By April 2020, 50% of us were working from home. If you are managing a remote workforce or a field-based sales team you’ll already have had to bite the bullet and use remote training. Taking learning to people rather than people to learning is the new normal.

Dale Peters, Managing Director of Bright Affect spelt it out recently. “Not having to gather 30 people from different countries in one room for 2 days is clearly best practice for both employers, employees, for the economy and for the environment.”

The good news is the statistics show 60% better retention and recall of information from e-Learning, since students can study at their own speed using archived e-guides or webinars. The bad news is – people still prefer live teaching.

Any live event, whether in a concert hall or a classroom, follows the same rules of preparation and performance. We have drawn up our own checklist for preparing and delivering effective remote training. Before, during and after the event.

The script

Prepare the training materials and course content you will need on the day well in advance. This is your ‘script’.

Research your statistics, commission your infographics, source videos. These are your ‘props’. Make sure your presentation is centred on the day- to-day work experiences of your audience. If you use concrete examples of how the training will help them succeed, you’ll secure their buy-in.

Rehearse – in front of a mirror if you can!

Having a few practice runs is invaluable, especially if you haven’t taught the course before. Don’t improvise until you feel so confident in your subject that you can go off script. Some people prefer to stand when they’re presenting. When you are seated, your energy level is lower and your voice sounds more monotonous. If you can set up your environment to stand as you deliver, you’ll sound fresher and more spontaneous.

Check that the room you will be presenting from is quiet, comfortable and that you are well-lit. Video conferencing tools have made us all too aware of the dangers of becoming a shadowy silhouette onscreen.

Know your hosting platform – and all your supporting software – inside out.

Bright Affect trainers favour Zoom because of training-friendly features such as breakout rooms. Zoom is now the top video conferencing tool (300 million users in September 2020). Familiarise yourself with basics such as screen-sharing and assigning people to breakout rooms.

If you are using a training environment, sometimes known as a sandbox (a non-live replica of software used for practicing and training) it will also be critical to check it is stable and that you can access it and screen-share.

On the day have a final ‘tech-check’ to ensure everything is working. Time spent in the rehearsal phase means you’ll feel in control and well within your comfort zone.

You should be looking forward to remote training with confidence – and this will communicate itself to your audience. Which brings us to – your audience.

Know who’s in your front row

Always make contact with all your attendees beforehand. Email or message at least a week before to find out what they want out of the training. Ask them to be specific about how it will help them in real business scenarios so that you can cut out irrelevant dead wood from your course content ahead of time.

You should also circulate a detailed information sheet on how to access the training, the schedule of topics and importantly, who to contact for technical support. Remote employees don’t have a colleague to ask if something isn’t working or is unclear.

Sending a ‘cheat sheet’ on the basic video-conferencing features such as muting their microphone, using the raise-hand function to ask a question, or how to use instant messaging is very helpful. Also include polite ‘house rules,’ such as closing your personal email and putting your mobile on mute.

Your final email should be a ‘look forward to seeing you’ message with the virtual session link.

The performance – own the stage

How well you present will depend on how well you have prepared and rehearsed – and if you’ve had a good night’s sleep! Keep your energy up and your attitude positive and approachable. By the time you train, you should feel familiar enough with your ‘script’ not to read out what’s on screen but simply to speak, even adlib a little. You’ll sound conversational and far more engaging when you communicate.

In the remote working environment, distractions are many, from small children to dogs. Make sure that you won’t be interrupted if at all possible. Training sessions demand everyone’s full attention and should be short, sharp and quite intensive to make skills stick.

Actively build in ‘audience participation’

“My mantra for successful and effective experiences is to ask myself ‘What did I just say or do that I could have let the participants say or do?’ Keeping the focus on them makes all the difference.”

Kassy LaBorie, Consultant (eLearning)

As a trainer, you work doubly hard to hold your audience’s attention. The more interactive you make your training session, the more engaged your audience will be.

Build in regular ‘circuit-breakers’ – as often as 10 minutes – so that you’re not delivering an unbroken monologue for half an hour. Set a quick quiz, ask a question, gather feedback, use gamification tools, show a video. A ‘circuit-breaker’ could simply be a quick sense-check with the participants to make sure they’ve grasped it. And yes, it can mean a coffee break too, or a chance to split into breakout rooms to work on specific areas in smaller groups.

Don’t forget your own coffee break too. A glass of water and a biscuit in a break is the best secret weapon to fight fatigue.

What to do if the tech goes down

Remote learning is prone to technical hitches – from unstable connections to glitchy audio.

As part of your preparation, you should arrange to have an IT support technician standing by on instant message to help. All your pre-course information should make it clear who to contact if trainees have a technical difficulty with access or functionality.

Stay on schedule

Keep a checklist of topics to cover and timings for each section so you don’t get side-tracked. Unless it’s by a killer question from one of your participants that is going to open up a very valuable debate. If this happens, set a time limit. Running out of time and not being able to cover the whole course content is not only frustrating, it looks unprofessional.

After the show is over, don’t forget to email the attendees to thank them for attending, and to ask for feedback. Try to build in 30 minutes at the end of the official session to stay online afterwards to answer questions. Making yourself available for those immediate responses is invaluable both for you and the trainees.

Create a checklist

The Bright Affect training team compiles a master checklist for remote training sessions right from the start. A checklist will minimise the possibility of tasks falling between the cracks. It’ll mean you don’t overlook

a crucial step. It’ll make the entire event enjoyable and productive for you and your audience.

– Prepare and double-check your content carefully

– Communicate the purpose of the training to your employees upfront and invite questions

– Email a pre-event programme confirming the schedule, the timings and house rules

– Rehearse!

– Know who to call on for IT issues

– Engage and interact with your audience

– Follow up

Effective virtual training gives you, the trainer, greater control. With that control comes greater responsibility. You control the content, the virtual environment and the engagement. Delivering a successful remote training session requires more planning, but the experience for the trainee will be greater.