Virtual Training
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Virtual Training – Who Knew?

I’ve been asked to share my experience of lockdown and some “top tips” on virtual training.  Three months ago I knew nothing about Zoom, and hadn’t really bothered getting to grips with Microsoft Teams.  But then everything changed……!

I wouldn’t call myself a complete technophobe, but let’s just say I’m often late to the party when it comes to new developments.  I resisted social media for many years!  But I’ve come to realise that there is a great power and opportunity in the digital world for our business, and many others.  Quite simply it’s a choice of use it well and thrive, or miss out on opportunities and struggle to survive.

screen shot of laptop screenHow has this lockdown affected me?  Well I appreciate that I’m very lucky in where I live (Gower Peninsula) and that I have a nice garden (including a veg patch) but I’ve found that the digital workspace has massively improved my work-life balance.

There are also really clear environmental benefits.  Last year I did just over 10,000 work miles in my car – equivalent to just over 2 tonnes of CO2.  I flew to support customers in Korea and Taiwan three times throughout 2019 as they prepared to challenge for the prestigious Shingo prize for Enterprise Excellence.  That’s between 15 and 30 tonnes of CO2 depending on how you calculate it.  That’s a lot of CO2!  I’m delighted to say they achieved a Bronze and Silver Medallion at their two sites.  You can find out more about the Shingo Prize here or listen to my recent webinar here

We’ve talked in our business about environmental issues and our carbon footprint, but it’s always seemed too difficult to do.  Our customers have always wanted us onsite to support them.  But now we’ve proven that it’s possible to be as effective virtually.

As a company, we pride ourselves on our interactive workshops and training. We make our activities engaging and memorable, so in the first few weeks I concentrated on learning how to achieve this virtually.  I don’t think that “normal” as we knew it will ever return.  I envisage a massive increase in home working now that we’ve shown that it is effective.

Whilst unspoken, many companies resisted home working was quite often a ‘trust’ and communications issue. But this time has truly shown that people can be trusted to do the right thing and also be highly productive in the home environment.

As the Head of Leadership Training at SA Partners I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how we can deliver in the virtual workplace.  And also and more importantly how we can follow up with our delegates to help them to apply that learning in the real world.  So here are my top tips based on what I’ve learned so far about live virtual training sessions:-

  1. Technology – Take time to get to know the platform that you’ll be using and how it works. Many people are using Zoom which is great for training– but check your account settings carefully to make sure it is set up in the right way for you.  Make sure that your platform has all the functions you need (I use breakout rooms, polls and quizzes a lot).  Make sure you understand what your delegates can see on their screens (I found it helpful to set up another laptop to check).  And check that your delegates can access the platform OK before your first training session.  It’s also wise to check their Broadband speed and ping (>5MBps download speed and ping <200ms is ideal).  Make sure you use a headset/microphone to improve your sound quality.  I’ve found that a large monitor (or ideally two screens) really helps.
  2. People– Make sure your group is small enough to allow discussion and interaction – 12 people is about right. More than that and discussions become less efficient.  Keep everyone on mute to minimise background noise  (children and pets can be a little distracting!).  Also ensure you have someone to help you deliver the training, we call ours the “Producer”.  The producer is able to send private messages to individuals (e.g. on technical issues), and help you to organise and facilitate breakout groups and run polls.  They are also a great backup if your internet drops out.  This hasn’t happened to me yet, but I know it will at some point!
  3. Interaction – Virtual training is not effective if you just take a face to face powerpoint slide deck and deliver it virtually. You can’t just “wing it” in this world – preparation is everything.  And that probably means a lot more preparation than you’re thinking, especially at first!  You need to think about how to engage your audience and make the training relevant to them.  Starting with icebreakers, these are really important especially if your delegates don’t know each other.  There are loads of examples to choose from on the web if you’re stuck for inspiration.

It’s also good to think about how to develop a community spirt within your group, particularly if your training runs over several weeks.  In Leadership roles having a group of people that you connect with, can bounce idea off or ask for support is really beneficial.

To keep people engaged I use regular polls, discussions, games, videos, quizzes and breakout activities throughout my sessions.  I’m also happy to ask people questions if they have been quiet for a while!  I find it works well to allow a 5 minute break every hour, and where sessions are more than 2 hours long I allow a longer break for a leg stretch.


To find out more about our Virtual Leadership programme –

We also offer Virtual Shingo training here:-

If you would like to discuss this in any way please do drop me a message.

Fiona Buttrey

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