Effective virtual training begins with an effective virtual training communication plan that ensures that learners know exactly what to do.
With virtual training, learner confusion is your enemy. Confusion can be an excuse and will degrade the virtual learning experience. Learners and their leaders might have confusion about:
How and where to log into the virtual classroom platform
Technology and video conferencing equipment
How to use the features of the platform
Class times and lengths
How to log into and use your learning management system (LMS)
Rules and expectations for engaging in the virtual classroom
How to engage in breakout sessions
How to use the virtual whiteboard or smartboard (if you incorporate this type of technology into your sessions)
Homework and between-session assignments, and how to post them
Post-course work and follow-up
And a dozen other things you never dreamed might possibly confuse people
You’ll Take the Blame
What is critical to understand is that, unlike with physical training, virtual training learners and their leaders will blame anything that goes wrong on you, even if it is not your fault. This includes their own issues with internet connections, microphones, cameras, user error, and failure to read the instructions.
When they are having difficulty accessing information, getting into your session, or even getting online, they’ll point their fingers at you as the culprit. For this reason, consistent, clear communication helps you to gain the moral high ground and minimize issues.
Three Keys to an Effective Virtual Training Communication Plan
We’ve learned that the more our trainers communicate, the more we neutralize confusion and improve the experience for learners. There are three keys to breaking through confusion:
Over-communicating. With virtual training, one-and-done communication does not work. Develop and execute a systematic ongoing communication plan in advance for every virtual course you teach. Even when you feel like you communicate enough, you probably don’t.
Clear and concise communication. Review it once, review it twice, and be sure that anyone who reads, listens to, or watches it will understand exactly what you are communicating. Keep your message direct and brief.
Being available. Make sure that learners have easy access to you for questions and troubleshooting—and be responsive. In situations where you are not available, ensure that learners have an alternate contact point.
Your virtual training communication plan for each delivery should:
Get important information in the hands of learners early and often
Remove excuses for not having the information or understanding the information
Build emotional connections with learners
Engage learners early
Create buzz and excitement for the course
Give you the moral high ground with learners and leaders who may blame you for their failure to read, listen to, or watch what you send them
To accomplish these objectives, it is up to you to leverage every communication channel at your disposal to connect with your learners before, during, and after training.
Leverage Multiple Communication Channels
Never assume that people are reading and consuming what you send them.
You can put money on the fact that learners and leaders will not read the emails that you send them about the virtual training delivery. There are a number of reasons for this, including overwhelmed inboxes, competing priorities, spam filters, and passive resistance when learners see no value in the training or don’t wish to attend.
Attention spans have contracted. The modern world moves at lightspeed. Information overload is a state of being for most people. Attention is currency and make no mistake, you are in a pitched battle for your learners’ attention.
In addition, with the many ways we communicate in the modern world, people tend to gravitate toward preferred channels. If you do not communicate on that channel, the people who do may miss your message.
Meet Learners Where They Are
Leveraging as many channels as possible improves your probability of gaining attention. With attention, you can win mindshare. When you win learner mindshare, you gain the ability to accomplish your training mission.
Effective communication requires a mindset shift. For many trainers, this means getting out of their communication comfort zone. You’ll need to get comfortable communicating via email, LMS, direct messaging, webchat, social media, video, phone—even smoke signals if that’s what it takes.
First, you must overcome your fear that when you overcommunicate, people will push back. Some people will, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is eliminating confusion and getting participants into your virtual classroom on time and ready to learn.
Next, you’ll need to master communicating through a complex web of interconnected communication channels—synchronous and asynchronous—often at the same time. Interconnected is the keyword. There isn’t one best way. In today’s world, communication channels are not siloed.
When you leverage multiple communication channels, you are more likely to meet learners where they are and get your message across. The good news is, with effective communication you’ll get more buy-in for virtual training.
Learn more about designing, deploying, and delivering virtual training to your team in Jeb Blount’s new hit book, Virtual Training.
About the author
Jeb Blount is one of the most sought-after and transformative speakers in the world…