How To Deliver Your Best Online Training Session Yet [with Q&A]

Effective online training delivery relies on a particular set of skills on behalf of the trainer, skills that veterans  of classroom-based training can sometimes find themselves without, and therefore in difficulty when thrust into a Zoom session.

Online presenting is an art, something that can be both learnt and mastered with relative ease once you're aware of how this differs from face to face training, and the new requirements expected of you as a trainer.

Earlier this year, accessplanit held a virtual summit for training professionals. At the summit, attendees got to experience a captivating talk on behalf of Graham David, Managing Director of the successful training organisation, Blue Beetle. The 30 minute, high octane talk focused on making a success of presenting online and comprised of 3 parts:

  • The beginning and end of a training session
  • The 'how' and the 'what'
  • 5 simple things to improve engagement with your audience

The beginning and end of a training session

This is a neglected area of online delivery where most trainers have the potential to develop a much stronger intro and outro. Graham referenced the author and educational consultant Tony Buzan credited with the invention of mind-mapping. Buzan did a lot of research into the awareness and attention of learners and concluded that we are most switched on during the intro and outro phase, where there is a momentary lift of energy.

An intro needs to be used to get learners attention instantly. Most of us will have experienced a common sequence during an intro to a training session that involves the trainer:

  • Agreeing rules
  • Telling you about their business
  • Telling you about them

Here’s 3 alternative, really powerful ways you can begin a training session instead:

Asking a question - It’s going to grab their attention and let them know the session is going to be a two-way process

An activity - One thing Graham enjoys using as an opener is to get participants to think of their favourite food and then think of 3 words to describe it. Then add ‘I am’ before the 3 words and read it aloud. It’s bound to get a few laughs and prove a great ice-breaking exercise.

A story - Great for getting into our emotions and playing on our senses and imagination.

An effective outro has 3 important components, too. Graham likes to close with the following:

A call-to-action - avoid using the ‘this is what we covered’ summary. Try, in small groups, picking the one actionable thing you are going to implement

Notice involvement and engagement - 'I appreciate your time, your questions, your involvement'

A sincere thank you

The 'How' and the 'What'

So many trainers get caught up in the ‘what I’m going to cover’ and don’t spend enough energy thinking about the ‘how’..

“The reality is that the 'how' is of the same

if not more important than 'what' you present.”

You are in control of your performance and your relationship with the audience; the how is something you can practice. Ideally you need to have the ability to move, think about your background, your settings, your audio - this is where rehearsals are of utmost importance.

Graham presents with a lot of energy and body gestures, however it’s important to be authentic. Things like the power of pause, slowing it down, changing your tone helps to maintain engagement and put particular emphasis on key points.

Consider this - how can you improve your position and use of the camera?

Some homework Graham gave us is to film yourself for 2 or 3 minutes per day. People would rather do anything that view themselves on camera – it’s a great way to get more comfortable with the ‘how’!

5 simple things to improve engagement with your audience

Be on camera a lot more

Consider ditching the PowerPoint slides; it’s hard to present with emotion and passion if you're not the main focus on their screen. Also, if it’s all repeated words about you and your business, you could be losing interest very early on. Anything you do need to present or announce, do it live!

Pattern interrupt. Mix it up, change the pace, change the visuals, change the format

Here it’s important that we dig into the lower part of the brain. How many times have you done something like driving the work, then realised when you arrive – ‘how did I get here, I don’t remember the journey?’. Don’t make your training session like that drive to work.

What would happen if you used a lot more questions?

Questions are never a bad thing. For those that aren’t fully engaged, it’s a perfect way to hook people back into what you have to say. Pepper them throughout your session!

Do less – and have your delegates fill in the gaps

It’s too easy to spoon feed your audience, you need to give them chance to work it out themselves. Don’t rely on a script that is ‘all give’ relying on the fact that if you’re talking, it’s predictable. Switch it up!

Be a presenter…be yourself

Graham explains that his current setup is nothing more than a studio, nothing you can’t implement at home...although it takes a little bit of practice to get right! Most importantly, be authentic. It’s not for everyone to be theatrical with waving hand gestures, bouncing back and forth. You do you, but make it impactful!


What is your favourite activity for online engagement?

A good Call-To-Action. Having delegates share their highlights of the session in small groups, individually picking one thing to put into place.

Should trainers sit or stand?

Absolutely should stand, the flexibility, mobility and energy lends itself to standing.

How can you get shy people to get involved with the training session?

The best way is to create an environment that encourages participation, without too much expected of individual contribution. None of the activities have to be mandatory, it can also help to run activities in small groups to encourage the less forthcoming to engage in discussion.

Have you always been this comfortable presenting?

Graham explained that he’s not always been confident, was quite shy particularly around the age of 15. It was actually a decision that he made to become more confident. The more you see yourself online, the quicker you can move away from worrying about it. It’s a choice but also a realisation that the bar is low for effective online presenting.

How do you manage a lot of information & diagrams that need to be shown on screen?

A great way to get around this is to send the theory to your audience in advance. Trainers have to get over the thought that it ‘has to be them’ that delivers the content, and it might be more impactful to leave this for self-serve or supplementary learning.

How do you set up a room for online training?

Graham talked us through his setup. He has a rug, softer for walking around and not too loud. A whiteboard proves useful, sometimes using a second camera, with Zoom you can just plug it in. Studio on one side, and one on second camera for whiteboard visuals. Always have water by your side. Hard copy of all the notes. And an off stage area!

How would you manage engagement over a longer session?

"The longest session I’ve run is 2 hours. Usually 90 mins should be your limit. Arrived having thought about X, Y or Z. Keep chopping and changing, different sized groups for activities etc". Unless you A/B test, you'll never fully understand what's working and what isn't!

Graham actively encouraged participants to connect with him on Linkedin. Let us know what you thought of the webinar in the comments below. If you'd be interested in further material from our Virtual Summit, you can access our content bank here.

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