space for your learner to connect with the topic that you are teaching.
8. Be Yourself as a Virtual Trainer
If you try to present in a way that is unnatural for you, you will quickly exhaust yourself PLUS your delegates will be uncomfortable but not really know why.
If you are naturally dry, be dry, if you are funny, be funny, if you are high energy, be high energy and if you are quirky, be quirky. It will make your life as a virtual trainer 10x easier if you accept yourself as you are.
9. Preparation Is Everything
The more preparation you do the easier you will find your training.
Preparation means practice, understanding what your learning outcomes are going to be, giving yourself enough time to prepare your materials, creating a good flow for your session, building in enough time for your exercises, practicing those exercises, and being clear on why everything that is in your training is in there.
10. Practice Makes Your Virtual Training a Lot Easier
OK. Honesty time.
I know people that will practice many times over for their training to feel comfortable, but I rarely do. If I’m delivering training for someone else, I like to ideally have observed it beforehand or had the chance to deliver it with an experienced trainer. This is not usually possible when you are training your own material.
If you are the kind of person that needs practice, then create the space a couple of days beforehand to run through what you are going to say. If you have a warm audience you can practice with, even better, but it isn’t always necessary.
11. Know Your Tech
I use Zoom for all of my virtual training and I love it but I have been caught out a couple of times with some tech issues.
Make sure you are familiar with the tool that you are going to be using. Definitely practice the tech the day before. If you are going to be integrating with another service, then make sure you practice all of the tech connections well in advance of your training.
12. Schedule Appropriate Breaks
For shorter sessions, you don’t need a break, but for anything, over 2 hours you will. A 20-minute break is long enough in a 3-hour session. For full-day sessions, I tend to do 20 minutes in the morning, 1 hour for lunch, and 20 minutes in the afternoon. I start at 9:00 and finish between 4:30 and 5:00.
Energetically, people have found this harder in the winter than in the summer, so I try to finish earlier in the winter.
13. Stick To Time
Keep to time if you can.
I kinda suck at this in my own training and it is something I am working on, but I am vigilant about it when I do training for other people. Tell people at the beginning of the session what kind of timescales to expect and then stick to them. As I said, I’m working on this…
14. Be Flexible
This is particularly important if you are running a full day training. Allow yourself the chance to add or move things around if that’s important. You will have a structure set out for the day, but sometimes, your audience will need something different. Don’t be afraid to flex to suit their needs.
15. Don’t Be Afraid of Expert Students
There are times when you will have someone on your training that is an expert in the subject that you are teaching.
Don’t be afraid of that.
As the trainer/facilitator, people will naturally see you as the expert first. I love to encourage my delegates to share their experience, knowledge, and expertise in the sessions because people can learn as much from each other as they do from you.
So, give your expert delegates the space to shine. It’s not a challenge, it’s a gift.
16. Don’t Speak for Too Long in One Go
In longer sessions, break up the training with exercises and discussions, rather than speaking from the screen the whole time.
They will get bored.
Try to think about ways that they can interact with you and the learning – this is particularly important for anything over 60 minutes. When I am doing full-day sessions, I tend to teach for a maximum of 20 minutes before we break into groups, exercises or discussions.
17. Share Stories
People love stories. These can be yours and they can be other people’s. Build up a story bank that you can use regularly in your training. What can enhance the message that you are trying to share?
18. You Will Get Better the More You Do It
Don’t be too hard on yourself as a virtual trainer.
It takes time to become the trainer you want to be. Like anything in life, you are not going to be perfect right out of the gate. It takes time to master this stuff. I’m still learning and I have been training for over 12 years.
19. Ask What Your Audience Wants Before You Start
Asking our audience what they want to know and what they want to achieve will help you to create much more effective training. I use Google Forms to this and send out a survey to people that are booked onto the training. This often stops me from going down rabbit holes ?.
20. Use Tools and Props That Suit You
I have been on a training course with a trainer that hates slide decks. During that session, I learned a lot from her about how to create engaging exercises and how to facilitate learning and it hugely helped me to create better exercises for my training, which I was then able to apply to the virtual training environment.
But it also made me question my own natural style.
I have since learned to embrace my use of slides without guilt. I use and love PowerPoint. It is a hugely useful tool. For me, it’s a guide. It is my way of staying on track and making sure that I don’t forget an important piece of content. And I do recommend that you have a way of doing that. But it can be whatever works best for you!
Don’t let anyone else dictate how you should run your training sessions. Run them in a way that works for you and your students.
But I’m going to add a caveat.
Frequently, you’ll hear people talk about death by PowerPoint and it can definitely be a thing. But I think the issue is not PowerPoint, it’s the way the trainer is delivering the content. So, I call this death by boring trainer!
21. Don’t Be Boring!
Creating interesting and highly engaging training takes time and preparation, incorporating all of the things I have talked about so far.
Your job as a trainer is not just to share the knowledge you have, it is to engage people with the learning that you are sharing.
When I say don’t be a boring trainer, I’m talking about using inflection in your voice and bringing some energy into your training. If you feel yourself flagging during training, you had better believe that your delegates are feeling the same thing! You need to shift the energy.
Create a change of state. Get your delegates to do something; stand up, go into a breakout room, do an exercise, have a discussion, do a poll. Find a way to bring the energy back into your training session.
22. Get Feedback
Ask for feedback at the end of your training via a feedback form. You might need to incentivise them., but don’t make it the last thing you do on your training session as no-one will fill it out.
Your feedback forms are your guide to becoming a better trainer as people will tell you what they liked and didn’t like. Learn from all of it, not just the negative comments and decide what you want to keep and what you want to change.
23. Make Engagement Non-Negotiable
Build it into your session.
There are so many ways you can get people to engage with you and each other. Use the whiteboard tools, ask questions, answer questions from your audience, use breakout rooms, run a poll…Plan these out in advance, so you are not having to think of them on the fly.
24. Create a Training Experience That Suits the Time You Have
Recognise that the training experience is going to be different if you are training for 60-90 minutes vs 3 hours vs 8 hours.
All can be a great experience but you will need to build a lot more interaction in the longer sessions and you won’t be able to achieve as much as you’d like in the 3-hour session. Even in short sessions get people interacting and engaging via chat or breakouts.
Become the Best Virtual Trainer
I could keep going and will no doubt add more to this over time, but I hope this has given you a good start on how you can be an amazing virtual live trainer.
If you haven’t seen it already, make sure you check out my training on Mastering Virtual Workshops to help you with some creative strategies to improve your virtual workshops.