Article published in Association for Talent Development (ATD) by Joe Schulz, VP Emerging Technology at Orasi Software.
This year saw sales kickoffs move from convention centers to home offices and shift from conference tables to kitchen islands. The impact of this sudden change was felt across all sectors of industry, but as those in sales can attest, the move from live to virtual sales kickoff meetings has been seismic, especially for instructors who have to think of new ways to train sales reps on enterprise CRM, ERP, and other software applications.
Looking at this glass half full, HR and information technology have given sales team training a much-needed overhaul. Here are a few tips for companies to be able to deliver hybrid, distributed sales reps essential, informative, and engaging training during virtual kickoffs into 2021.
Tailor the material
Tweak the material and delivery for a virtual format. Presenters don’t need to completely rewrite the script, but do need to make adjustments that transfer to the small screen:
- Plan breaks. While an instructor may be able to hold people’s attention for up to an hour in person, people’s attention spans online are shortened to 15 to 20 minutes. Trainers should work in additional breaks or break topics into 10- to 15-minute sections that add up to a concept about every hour.
- Be hands-on. Incorporate hands-on training as part of the session to actively engage attendees and provide them with real-life practice opportunities that hone critical thinking skills. And, because people can’t feed off the enthusiasm of the person sitting next to them, it’s important to use visuals engagement techniques (such as humorous comics, ice-breaker quizzes, diagrams, and embedded videos).
Pay attention to detail
It might be tempting to settle for whatever collaboration technology you have on hand (Zoom, Google Meet, or Slack, for example), but when it comes to effective virtual instruction, you’re creating training limitations and knowledge transfer barriers if you don’t use appropriate virtual e-learning solutions.
- Take it to the cloud. Leveraging a cloud-based virtual training platform provides a realistic and reusable hands-on learning environment as well as flexible cloud resources that mean you’ll have the ability to scale up or down to meet demand while saving costs.
- Two-way video. A broadcast instructor feed allows presenters to share their screen and engage in two-way video and chat. It might seem obvious, but not all conferencing software will offer the capabilities you need, especially when conducting software training, and you may need to purchase additional tools.
- Instructor monitoring. An over-the-shoulder remote-viewing capability is essential for virtual software training because it allows instructors to see everyone’s screens in real time to determine if a participant is veering off course.
- Multiple training styles. One teaching style does not fit all. Also, participants will have varying needs and demands outside the classroom, so a tool that allows for instructor-led and self-paced or on-demand learning provides students options and increases adoption.
- Security. Sensitive data means extra security. Hacking, data leakage, and ransomware are real risks, so it’s critical that whatever online learning system you are using offers security features and allows you to meet compliance and regulatory constraints.
Virtual training lab
You may be tempted to have students preinstall software before class begins, but you’d be wise to resist the urge. Without being able to control students’ environments, you’ll be left wondering whether they’ve carried out the required prep work, installed the correct version, or even have adequate security solutions installed on their home devices that will keep sensitive data safe. Instead, opt for a cloud-based virtual training lab, where you control the environment, and hold a virtual open house about a week before class. This trial-run gives students the opportunity to determine whether they access the system as well as familiarize themselves with the material.
I say, I show, you do
In a physical classroom, instructors can see how students are following along, but this isn’t so online. This format allows presenters to review the material and students the chance to put what they’ve just learned into practice. Feedback mechanisms, real-time collaboration with instructors, and virtual labs translate into productive and collaborative environments that can keep students engaged throughout a lengthy training session.
Play nice in the sandbox
Sandboxes (the virtual environments students use to practice) allow students to work in their own space without affecting what others are doing. It’s especially important for software course instructors to watch students in real time to see who is working through the material, who might be stuck (or distracted), and who is struggling.
Make sure a virtual lab allows for snapshots, or rollback points, that let students save their work day-to-day. These rollback points serve the dual purpose of encouraging students to experiment with the material and make mistakes, safe in the knowledge that they can always go back to a previous point in time.
Learning shouldn’t end just because class does. Many virtual training tools allow instructors to set up a regular cadence of preclass and follow-up communications, including emails with links to additional resources and blog posts that reinforce learning and the student-teacher relationship.
It’s not easy to present online, and nothing compares to the energy of an in-person sales kickoff, but nothing worth doing has ever been easy. These tips empower companies, and those they’re training to make the online experience beneficial to all.