[PART ONE] Overcoming Three Common TRAPS to Creating Online Workshops

By Mark Samuel –

Those of us who are experienced in delivering in-person training workshops with a high degree of success are finding the move to a virtual learning environment much more difficult than imagined.

The assumption for many is that you just need to transform the “same” training program into a virtual offering by duplicating the experience using virtual technology. This is the single biggest mistake that workshop facilitators are making! Virtual Training is a different game, and until you know how to play the new game, you will trip and fall similar to moving from the game of basketball to the game of baseball. The skills and tools required are different and not necessarily transferable. Just ask Michael Jordan, one of the top athletes in the world who tried to make that transition.

In this 3-part series, we’ll highlight the top three traps to creating online workshops and trainings. While these three traps are not meant to be exhaustive, they do represent some of the key breakdowns we see made when moving from in-person workshop design to virtual workshop design:

TRAP #1: Assuming the training environment and facilitator skills are the same

The training environment is completely different even though people will be present with their workbooks and you will be the instructor/facilitator of the experience. If you use PowerPoint in your in-person training workshops, even that looks the same, since you will also be using PowerPoint slides in a virtual presentation. However, you are missing the detailed differences that easily cause drifting and poor learning for the student.

Consider these differences:

#1 In person, you can use your body movement, pacing, and interaction with different parts of the room while you are presenting your PowerPoint slides. But, in a virtual environment, most trainers/facilitators default to the standard stationary position. The result? Everyone sees you the same way – stuck at your computer delivering the slides with no movement, motion, or energy thrown to one side of the room or the other.

#2 In an in-person training workshop you can track those that are losing interest or wandering to their phones or computers. But, in a virtual environment, people can look like they are engaged when they are responding to emails, playing a game, or getting distracted by someone else in the room. In an in-person workshop, you can physically walk to an area of the room that seems disengaged to get back their attention, but not so in a virtual environment.

#3 In an in-person session, you have the ability to recover fairly easily if equipment breaks down or the room needs to be re-configured. You can use flip charts instead of PowerPoint or a whiteboard. You can reconfigure your activities for larger or lower numbers of participants based on who shows up. However, if technology breaks down in a virtual format, you don’t have as many options, since you are completely dependent on technology. And if people aren’t able to use their video access to be seen, it’s a very different experience from an intimacy, engagement, and participation standpoint.

Solution #1: Be Clear About Participant Expectations When Announcing the Program

It is very important that you eliminate anything that could cause a participant to get distracted prior to starting the program. This means several things:

1) Provide clear criteria for the equipment needed to participate

2) Ensure people use their video at all times during the workshop

3) Establish clear guidelines for participation

4) Provide time at the beginning of the program to teach the technology you are using during the virtual training

5) Provide regular activities that are not already part of your training program that are specifically designed to engage participants regularly, such as polls or providing answers in the chat to a question to invoke a response

In Part 2, we’ll share one of the most common mistakes that our clients—and we—have made! And this one can make or break the success of your virtual event…especially if you’re a seasoned trainer!

In service to your Success!

Mark Samuel & Licia Rester

P.S. We’re covering these and a lot more tips and techniques to create effective virtual events in:

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