A Journey of Transformation: Moving from Offline to Online Training
When was the first time you were asked to deliver your first-ever online training, no matter whether it was a presentation, a webinar or a virtual instructor-led program? How did you respond to the request? How did you feel?
On 25 February 2020, when the first wave of COVID-19 outbreak continued unabated, I received a call from my client asking me to turn a fast-approaching half-day face-to-face program into an online program for 50 virtual participants. I was stunned by the request. I immediately questioned myself, “Can I do it? Is it possible? What e-platform should I use? Do I need to change the instructional design? Can I still use those class activities as planned? How to engage and interact with 50 virtual participants at the same time? How to... Frankly speaking, with these uncertainties in my mind, I was a bit withdrawn at that point.
Luckily, there are two traits ingrained in a professional trainer’s DNA called adaptiveness and resilience. In fact, I realized I did have some experience in virtual training because I have been attending an international facilitation program as a virtual student over the last two years. My courage finally kicked in. I paused, took a deep breath and said, “Let’s go ahead and give it a try!”. That day eventually turned out to be a very special day to remember – I officially set off on my exciting journey to becoming a professional virtual trainer.
From that day onwards, I have been successfully delivering a wide variety of virtual trainings, including webinars, instructor-led training programs, group coaching sessions, team offsite events, Train-The-Virtual-Trainer Certification Program, etc. You may wonder how I can grapple with the challenges and have transformed myself into a successful virtual trainer in just a few months. If you want to know about my experiences and discoveries along the journey of transformation, please read on.
Here are my three major discoveries:
1. Hire an Experienced Coach
For my first virtual training program, I had hired Mr. Aalok Gupta, my good working partner and an experienced coach, to guide me through the development stage. Mr. Gupta has considerable experience in online training. In our virtual coaching session, we spent two hours going through the program design, including but not limited to pre-program engagement, the opening and the closing of the learning sessions, program structure, design of presentation slides, etc.
We also spent time practising the delivery. Speaking to the audience through the computer is very different from speaking to them face-to-face. As a first-time virtual trainer, when you have no in-person audience, you may feel unnatural and awkward in that virtual environment. There are also quite a number of psychological barriers for a virtual trainer to overcome. I will talk about these barriers later on and share with you how I’ve dealt with them by applying practical techniques.
2. Find a Great Partner
On this journey, I have to express my sincere thanks to my another close working partner, Mr. Christopher Lee, who always encourages and supports me to step out of the comfort zone for new challenges. Following our successful delivery of a facilitated, interactive online training program to 50 newly promoted managers of a listed company, Christopher initiated the idea about organizing our first-ever online Virtual Training Sharing Session, in which we could share our first-hand, invaluable experience in virtual training with the training professionals in the community. We believed that it was a giving act to help promote the best practice and raise the bar for the profession. Eventually, more than 50 training practitioners attended the sharing session and their responses were very positive and encouraging.
Apart from having supportive working partners or friends who can always bring you the positivity and encourage you to stretch (I call them the “Positive Agents”), you also need to find a good partner to act as your co-host in the virtual training. Your co-host is your extended arm. He/She helps you to take care of the technical aspects so that you can concentrate on your delivery and facilitation. These technical support include introducing different function keys of the virtual platform to the participants, answering their questions in the chat box, handling their technical issues at the spot such as “I can’t hear your voice”, “Where is that function key?”, etc. I am thankful that Christopher took up this important role in my first virtual training program. I am also proud to have a support team who have been working behind the scene to make things happen.
3. Learn from Some of the Best Virtual Trainers
You might have attended a number of online training programs these days. Some of them could be inspiring, while some of them could be pretty boring. In the early days of my journey, in order to accelerate the acquisition of new competencies for becoming a professional virtual trainer, I had reached out to some of the best virtual trainers in the training community and learnt from them.
I enrolled in a 2-hour Virtual Training Skills Program, that started at 12am Hong Kong time but turned out to end at 4am. The trainer was so eager to share her experiences in virtual training, so she overran for 2 hours. Well, if you thirst for new knowledge that can help you prepare for new opportunities, I believe you don’t mind to stay up late at night till 4am when other people are comfortably lying in beds having good dreams. I felt like I was in the “FLOW” (it is a term in Positive Psychology which means you will forget everything when you are so much “in” the process). From this program, I have gained many new insights into the design and delivery of virtual training, which laid the important foundations for my transformation from a traditional trainer to a virtual trainer.
Apart from attending real-time virtual training programs, I have also purchased books from Amazon and read articles written by top professionals in the field such as Cindy Huggett, Jennifer Hofmann, etc. I’m so much inspired by how they bring virtual training alive, when most people might think online training is just plain boring.
Today, if you ask me how I feel about virtual training, I would say, it is so much exciting and fulfilling. As a professional virtual trainer, I always keep myself abreast of new technologies and creative online tools, as well as relentlessly explore different learning modalities to enhance virtual learning experiences for greater learning effectiveness. During the CONVID-19 outbreak, when virtual training has become a viable option for many companies to continue employee development, I can actually leverage my experience in virtual training and help them thrive despite of current upheavals. Once we have overcome our fear and strive to equip ourselves with the right skills and knowledge, we can always turn the impossible into possible.
To me, virtual training is more than just a training event. In fact, it is a pathway where the trainer acts as a navigator, leading and empowering the learners to reach their learning destinations, while bringing them meaningful and enjoyable learning experiences that can last for a lifetime.
If you are new virtual trainer, welcome to this thrilling and rewarding journey. Let’s thrive and enjoy!