Part One: Virtual Delivery: “You’re only one click away…”

Virtual Delivery: “You’re only one click away…”

So, here’s a cautionary tale for those building virtual learning events. This was my first effort at creating such a program, and I thought that a good set of PowerPoint slides with a strong “talking track” would do the trick. I submitted my first draft to my manager for review, and it came back (all too quickly!) with a single comment – “Remember that in a virtual training session, you are always only one click away from the audience going over to check their email.”

The message, which was drilled into me through my initial efforts in this area, was simple and direct – it’s all about engagement. With an audience sitting right in front of you, it’s easy to keep them engaged with eye contact and other physical activities to get their attention. What’s more, you can judge their engagement in real time by looking at body language and observing how they are interacting with you. The challenge in a virtual session is that you can’t physically interact with audience members, and you can’t see them to know how well they are engaged. So how do you do that when all you have is your voice and the content on the screen?

The answer is easy to say but harder to do – deliver compelling content with high energy and lots of interaction. This can be a daunting challenge. So, let’s break it down piece by piece.

Key Elements Behind Virtual Delivery

Compelling content comes in two forms – what’s on the screen and what you say. Even in a live classroom, just reading the slides is often deadly dull. You need to add the “color commentary” that brings the content to life. That’s doubly true in a virtual session. The structure of the content is also critical – sections long enough to complete the points being made but short enough to keep everyone from moving on – mentally, if not physically. (Remember, you’re only a click away…) And interspersing those sections with lots of interactivity is critical – but more on that later!

High energy is tough to display in a virtual session because you have to do it all by remote control. Droning on in a monolog is certainly one thing to avoid – modulating your voice to show emphasis and excitement is key. It may also help to use multiple presenters to add both different points of view and different voices. But you need to engage in other ways as well. Humor is always a good approach, as are stories that exemplify points and bring them to life. Pictures and cartoons in the content will also raise the energy level. And if you have the luxury, showing video clips will also help.

OK, let’s stop for a minute. Who can tell me the third key success factor for a virtual session?
(a) taking attendance at the end
(b) lots of interaction
(c) keeping the instructor on screen at all times?
Well, I see that 84% of you remembered that it was (b) lots of interaction.

What this simple example shows is the easiest and best way to interact with your audience – ask them a question. Depending on the technology you are using, you may be able to ask polling questions, call on specific audience members, or ask members to “raise their hand” and answer. This will also allow you to gauge the number of people who are still actively participating. And both participation and comprehension can be measured if you can track and record individual responses.

Whatever approach you use, this kind of interaction is critical. There are many other ways to interact and engage, and the list grows each day. Depending on your technology, you may be able to create virtual subgroups, have them work together on a problem, and report back. Having an online chat session (with someone to monitor and respond) is another good example.

In part 2 of our Virtual Learning Delivery blog, we will focus on the tips and techniques in order to deliver a successful virtual learning session. In the meantime, check out one of our success stories where we converted 125+ instructor-led learning courses into virtual led courses here.

If you have any further questions or comments, please reach out to us here.