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How to develop internal trainers for virtual training delivery – Part 2

In Part 1 of this post we described the three key skills areas needed to develop internal trainers to train virtually. To support them further, we also developed a session planning template that ensured they planned these principles into their sessions. In this post, we’ll answer the question: What are the elements of planning an effective virtual training session? At the end you will be able to download the template for your own use.

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Designing learning objectives

Just like the physical classroom, learning objectives should focus on the actual needs of the trainees and the outcome of the training, for example: By the end of this session, technicians will be able to communicate the 3 most important features of this new model washing machine to a customer

Unlike the physical classroom, you will have less time in a virtual session to meet this objective, and that includes setting aside time to measure it during the session itself. This means that you should limit yourself to only one or two objectives.

Thinking about your trainees

Thinking about what your trainees know already can save time in your session and help ensure what you plan meets their actual needs. For a virtual session it’s also useful to think about trainees’ previous experience of online learning and their comfort level with technology.

For example, repair technicians who have spend most of their time on the road visiting customers may need more time and practice with getting to grips with online training. You can allow for this with activities where they can have fun and play with the different tools to build their confidence.

Being prepared for problems

Due to technology, there can be more problems in a virtual classroom, and you need to have back-up plans and work-arounds for when people loose connection or can’t hear, etc. At the end of the day there is only so much you can actually do to assist people, but you can plan to address problems that might come up by explaining at the beginning what to do if connection is lost and who trainees should contact for assistance.

If trainees are new to virtual training they will need help and practice in using the tools and for this it is best to set aside time at the start of the session to let them play with the tools in a relaxed way before they use them for more serious activities.

Setting personal goals

Every virtual session is also an opportunity for the trainer to improve. Set yourself personal goals (e.g. speak slower, stick to timing, involve all participants) and then either ask someone to observe the session and give you feedback, or record the session and play it back to yourself.

Creating a detailed session plan

At least when you start virtual training, having a detailed session plan will help you stay on track. A lot is happening during a virtual session, so you don’t need the extra worry of trying to remember what comes next. Your plan will also show you that you are using a range of tools and mixing them up. Your plan will be more micro than normal as in a virtual training session it’s important to very activities in order to keep trainees’ attention; at least a new activity every 5 minutes. One tip we have seen for new trainers is to script what they want to say in the plan; this is a very good way to reduce talking time and be succinct.

You can download the Virtual Training Session Plan here

 

We hope you enjoyed reading this 2-part post about how to develop internal trainers. You can also find more tips and advice on virtual training in these blog posts:

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How to develop internal trainers for virtual training delivery – Part 1

In 2020, many companies have needed to move their internal trainers from classroom to virtual training delivery. Outside of the circumstances and impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the advantages of virtual training delivery are obvious. With virtual training, you reach more people, training can be deployed faster, more regular training events can be set up, and it costs less. We’ve been delivering virtual training solutions for more than ten years, and we know that the transfer to virtual training delivery can be smooth when the trainer understands the differences between classic face-to-face training and virtual delivery, and is able to adapt and develop him/herself. 

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We were recently asked about this topic by an in-house training team for a global company who train the company’s technicians on customer service and product updates for their range of consumer household machines. They asked us:

  • What are the new skills that internal trainers need to master in order to train virtually?
  • How quickly can our existing trainers master these skills and how can we help them to do it?
  • How can we train trainers with no experience of virtual training to be confident with it?

Part 1 of this post is about the key facilitation skills for virtual training delivery, which we identified and worked on with our client’s new virtual trainers. In Part 2 you will learn how we designed a session planning template to support them. Part 2 includes a download of the template for your own use.

 

Essential facilitation skills for virtual training delivery

1. Using your voice effectively

Why this is important? –  You won’t be able to communicate using body language and eye contact in the virtual classroom. You (and your trainees) will rely entirely on your voice. The challenge with listening to someone’s voice is that it’s just more difficult to pay attention, due to lack of visual stimuli. This adaptation is a challenge for trainers new to the virtual training delivery environment because it takes a lot of practice and self-adjustment.

How to develop it – We worked with trainers on adapting 3 voice elements:

  • Clarity – pronounce words more carefully by stressing each syllable, avoid complicated terms, and repeat repeat repeat. After each segment, check in with trainees by asking, “Was that clear?”
  • Speed – you can reduce the strain on listeners by just slowing down. This takes a lot of conscious effort in practice; a technique we suggest is to imagine you are speaking 50% slower and you will probably speak 25% slower (which is an improvement!)
  • Pace – listening to a continuous stream of speech is a strain, so trainers need to practice pausing regularly. This gives listeners a chance to catch up and process what they heard. Try the 3 second rule – pause after each sentence and count to 3 in your head before continuing

2. Ensuring active participation

Why this is important – In a virtual classroom the trainer won’t have much idea who is paying attention, and trainees can easily become distracted by what’s going on around them and other things that pop up on their computer or phone. The only way to overcome this is to keep them engaged because  (unlike the physical classroom) they are not a captive audience.

How to develop it

  • Make sure everyone participates by calling on trainees by name to answer questions or share their thoughts; we recommend making a note each time someone contributes so that you can call on those who haven’t yet contributed. Of course, this is easier in smaller groups; beyond 20 trainees it becomes a challenge, but you can still use the technique.
  • Make the session active by giving participants something to do; this can be a task (e.g. discuss this problem together for 5 minutes and present your solution) or using the tools in your virtual classroom (polls, icons, annotation, etc.) to ensure active participation.
  • Ask questions regularly (as often as every 90 seconds works well) but avoid closed questions (e.g. yes/no questions) and avoid asking questions to the whole group as you will probably be met with silence; instead use the nomination technique described in the first point above.

3. Managing time and attention spans

Why this is important – Technically it is possible to run an entire day of virtual training but in practice this doesn’t work because it’s much more tiring and harder to keep trainee’s attention compared to the physical classroom. GoToWebinar researched the most popular length of sessions in thousands of training sessions and found it is 60 minutes. So, aim to break up longer training into shorter segments. Within sessions there are tips that trainers can follow to manage both time and attention spans, which you can read below.

How to develop it

  • Plan less than you would for a physical training session; we see that trainers who are new to virtual training find that the time just runs away, partly due to technical issues but also because the tips and techniques you have read about in this post just take more time.
  • Break up your session into shorter segments; if you have a longer training segment you can still break it up into chunks. This gives everyone a ‘cognitive’ break, which addresses the increased strain of concentrating in a virtual classroom.
  • Don’t plan anything for the first 10 minutes; allow this time for participants to log on, test their connection and greet each other. We also recommend wrapping up 15 minutes before the finish, to allow for extra time you might have lost during the session, and also take questions. This will all impact the amount of content you can plan for a virtual session, which is the first point you read above.

Part 1 conclusion

We found that identifying and working on these three key skills areas can help internal trainers make the jump to become virtual trainers. In part 2 of this post, you’ll learn more about the elements of planning an effective virtual training session. If you want to continue reading, here are a few recommended posts on the topic of virtual training delivery.

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Train the Trainer: Dealing with ‘difficult’ participants – part 1

At Target Training we’ve been delivering “train-the-trainer” solutions for over 20 years to a broad range of clients across industries. Without fail, one of the most common personal training goals we see is “I want to learn to deal with difficult participants”.  No matter whether you are delivering on-boarding, technical, safety  or skills training, training starts and ends with your participants. As a trainer you want to deliver training which is engaging and useful … and as all experienced trainers know, a single difficult participant can impact this.  This blog post shares our advice and experience, so you are better prepared to deal with difficult participants in the training room.
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What do we mean by a “difficult participant” and how common are they really?

Training is about adding value to your participants and organization, by developing their knowledge, skills and behaviours.  You want your participants to have a rewarding learning experience – and you have designed your training to achieve this.  You’ve identified and considered the learning goals, you’ve considered the flow so it is smooth and ties together, and you’ve designed varied activities to keep the training engaging and rewarding. A “difficult participant, is a participant who hinders or prevents the above – intentionally or not. Difficult participants diminish the impact of the training for the other participants and reduce your organizations return on investment.

All participants have the potential of being difficult, and this depends upon a variety of factors – ranging from the context of the training to the training design, and from personalities to an individual’s situational circumstances.  We all have bad days. However, truly destructive participants are thankfully rare. I’ve been involved in delivering training for over 23 years, and looking back I can only think of a handful of “difficult” individuals.  Unfortunately, I remember them clearer than the rest. So, what can you do? Before the training starts, you can minimize the risk of participants becoming difficult before the training even starts, through some simple steps.

Know who the participants are

If you are delivering internally, then get a list of the participants in advance and make the time to speak with their line managers.  By doing this you can learn more about the “perceived” context for the training, and the participants knowledge, experience, needs and attitudes. If somebody is cynical, silent or a talker, then the line manager may flag this. Alternatively, just ask straight out “Are there any participants I should keep an eye on?”.  You can also encourage the manager to speak with her participants and reinforce that they value training and have expectations.  Line manager involvement is key to successful training (Clemmer 2008) and ensures your organization makes the most of its training investment.

If you have a chance to meet the participants before the session, you should take it. Give them an impression of who you are. Build rapport before they enter the training room. Introduce yourself, find out what they expect from the training and set their expectations (“yes, unfortunately, there will be some role-plays”), or just make small talk for a few minutes. For you, the trainer, it makes a huge difference to walk into a room with ten strangers (not knowing what they want), or to walk into a room with five strangers and five people you already know (whose expectations you’ve already set).

Design the training so it respects and engages everyone

Use what you’ve learned from speaking with the line managers to ensure your training content is appropriate, relevant and challenging. By doing this you can minimize the likelihood of a wide range of difficult or disruptive behaviours – from boredom to frustration to challenging. You also want to ensure that your training respects the range of personalities and learning styles. Give your participants the opportunity to reflect, consider and contribute both as individuals and in groups.  Plan “loud” and “quiet” times so both extroverts and introverts get what they need– not everyone enjoys brainstorming and discussions. Do consider the flow of energy within the training day and consciously design your training around this e.g. after lunch will you energize the group, or give them some reflection time to look back on the morning?

Anticipate tough questions, difficult learning points and likely areas of resistance

If this is a new training solution, then take the time to play “what if”.  Write down all the questions that you hope they will ask, know they will ask, don’t want them to ask, and dread they ask. Then think about your answers. Practice your responses out loud and ensure your answers are brief, to the point and authentic. As the trainer you have a lot of knowledge and experience – and synthesizing all this into a clear and brief response can be tough.

If you’ve delivered the training before than you’ve already spotted the areas which raise questions or provoke discussions.  Again, step back and consider what you want to say, how you want to say, and how much time you want to invest in which topics.

If there’s an elephant in your training room, then know how you want to tackle it

Keep your training human and keep it real. The circumstances surrounding the training can and will influence behaviours. If the organization is going through change, restructuring, laying off staff, or merging then you can expect this to impact attitudes and behaviours. You probably cannot influence these circumstances, but you can acknowledge them and prepare for possible resistance, push back or disassociation.

I remember delivering a 2-day leadership program to an automotive company where everyone knew that at the end of day 1 a major announcement would be made on the future of some plants.  The training content was fixed and “motivating and driving performance “was a major part of the first day. We spoke about the circumstances openly, acknowledged that the topic was awkwardly timed to say the least, and agreed to reframe the training as practical management skills for the future, wherever they may be. Keeping the pace fast, the energy high and the themes as “archetypical” helped the training make a personal impact.

Reframe how you see difficult participants

Embrace the challenge of difficult participants. At its heart, training is about people, and we learn more about working with people from difficult situations than from “everything going to plan”.  You want participants to be engaged and challenging you is actually a good thing.  You want your participants to let you know if something isn’t going right for them during the training and not afterwards. And you want your participants to be themselves.  I’ve only ever met one participant who I couldn’t work with at any level whatsoever, and even this was a learning moment – I learned that was ok, to accept the situation, and to focus on the other participants who clearly wanted to be there.

Always open the training in a way that sets out mutual expectations

Creating and agreeing on ground rules and shared expectations is essential. This then gives you and others the framework to hold each other accountable and have difficult conversations with difficult participants about difficult situations. Experienced trainers do this naturally and each trainer has their own style, but the core you need to agree on is

  • Timing (start, finish, breaks and length of breaks). Even the most experienced trainers can forget this, and participants want and need to know what to expect. You don’t need to lock yourself in to a schedule if you don’t want to but telling them you’ll break for lunch “around 12.30” helps.
  • Laptops open, closed, or even in bags. Phones are the bane of a trainer’s life, and when one person takes a call during the training everyone is impacted. Possible approaches could be
    • at the front on a desk
    • must be on silent
    • in bags and only check in breaks
    • take calls but leave the room before start speaking

Effective approaches to managing the pull of phone calls that I’ve seen/heard/ done have included:

  • make a joke of it e.g. “Is anybody expecting a child to be born they know about? No, well in that case do we really need our phones on?”
  • be direct e.g “Put your mobiles on silent and in your bags (not your pockets). You can check them during breaks, and if something is truly urgent your colleagues know where you are and how to find you.  And if they can’t be bothered to come to the training room it can’t be truly urgent!”
  • charity box “Everything you take your phone out you put X in the bowl up front”
  • choosing a venue with no phone reception

And if none of the above are acceptable, then at least get agreement that people respectfully leave the training room when on the phone.

  • Communication. If the training topic is likely to be contentious or difficult then it is worth taking time to agree on expected communication styles. e.g. try not to interrupt, ask question to learn and not to show what you know, ask if something isn’t clear, close the loop by asking clarifying questions back etc.

Agreeing on ground rules allows you as the trainer to refer back to the agreed expectations and have awkward conversations safely. And of course, all of the above approaches are much more powerful when the training participants build them themselves!  This allows the participants to hold each other accountable and take responsibility for ensuring the dynamics are healthy.  You can expect that colleagues can self-regulate behaviours to some extent!

Start the training by keeping it real and keeping things human

The final tip is that positioning yourself above your participants will create unnecessary resistance and provoke difficult behaviours as participants try to prove something wrong, reject messages because they reject your credibility, or fight to show they know more. You are the trainer and you are human. Use this to build authenticity, credibility and trust from the outset and reduce the risk of difficult behaviours derailing the training. Share your experience, build your credibility and also show that you know how it can be challenging at first to get to grips with the specifics (“ I remember when ..”).

If you are delivering soft skills, customer service or leadership training, then avoid presenting yourself as the example to be followed. Tap into meaningful stories, share experiences and connect with the participants on a human level. My own approach is to open our Practical toolbox for managers program with “ I strongly believe in the value of everything we’ll be covering in the next 2 days, and many of your colleagues have fed back that they found it practical. Saying that, as a manager, I do not do everything we’ll be covering myself. I’m human and I have my strengths and my weaknesses”.  I then see the participant’ physically relax and open up.