Training 201: Reframing Training for a Virtual World

Training 201: Reframing Training for a Virtual World
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All right people, we are back at it. We have gone through the flaws of corporate training, had a 101 course on how to resolve some of those employee onboarding concerns, and now Kassy LaBorie is here to offer insights on taking the training room virtual. Kassy is the OG in virtual training consulting. Before the pandemic hit and everyone in training claimed to be a virtual training “expert” overnight, Kassy already had twenty years of experience under her belt. She made it clear from the beginning of our conversation that being an effective virtual trainer isn’t simply creating a webinar and calling it a day. In this article, you will get her three top tips for what it takes to keep the virtual classroom interactive and collaborative, while focusing on skill-based objectives.

In-person learner vs. online learner

According to Kassy, we have been taught how to be in-person learners since attending school. There was a routine we knew to follow — arrive on time, walk through the door, hang up your coat, choose a seat. With some minor alterations, this is still the same routine we use as adults. We have taken it for granted that because people know how to learn in person, they will also know how to learn online.

One thing that remains the same is this: as a trainer, everything you do is about the learners and making their learning experience practical. Part of that is bringing them into this new virtual environment. Are they ready to engage with this new training medium? Are the necessary items downloaded, accessible, do they have instructions? If I say “let’s all chat,” do they know where to find the chat feature? Can they rework the process and circle the necessary icons? During in-person learning, a significant part of our engagement with participants is through nonverbal communication, so we need to be sure learners are familiar with the tools needed to fill in those communications gaps in the online environment. Utilize the chat feature throughout the process. Implement nonverbal feedback icons to raise a hand, smile and agree. Also, learners should have a way to take notes, either online or manually, and be prepared to mute and unmute. Each of these is part of that routine that makes an effective online learner, and it is part of our job as trainers to make sure our participants are set up for success.

In-person trainer vs. online training

What is the rest of our job as a virtual trainer? One significant aspect of it is changing our language. The tech is bringing you and your participants together, and it should be an easy part of your vernacular. Of course, we would never start a class by saying, “Look at my face, and we will practice our nonverbal communication together.” But you could say, “Let’s all come on camera while we talk through those reaction keys, so you are prepared to give me feedback as we go.” Or another way to phrase this for a virtual classroom could be, “Give me one like or applaud if this is making sense so far,” since you might not be able to see whether their heads are nodding — or if they look utterly confused.

Kassy shared an example of how to make learning collaborative, even when it is virtual. She lists on a slide the top five ways to improve how you look on camera. After giving the participants a few moments to read it silently to themselves, she asks them to type their names beside the points they wanted to comment on or flesh out in some other way. Next, she calls on people to unmute and share ideas, creating a dialogue with thoughtful questions. Not only is this an effective way for them to learn how to use the tech, but it creates a much more engaging learning experience. It is no longer ‘The World According to Kassy,’ it makes for a much more memorable experience as the students personalize the points.

Master the tech so you can focus on the content

One crucial aspect of having a seamless virtual teaching experience is mastering the tech. That means beginning with the attendees’ very first step. Create activities connected to the content and purpose of the sessions that ask people to use the tools so they are learning by using, and in the moment of need. Not all platforms are equal (or accessible), so look into additional tools to help achieve your expectations (annotations, polls, discussions).

Kassy recalled a time where she was brought in as a guest lecturer. Unfortunately, in that role, she could not access the whiteboard; only the main presenter had access. She planned to troubleshoot it using Muro, but it turned out that the participants weren’t allowed access to Muro. The presentation could have been a disaster if she hadn’t rehearsed it in advance and prepped for potential technical difficulties. Since she had practiced with her clients’ system and her tools ahead of time, she could spot this problem and reframe her entire presentation so that it no longer required the whiteboard. However, it does serve as a solid example of what can go wrong if you are not prepared.

Well, my friends, that’s not all she wrote — she literally wrote two books on this — but that is all that I wrote. We hope your next training will see you more prepared and more confident. And be sure to check out our girl Kassy if you want to keep learning and growing as a trainer. It’s a brave new virtual world out there, but you’ve got this.


Jacquelyn Adams is a storyteller and an award-winning CEO. She lives in a world of constant exploration, whether it’s summiting Mount Kilimanjaro, vlogging about the future of work… or discovering how she’d do in a chocolate eating contest (answer: last place). Find more of her Lessons on Leadership articles here or connect with her on LinkedIn here.


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