Rev Up for Virtual Delivery

When I was first asked if I wanted to deliver virtually, I thought about how we prepare for face-to-face work; excellent materials, check your technology, have pens, flipcharts, post-its, props all ready, get a good ambience in the room. And, of course, preparing yourself and getting into the right state to deliver.

On the virtual stage

On a virtual session, the trainer is a larger focal point, as the learners can’t see anyone except you, if you have a webcam. Your only props are your slides, so it’s best to make them clear and simple. Then move onto your voice, which can turn your delivery from good to great.

Virtual sessions tend to be shorter than face-to-face sessions, so it’s important to have a higher level of intensity within you, while always exuding a level of control to accommodate every individual on the session.

It’s a completely different cognitive load to working face-to-face. This means a spot-on energy level from the start, to initially captivate and assure the group, then retain their attention throughout the session. The moment you ‘meet’ learners, you need a mix of energy, gravitas, empathy, assurance and subject knowledge. And you can’t see them.
So, what helps you to rev up your energy levels for a virtual?

Voice modulation

First, it is important to know your subject matter. Practise out aloud, record yourself until you’re happy. Be aware of your facial expressions, particularly when learners say something unexpected or you encounter technical issues. Have everything you need within touching distance; make sure you have adequate light so you look good on the webcam.

Think about the points where you will need to raise/lower your pitch, or speed up/slow down. Notice the links between sections, so you can boost your vocal energy to recap the closing section and introduce the next one.

Remember that when you ask learners to do something technically tricky, such as moving them into separate ‘rooms’, think about how you are going to guide them with a mix of clarity, empathy and simplicity to enthuse and assure them. These factors help convince you that you’re ready to move onto your voice.

Get up and go

Before I start, I tend to either meditate and/or power pose for two minutes. I’ll repeat a tongue twister out loud, such as, ‘I want a proper cup of coffee in a proper, copper coffee pot’ to get my voice tuned up and make sure I’m articulating every syllable of every word. I’ll repeat my opening sentence a few times to make sure the session starts well. Then I’ll visualise the happy faces that I won’t be able to see.

In virtual work, enthusiasm and vocal skills work best with an equally high level of control. That takes energy and concentration.

I was once told that virtual delivery is like being a DJ. I’d add that it’s a bit like flying a plane. You exude calmness and control in the knowledge that if anything unlikely to happen actually happens, you have the confidence to deal with it seamlessly.

I’ve never flown a plane, but I have been told that it’s quite a thrill and it’s only when you’ve landed that you realise how much mental energy you’ve used. That’s how I feel after a virtual – so rev yourself up, strap in and stay in control!

About our guest blogger

Paul Tran is Director of PT Performance Solutions Ltd. He designs and delivers face-to-face and virtual training in communication, change and management and personal development.

Based in the Scottish Highlands, Paul works throughout the UK & Ireland. Client feedback describes Paul’s training as interactive, informative, engaging and practical. Paul is a qualified coach, Master Practitioner of NLP and Licensed Facilitator of SDI.


Is L&D shellfish with regards the modern learner?

Sorry about the fish joke, though it does make me halibut… But this post is about the “fishbowl” event focusing on discussion of the DNA of the Modern Learner, so there had to be some fishy references… Read an intro about the event here.

Despite a 5.30am alarm I didn’t make it into the London event due to train issues. That was very sad, but nice to know I was missed!

However whilst getting home I followed the back channel (the #PSKevents hashtag on Twitter), here are some highlights and thoughts:

Ger’s tweet with a Periscope video shows the layout of the event:


Some discussion about the event setup:


And pics to get a sense of the room from afar:


Starting off the conversation:

This is key in organisations now, not just for L&D to understand their “learners” but for a business to understand their staff – how they can work more efficiently and just get the job done to everyone’s satisfaction.

Niall, also on the back channel, picks up the language issue:


Thoughtful question from Ger Drisen:

It’s got to be both, with social change, technology, economic climate and much more. It is interesting to think if one led the other at all.


Some L&D improvements needed:

This is such a key, to understanding that people don’t want to wait for a one day course when they want to learn something new. This is something that L&D departments still do a lot, the “menu of training”.

It’s not a blame game, there are many reasons why trainers and departments still do this, especially when something is so big and ingrained in the company understanding and culture. The larger the ship, the bigger the turning circle.


Modern learning is…?

I definitely like the idea of resources not courses and I’m building up Lightbulb Moment this way – to make sure people have access to documents, templates and learning nuggets when they need them, as well as access to their peers to learn from.

Google it and there’s plenty of research about how manager’s have a huge influence over their staff’s performance and therefore their learning. So for embedding learning, or learning transfer, they are essential.

An excellent point from Kim. One of the struggles I often have with trainer’s new to the virtual environment is that they don’t feel that they can ‘control’ the room the same way that they do face to face; they can’t see if people are in their email or away from the screen.

Another element of this with modern learning design is that my experience of people in the organisation that are rolling out learning and performance initiatives is that often they don’t want to relinquish the feeling of ‘control’ of knowing people have attended a class – face to face, e-learning or virtual. There’s a hunger to do learning better so that people can do their jobs better, but the idea of letting go and trusting people to learn in “new” (organisationally-speaking) ways is alien to them.

Trent Rosen shared a link to this article that gathers some research into modern learners, including an infographic.


At the end of the event I asked the back channel:

On a separate note, Niall tweeted this:

So a learning point about a live event which has promoted a back channel is that it’s not just marketing, but people really are engaged and thy need thought and planning too so as not to feel left out.


Hot seat too hot?

They way I understand a fishbowl is that people jump in and out of the conversation.

Maybe no one got into the hot seat as planned, but at least people in the audience joined in.

A fish called learning

On Thursday morning I’m attending the PSK Performance Fishbowl Discussion on the DNA of the Modern Learner in London. It’s running 8-10am, so that does mean a very early start to get into London for that time, but I’m sure it will be worth it!

The day is hosted by Trent Rosen, who is Director at PSK Performance. The panel include some well known L&D experts: Laura OvertonNick Shackleton-JonesDeborah GordonGer Driesen and Sukhvinder Pabial.

What is a fishbowl?

From the description of the event:

The Fishbowl format is less heavy on structure, more emphasis on interaction and audience participation that fosters learning. Unlike traditional panels, the audience can join the panel at any time to raise a question, share their experiences, and even challenge the panels thinking on this topic. Or observe the conversations whilst taking down tips and information. Whatever your choice, you will learn something new as a result of attending.

There are a number of topics listed:

  • Keeping up with the Joneses; how employee expectations are mirroring social, demographic and technology changes
  • Designing learning content that stimulates and meet the demands of modern learners
  • Navigating through the maze of technology distractions and the overwhelming nature of change
  • Creating a modern working environment that is conducive to less traditional learning approaches

Of these, I think the changes are important when focusing on the modern learner; the stimulation needed in learning experiences (not that those experiences are separate from things like performance support); understanding that whilst there is a maze of of technology, it’s all about focusing on the performance and learning needs; and the modern working environment versus more traditional approaches.

Balance of the modern?

I think to balance this understanding of the modern learning leader there needs to be an understanding that a lot of organisations aren’t there – they aren’t in a ‘modern’ space. The argument, of course, has to be that the staff are often there – especially when we think about how people use their mobile devices for social media and communication. Maybe it’s time for the staff, with the aide of L&D to bring the ‘modern’ to the business!

I will of course do some Tweeting as @LightbulbJo, on the #PSKevents tag and maybe some stuff from @TrainingJournal too!

I hope to see you there, or tweet me a question or comment!

Read about the event in this blog post!

What sUX about L&D design? 

As part of the Modern Learning Leader Programme, Barbara Thompson delivered a webinar on UX.

UX is “User Design” and encompases so many things, partly the visual elements, but in this case more about how things work, or can work better!

History of UX from Wikipedia:

The field of user experience design is a conceptual design discipline and has its roots in human factors and ergonomics, a field that, since the late 1940s, has focused on the interaction between human users, machines, and the contextual environments to design systems that address the user’s experience.With the proliferation of workplace computers in the early 1990s, user experience started to become a concern for designers. It was Donald Norman, a user experience architect, who coined the term “user experience”, and brought it to a wider audience.

You can listen to a podcast from Good Practice about user design and how it can be applied to L&D.

Barbara shared that UX contains elements as follows:

The following image was shared with Barbara to highlight what UX actually covers:

I wasn’t 100% sure about what “heuristic” meant, which Barbara explained really well. The dictionary tells me: “enabling a person to discover or learn something for themselves.”

I love the image that Barbara shared, below, to highlight how our stakeholders can get in the way of what the user really needs out of a product of any kind, be that a physical product, software, app, system or process.

Below is a methodology that Barbara uses in her work. She highlighted that it was a modified from ADDIE. I like steps one and two, which are taken from UX, as they focus specifically on performance objectives.

Logicearth have a blog post about UX tips. It’s more specifically for e-learning, but a useful review for all.

Saffron Interactive also have a great blog post about improving UX (and UI – user interaction).

This topic has some links to Design Thinking:

“Design thinking is also an approach that can be used to consider issues, with a means to help resolve these issues, more broadly than within professional design practice and has been applied in business as well as social issues.”

For the Modern Learning Leader programme I’m reading Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation by Idris Mootee. I’ll do some writing on that separately.

Josh Bersin’s article highlighted: “Research on global human capital trends shows that 84% of business leaders cite the ‘need for improved organisational learning’ as a top priority, and 44% say it’s urgent”.

The article goes on to say “Unfortunately, the problem is not one of designing better programs or simply replacing or upgrading learning platforms. Rather, there is something more fundamental going on — a need to totally rethink corporate L&D, to shift the focus to design thinking and the employee experience.”

This is a great point about how UX (and Design Thinking) are important for organisations now. Barbara shared this:

And Barbara shared this as a summary:

You can read my other Modern Learning Leader blog posts

  1. What is a Modern Learning Leader?
  2. The human condition
  3. The human condition – faces and social learning
  4. Instructional design – reminder notes

You can come along to the webinars and also the workshop too.

There is also a Twitter conversation on the #MLLeader hashtag.

Four classic mistakes made when creating virtual versions from face-to-face learning

Mark Gilroy guest blogger for Lightbulb Moment

In volatile and uncertain economic climates, it’s essential for businesses to leverage the latest technologies to adapt to client demands. For TMSDI, an international provider of psychometric profiling tools, a key component in staying VUCA-proof has been the introduction of webinars and virtual classrooms to cater for train-the-trainer accreditation sessions. Although our traditional “on the ground” workshops have remained popular, in recent years we have found a strong demand for learning in a virtual classroom. Whether it’s for dispersed teams, clients who have limited travel budgets, or the time-poor learner, webinars have helped our business stay agile.

That’s not to say that we haven’t made any mistakes. Here are some that we’ve encountered, and some ideas for how to avoid them:

1) Preparing the same type of slides as you’d use in a face-to-face session

I’ll be honest- I’m not a huge fan of PowerPoint. In a face-to-face sessions I frequently work with flipcharts, physical props, and movement to help convey important concepts. Any slide decks that I do use are often very limited, and ideally there as a last resort to complement what is being discussed/shared.

Webinars demand a different approach. Assuming you are not using video/webcams, your participants will have just your voice to go on, so any visuals you have should be there to complement your audio content, capture attention, and inspire learning. In a virtual environment, the number of distractions is multiplied exponentially – it’s your job to use visuals as part of your toolkit to help maintain attention.

After much experimentation, we discovered a sweet spot: that 1 new slide should appear every 1-2 minutes. More-frequently and your audience will start to experiencing a strobing effect, less-frequently and attention begins to wander. And forget about the snazzy animations – in most virtual learning environments they will judder to a halt by the time your participants eventually see them due to limited bandwidth. Keep any slide builds simple, and go heavy on images, light on text. Haikudeck is a great place to start for webinar-friendly inspiration.

2) Forgetting to manage the energy in the room

Many trainers/facilitators share a preference for Extroversion.**

Depending on the psychometric tool and/or school of psychology that you subscribe to, this means that these types of facilitators have a high need for people contact, talking through their thoughts/ideas, and receiving energy/praise from others. Moreover, the energy that an Extrovert gives out should ideally be returned back to them in a continuous loop.

This can be a challenge when delivering in a virtual environment. For those who have a need for people contact, the lack of non-verbal, in-the-moment feedback is something that can feel a little like flying a plane in fog. Taking time to charge-up your personal energy before and after delivery will help, as will acknowledging that a more-extroverted presenter may feel more drained than usual compared to a piece of face-to-face delivery.

The same goes for participants. They also need to know you’re with them even if they can’t see you. How will you include their thoughts, questions, and contributions in the classroom to ensure no-one feels left out? Which brings us neatly to the other tools of the virtual learning trade…

**Disclaimer: This is, naturally, a sweeping generalisation, based purely on my own experiences of working with a wide variety of trainers/facilitators. Importantly, this is not to say that Extroverted facilitators are necessarily better than those with an Introvert preference (I would go as far as saying some of the best facilitators I’ve worked with are more-Introvert). But…this is all still worth bearing in mind when managing your energy as a presenter.


3) Ignoring the features of a virtual classroom because you wouldn’t/couldn’t use them face-to-face

Most webinar platforms include tools that you often wouldn’t get an opportunity to use when face to face. They can add a lot to a session to assist in gauging your learners’ engagement, adjusting your pace, and creating virtual communities:

Polls are a great way to punctuate virtual learning- as part of a ‘what brings you here today’ intro, a mini-quiz to test knowledge, or a round-up activity to check-in on pace. Most webinar platforms enable live polls to be set-up either on-the-fly or before the webinar begins. The results can be displayed in real time and also as part of tailored follow-up to support learners long after the session finishes.

Collaborative whiteboards can be a great way of capturing questions/comments/ideas, ready for playback in the session, or afterwards. Some platforms (e.g. Webex) allow for breakout sessions and multiple whiteboards, meaning that you can split groups off to work together, then bring them back in plenary to share the output of their discussions. Plus, they can all be recorded automatically to save anyone having to type them up.

In an “on the ground” learning session, it can be disruptive to have people chatting throughout. In a virtual environment, live chat is an effective tool to help learners build connections, check their understanding, and capture questions in real time for the facilitator to tackle at an opportune moment.

4) Assuming technical difficulties won’t happen

There’s a delicate balancing act to tread here. It can be a big drain on resources to go ‘looking for Murphy’ and analyse every possible technical issue that could occur. On the other hand, neglecting to anticipate the most likely issues can mean, at best, your webinar starts much later than planned, or at worst – you have to cancel and reschedule.

Some of the most common issues we have found are:

Internet connection issues

We resolved this in two ways:

1) From our side – to avoid any interruptions or issues with bandwidth, we installed a dedicated broadband line just for webinars. This may seem a step too far, but it’s important to have a Plan B in the eventuality that your internet connection goes down.

2) From the participants’ side – making sure that they are aware that a minimum connection speed will be necessary, and that joining using a mobile data connection or free coffee shop wi-fi is unlikely to cut it.

Audio issues

Most virtual learning solutions have a built-in audio check, to test that the computer/device speakers are compatible with the learning platform you’re using. Label them and make sure your learners know that they’re there when they arrive.

If you’re running a virtual learning session, encourage people to join far ahead of time so that any issues with audio can be ironed out in time for starting. For high value training sessions, we also offer a one-to-one test a week or so beforehand to help make sure the experience is as it should be. Five minutes spent here could save a whole heap of worry on ‘show day’.

If you can, make sure you have a colleague on standby to direct your participants to for tech support so that your presenter can focus on their presenting.

Finally – if in doubt, use a headset. No-one likes the never-ending echo effect in a webinar where others are talking.

The ‘what does that button do’ problem.

A savvy webinar presenter needs to be a master of their panel of controls in order to deliver swan-like, whilst all manner of notifications, alerts and messages are appearing around them.

There’s an easy solution here. Practice, practice and practice again.

Practice ‘driving’ a webinar, pushing all the buttons – just to see what they do – in a safe environment, so that you can be super-confident of your tools and how to use them when the time comes. Of equal importance: practice being a passenger so that you can a sense of what your participants are hearing/seeing/experiencing as you guide them through their learning journey.

Mark GilroyPlease get in touch or leave a comment below to share some of your experiences delivering learning solutions in the virtual classroom.

About our guest blogger

Mark Gilroy is Managing Director of TMS Development International Ltd, a leading global provider of psychometric development tools designed to create, nurture and sustain high performing teams. Mark has a background in psychology and has been working in the L&D arena as an executive coach and team development facilitator for over a decade.

Instructional design – reminder notes

As part of the Modern Learning Leader Programme, Ross Garner of Good Practice focused on “What is instructional design”.

Right at the beginning Ross made sure that the focus of Instructional Design (ID) is on what the real problem is and making sure that the solutions are related to that.

And Ross used Star Wars as a good example, whereby Luke Skywalker needed to learn the force, and he didn’t do it through an e-learning module…

After an example where the solution was jumped to, Ross explained a modified version of Cathy Moore’s brilliant Action Mapping process for getting to the point of the business problem. Ross calls it “a safe collaborative space” to work on business challenges and solutions.

Below is Ross’ example of the Action Map as he might apply this when a client has asked for an e-learning course to cover the absence policy:

There was an interesting interaction during the session, about how L&D can use Action Mapping. There was a comment about using Action Mapping on our own and my focus was that it is collaborative – if we are using it on our own we aren’t using it fully and as designed!

How to design solutions

Ross strongly recommended Julie Dirksen’s book Design for how people learn. A great book to look at all sorts of different angles on this topic.

This is a page from Julie Dirksen’s book – there are also lots of photo’s and diagrams, a really visual book

Ross shared the performance gaps that Julie expands upon in her book, highlighting that training isn’t always the solution when there are other issues at hand.

Julie was on Colin Steed’s Virtual Learning Show some years ago, and this is a blog post with my notes.

And this slide showed some of the problems that Ross thought that instructional designers often make!

You can read my other Modern Learning Leader blog posts

What is a Modern Learning Leader?

The human condition

The human condition – faces and social learning

You can come along to the webinars and also the workshop too.

There is also a Twitter conversation on the #MLLeader hashtag.