I was at the gym one evening when a friend mentioned that she was conducting a customer training program in the morning. She confessed that she was a little stressed because she had never conducted a training program solo. Adding to her stress of flying solo was the fact that the training was a mixed-location training, where half of the group was local and the other half was in the Netherlands joining via video conference. She told me that she planned to just focus on the slides and information and not worry about where people were located. Not a good strategy for success in the virtual classroom.
Anyone who is a knowledge leader in an organization knows they will be called on at some point to take their expertise public. The challenge is that most organizations are not giving SMEs sufficient training to feel confident or competent in the virtual training environment.
My advice to SMEs being asked to conduct virtual trainings? Start making some independent changes in your virtual training capabilities now. Here are three things every SME should do before they jump into the virtual classroom. (It’s the same advice I gave my friend!)
1. Investigate the venue.
It was great that my friend knew in advance that she had both in-room and remote attendees. If she had not known, there was a high probability that the remote group would have been forgotten. With this information, you can start to plan how you will keep both sides of the virtual classroom engaged.
2. Plan your time and don’t go over.
Another reason my friend got tapped for this training is that the customer knew she would be concise. Previous trainers had just “talked too much.” Make sure to organize your content around the key things your audience needs to know. Once you have? STOP! Once you have taught them how to drive a car, don’t try to teach them in the last five minutes how to design the engine. No one ever complained about a training that met expectations and was less time than allocated! Go over and you can bet your attendees will start dropping off the line.
3. Have a conversation and talk to people.
I know this is Presentation 101. But why is this so critical in virtual training? As a SME your credibility is at stake. If you allow nerves to get the better of you, you will talk too fast, read your slides, and miss someone’s question. Make eye contact with everyone and use names. Your nerves will settle, your audience will start to engage, and confidence in you will increase. Don’t forget, with video conferencing systems, you have to talk to the CAMERA to make eye contact with your remote attendees.
Implementing these three tips will help you feel more in control of the virtual classroom. Next steps for you? Demand the skills development from your organization that you will need to excel in the virtual classroom.