Crucial Skills®

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Trainer Insights

Mind the Gap: Virtual Training Q&A with Master Trainer Justin Hale

2020 has been full of unexpected challenges, especially for the live events industry. As trainers we are learning how to use video conferencing on a variety of platforms as a new reality. We know that this transition has been challenging for many in our industry, but we can take solace in knowing that we are not alone in the quest to adapt to a new normal and refine our skills as virtual trainers, leaders, and organizations. Regardless of the challenges our global business community faces, the mission of VitalSmarts to change the world by changing behavior remains unwavering. As we pursue this mission, we too are adapting and stretching into unchartered spaces to serve you in the best way possible as a digital first company. This means we are prioritizing your needs first.

As part of our efforts to serve you to the best of our ability, we asked you about some of the challenges you are facing, in addition to what tools or strategies you have used to approach the COVID-19 gap between live and virtual training. Below is a collection of the most frequently asked questions, challenges, positive feedback and ideas that trainers have shared with us over the past few months. I hope my answers will help you to feel more confident about your virtual learning journey moving forward.

What Are Your Training Challenges?

Q. I am confused about where the VitalSmarts virtual tools can be found and if I need to be ‘certified’ to teach virtually?

A. You do not need to be “certified” to train VitalSmarts courses virtually if you are already a certified trainer. However, training virtually does require its own competencies and we’ve created some tools to help. They are all found on the Trainer Zone (choose the course, then the Live Online tab). The three most important resources are the virtual trainer guide, the virtual Quick Prep videos (and bonus FB Live video with vILT best practice tips) and the Getting Started checklist. Download the trainer guide and take notes while you watch each of those videos so you can refer to it as you prep for your scheduled training. In addition to the Live Online tab, you will find other valuable vILT resources under the Additional Resources section found on the Trainer Links dropdown menu in the top right-hand corner of your Trainer Zone account page.

Q. I’m struggling to adapt my delivery to a virtual modality, mastering a platform, and keeping learners engaged! Do you have any tips to help?

A. VitalSmarts is building a virtual, live online version of all of our courses in Adobe Connect that does not require you to build or design anything (more details coming soon). With that change, you can lean on the design of the presentation and your technical producer and look like a pro in the virtual classroom. Having a platform agnostic presentation will allow you to focus on helping your participants understand the skills, rather than focus on your technical customization skills and platform savvy. Because we do not skimp on practice and application, you can rest assured that you will experience presentation ease without compromising quality. Also, don’t try to do it all at once. Try team teaching your first few virtual sessions to get used to the presentation, working with your platform, and interacting with your producer. You will feel more confident as a vILT facilitator knowing that you have invested the necessary practice time.

Q. Help wanted. I am having a difficult time transferring the same kind of energy and connection with learners in a virtual setting when everyone is on mute? The silence is deafening.

A. This can certainly be difficult, and you’re not alone in feeling this way. But I find that using some of the virtual classroom features can help alleviate the disconnect and silence. When I play videos or tell stories, I often ask people to react by clicking on any of the feedback icons that fit the situation (laugh, agree, disagree, etc.). I also find it helps to get to know people quickly at the start of the class by asking people to introduce themselves using their mics. If they each spend just a few seconds speaking, both you and the other participants will feel more connected. That way when you see chat engagement, you will be reminded that there are people on the other side of that screen and they are listening.

Q. I know VitalSmarts has studied the efficacy of blended learning and found good outcomes. Where can I find statistical information on the benefits of virtual training to make a case?

A. We did a study a few years back about the efficacy of the VitalSmarts virtual classroom. But we didn’t study all virtual training. We strongly believe that we got the results reflected in our study because of the way we designed the training for the virtual modality. The learning was spaced out over a week, we used many features of the virtual platform, and we facilitated practices. We made sure the sessions we did in the study were all about engagement and behavior change rather than the technicalities of the platform. Here is the position paper on virtual training and a testimonial document from certified trainers who have virtually facilitated our content. I hope you find them helpful.

Q. How can I help other instructors at my organization who have been slow to accept virtual training make the transition?

A. You can share examples of learners who have gone through a virtual experience and found it valuable. You can also find resources in the Trainer Zone, on the resources page, and within the industry simply by doing a Google search. You can also invite your peers to attend a practice session. It’s one thing to say virtual training is a great experience, it’s another to allow them to experience it firsthand.

Q. I would like to train in the Adobe Connect platform but our company doesn’t have the budget for it, so we’ve been asked to train in Zoom. How can I adapt the training to work with our platform without losing the quality of the experience?

A. Whether you’re delivering VitalSmarts content or another course, there are some key principles that all virtual trainers should consider.

  1. Use a variety of engagement features. Your session should include as many of these as possible: video, chat, breakout, polls, practice, teaching, personal journaling, and group discussion.
  2. Don’t go 45 minutes with slides and teaching. Change the game regularly by using a learning activity every 3-5 minutes to keep energy high and participants focused on the content.
  3. Take short breaks. Every hour people should take a five- to ten-minute break to refocus and re-energize.
  4. Space out the learning. Avoid long virtual sessions by only going 90-120 minutes at a maximum. Then give people at least 24 hours before the next session. This allows ideas to settle and helps people practice what they’ve learned.

Following these tips will help your training session flow regardless of the platform you are using.

Q. Where can I find more how-to resources for virtual training?

A. In addition to the Trainer Zone resources, Joseph Grenny and I wrote “How to Get People To Actually Participate in Virtual Meetings,” published by Harvard Business Review, which offers tips for virtual facilitation. The first page of all of the virtual trainer guides is also filled with virtual training tips that we have tested and collected over the past seven years.

How Are Trainers Adjusting to VitalSmarts Virtual Facilitation?

Read some responses below and join the Facebook Group to get tips, ideas, and help from over 2500 certified trainers.

“Doing my third session – love it!”

“We postponed until next year to focus on higher priorities given resource constraints. We are highlighting skills learned with most of our leaders that already completed the course previously with good results.”

“I was preparing to teach virtually then changed jobs a few weeks ago. I attended your virtual certification for Crucial Conversations, and that’s when I learned that virtual training can be as interactive—or even more interactive—than in person training. You sold me on it!”

“I’m in the process of learning the tool (GoTo-Training), learning how the material works with the tool (videos), and becoming more comfortable with the material. I will be delivering before the end of the year! The FB group is an incredible resource!!”

“I did Crucial Conversations over 3 days while also doing a 12-hour HR course over 4 weeks. The prep is grueling, but we are getting registrants faster than we can fill!”

“We’ve had remarkable success with all of our virtual deliveries. Many people actually seem to prefer this method of delivery, which was a real surprise to me.”

“We are doing the recommended five two-hour sessions. Today we just completed module 3 for two different groups. It’s going well, not as great as in-person, but engagement is high. We finish next week and are considering next time doing it in two days, module 1,2,3 on day 1 and 4 and 5 a week later. . .”

“We taught 16 classes of Crucial Conversations this fiscal year (Oct 2019 – Sept 2020). Only two of them were in person and the rest were virtual. We can’t get the classes set up fast enough to meet demand! I will always prefer in person as a trainer, but love that we have the virtual option.”

“I use Adobe Connect for my platform. I do all the activities that happen in the face-to-face class through breakouts, polling, chat, upvote, and learning partners! Virtual works very well!”

I hope you feel more empowered, educated, and excited to move forward as a virtual trainer. We look forward to building a bright virtual learning path to success with you in the months and years to come.

Good luck!



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  1. vitalsmarts trainer zone - Tech News

    […] Mind the Gap: Virtual Training Q&A with Master Trainer Justin Hale … […]

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