Reskilling for Virtual Facilitation

Glossophobia” is the fear of public speaking, and it is believed that roughly 75% of the population suffers from some level of fear or anxiety when faced with a public speaking engagement. For those that make a living as a corporate trainer, you are either in the other 25% or have learned to overcome those fears. Being able to confidently deliver a program in front of your peers certainly took time and practice. Before 2020, the demand for virtual facilitation was not nearly as high as it is today. If you find yourself questioning your effectiveness as a trainer in this “new” modality, you are not alone.

LinkedIn’s 2020 Workplace Report indicated that 59% of L&D leaders identified upskilling and reskilling as the top priority. This statistic certainly does not come as a surprise, but transitioning from face-to-face ILT to virtual facilitation comes with certain challenges.

Corporate trainers that were accustomed to reading the room or making eye contact with participants need to adapt how they train in a virtual training session. In addition to learning how to master the required technology, the techniques for engaging a dispersed audience are unique.

Virtual Facilitation Best Practices & Techniques

Before the Session

  1. Launch your virtual classroom 30 minutes before the scheduled start time of the session. This will give you ample time to check your internet connection and webcam and ensure the platform is functioning properly.
  2. Preparing with the right tools is vital to your success. The most important tool in a virtual facilitator’s toolbox is a well-designed, comprehensive virtual Leader’s Guide. There are a lot of moving parts to manage in the moment during a virtual session, so the virtual Leader’s Guide should provide all content-related support and technical direction the facilitator needs in one place.
  3. Test your webcam. Even if you have conducted 100 virtual sessions before, always test your webcam to make sure it works. This will give you time to troubleshoot or adjust the lighting or background. Your webcam should always be at eye level to make your audience feel as connected as possible.
  4. Be prepared to troubleshoot. Create a list of instructions or responses to FAQs and get comfortable with the functionality of the platform from the participants’ point of view. Have those responses ready to paste into the chat of the most common glitches you have experienced and offer some technical support.

During the Session

  1. Break the ice! Start your session with an icebreaker activity that prompts participants to practice with the platform tools. This could be a poll, a quick Q&A or a question where they must “raise a hand” or “applaud.” If this is not the first session, your poll question can be used to reinforce the key learnings from a previous session.
  2. Set expectations. With virtual training comes the temptation for participants to multitask. Consider starting every session by asking the audience to commit to the session (i.e., turn off notifications or to not check email). Set the expectation before a session to keep your participants present during the training.
  3. Be conscious of your delivery and pay attention to your tone, pace and inflection. Encourage your audience to provide feedback at any time (using the chat or feedback tools available on your platform) if they need you to slow down, go over something again or to adjust your volume.
  4. Overcommunicate instructions and timing expectations for any breakout rooms or self-directed work. If there are handouts the learners need to access or download, make sure to point that out early and clearly so they know how to access the proper materials.
  5. Keep the discussion alive! One of the keys to a successful virtual facilitation is participant engagement. To keep an active discussion cadence, ask more questions of your audience than you typically might for a face-to-face ILT session. Virtual facilitators love to see the “multiple attendees are typing …” in the chat function after a discussion question.

After the Session

  1. If you have a producer for your session, solicit feedback from them. Ask them what went well, what could have been better and brainstorm how to improve your delivery or flow of the conversation. If you did not have a producer, then send a post-session survey to the participants for feedback.
  2. Make sure you reset or clear your virtual classroom settings. This includes your polls, chats and breakout rooms.
  3. Just like professional athletes, you need to watch your game film if it is available. Set some time aside to review your previous session and take notes on how you can adjust your delivery. Did a particular question get more interaction? Did you speak too softly? Were your directions around a breakout room unclear to some participants?

There will always be a need for conducting a training session in person. However, corporate trainers need to be able to effectively captivate a virtual audience just as well as they would when facilitating in person. Trainers need to be able to shift between in-person and virtual facilitation with ease. Use the above tips to help as you practice and master the art of being a virtual trainer.

Interested in learning more?

Download the Moving to Sustainable Multimodality Learning e-book for the whole blog series full of tactical guidance and tips for how to adapt the design and delivery of traditional in-person instructor-led training for the virtual environment.