Virtual Events – The Future of Online Training?

While vaccines give us hope for some return to normality, the smart money is not on large-scale, crowded training events playing a big role in our lives for the immediate future. Many organisations are starting to wonder if the benefits we used to derive from these events can be generated a different way.  

The fact is that training, like every other field of business operations, has now been virtualised, and the advantages – particularly in terms of efficiency and cost-effectiveness – are plain to see. No stratospheric venue costs, no logistical nightmares in getting thousands of trainees through their agenda in person, on the day. Sure, virtual training events may not offer the full, hands-on and tactile experience of in-person training. But they can clearly be used to deliver the type of training that it’s often necessary to put groups of people through, simultaneously, in many different settings, from retail to manufacturing, commerce and government. 

Throughout the pandemic companies have realised that it is more important than ever to keep staff skills up-to-date and on-point. Today, customer service – and in some cases all customer contact – now has to be carried out remotely, and workforces have limited opportunities to interact with each other due to social distancing requirements. This means the opportunity for “on-the-job” training is lost, at a critical time when all organisations need to be developing new ways of working.  

Online and virtual training platforms have existed for decades, since before the rise of the internet. What these lack, though, is the vital element that makes events tick – the mass of people coming together for a common purpose. Generally, virtual training is something that is carried out solo, with limited interaction between trainer and trainee. Sometimes it simply involves watching videos. Generally there is no opportunity for collaboration and developing teamworking skills and a shared team culture.  

This is why many of our customers are finding that delivering training sessions via a virtual event framework offers a “best-of-both-worlds” approach. Students learn better when they are also interacting and engaging with their tutors and peers. Demonstrations and tutorials can convey greater meaning and value when they are open to questioning and interrogation from a stakeholder audience.  

And, perhaps most essentially, the camaraderie and team-building that arises through group training sessions often forms the grounding for longstanding professional and personal relationships between co-workers. Sure, in theory you can train a remote workforce by having them all sit solitary, unconnected online training sessions, and grade their test responses to gauge how thoroughly they have learned. But in group scenarios, opportunities for creative thinking and problem-solving emerge and the distinction between the leaders, followers, thinkers, doers, problem-solvers and disruptors within teams is brought into focus. 

With that in mind, here are some pointers to think about if you’re thinking of using a virtual event format to deliver training: 

Encourage interaction and engagement 

Everyone who’s been through school knows the difference it makes to quality of learning when a teacher knows how to make their class a part of the lesson. The leading virtual event tools available today enable trainers to replicate this by interacting with their audience in many ways, from simple tests, polls and quizzes to complex team-based wargaming. If the format of your training doesn’t go beyond expecting trainees to sit through a video and then answer some question, you’re missing out on the opportunities made possible by virtual event-based training.  

Choose your platform wisely 

There are at least 70 virtual event platforms on the market today, and more appearing every month. Most offer a core of similar features that are as useful for training events as they are for the conferences and exhibitions that they are more regularly used for. These include virtual auditoriums, sponsor galleries and networking functionality. Beyond that they all have strengths and weaknesses, and picking the right one means finding one that aligns with the specifics of your event. Something like Hopin works well for single-track sessions where your trainees will sit through a pre-set agenda of sessions and content. Airmeet offers interesting table-based grouping of attendees, which creates fun possibilities for team events, and VFairs and Hubilo offer a lot of flexibility for configuring complex multi-track events.  

All work and no play … 

Particularly for larger events, consider some extra-curricular offerings to help your attendees unwind following a long training session. You can reward attendees with a virtual party at the end of the day, or a fun quiz, artistic performance or show. Also consider the potential of deploying gamification throughout your training event. Attendees can be given scorecards to work towards winning awards and prizes, and a competitive element can be introduced by highlighting top performers on leaderboards. 

Buzznation can help you effectively create and deploy event-based virtual training programs for any number of attendees. Please get in touch with us today to discuss your plans and how we can make them a reality.

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