Tips from the virtual trenches - the (new) normal

Author: Martin Nilsson
Published: April 14, 2020

I have 15 years’ experience of helping people and organizations moving training from classrooms into the daily work and virtual environments. At the moment we are getting a lot of questions where to begin so here are a few quick tips from the virtual trenches.

During the years the reasons for online transformation of training have different, and at the moment one reason is all too apparent. However, with all the creative energy and technical capabilities, we are moving into a new normal. We will not travel as much for training and we will still see cost benefits of having parts of training programs in virtual classrooms. Here are a few small steps you can do now and that also will give you an edge when things are back to (the new) normal.

Non-perfect is the new perfect

Don’t over prepare. Do it and adapt as you go. A lot of trainers we are working with have never done training in an online classroom, but it works from the first try. And next time even a bit better. The reviews from the participants are usually amazing even from the start.

Even Hollywood are using DIY

If you are delivering full days of training, the video and audio quality has to be good, and the camera in a suitable height. There are many easy ways make improvements with things you already have. If you have an echo in a room, put in a coat hanger with clothes to absorb bouncing sound. If the camera is to low and you don’t have a camera tripod use boxes, chairs or whatever go reach the right height. It doesn’t have to be pretty behind the camera but it will reduce fatigue for the participants.

Buy once cry once

Try using equipment you already have but be prepared to make some investments in a conferencing system if it falls short. The ease of use and improvements in video and audio quality will make it worthwhile. Depending on room size we have standardized on a few Logitech systems, “Connect”, “Meetup 4k”, “Group Conference” and “Rally plus”. There are plenty of systems out there so try out what works for you. A great tip is also to put a computer screen close to camera to be able to view and talk directly to the participants. It’s much more natural to talk to others than just into a camera.

Choose an online service (or two) 

Now a days there are a number of great conference platforms to choose from depending on the type of training you are delivering. Some have interactive features like polling, assignments and break out rooms, where others are more suitable for a large audience. We are primarily are using Zoom for the ease of use but also GotoMeeting, GotoWebinar, Microsoft Teams and Adobe Connect depending on type of training and sometimes customer requirements.

Training design is more important than ever

Good training design is always important but even more so in a virtual environment. The flaws in a poorly designed training will be more apparent (compliance e-learning anyone?) where as a good training design will convert well into a virtual setting and often also be enhanced by new types of interactivity.

Let’s help each other out and share the experience

Some organizations and participants are more used to virtual settings than others. Now is the time to share good practices and support each other. I’m happy to help and please share tips in the comments. Stay safe.