In just two short years, the concept of working from anywhere has moved from being a “nice-to-have” to an “expected-to-have” benefit. Gallup numbers from early 2022 show that 81% of 140,000 professionals surveyed worked remotely sometime during that year. And if your current team members fall into that majority, you can be sure you’ll end up conducting virtual training sessions for the foreseeable future.

Virtual training is quickly becoming the most common way to onboard new hires, upskill existing employees and reskill entire departments — or even companies. Yet keeping everyone engaged on collaboration tools or vide meeting platforms can be a tough sell. You can’t rely on your in-person rulebook for guidance. Instead, you must apply different tactics as part of your updated custom corporate training process. Let’s take a look at some ideas to make remote training more interactive for your virtual training programs.

1. Ensure training topics are task related.


Adult learners respond best to educational principles when they see how those principles can help them. It can be hard to get non-managers to sit through leadership training. They aren’t always able to connect what they hear to their future success at your company. 


To grab their attention from the beginning, start your online presentation by telling attendees what they will learn. Then, connect the dots to show how they can use their training immediately — how it applies to their everyday work. This work-centered approach can encourage them to pay attention, take notes and ask questions. People tend to have more buy-in when they can see themselves in the bigger story. Speaking of stories…


2. Add storytelling elements wherever it makes sense.


You don’t want to turn your next remote training experience into a chance for you to test your Mark Twain skills. Nevertheless, consider putting on your storyteller’s hat at least a few times every 30 to 45 minutes.


For instance, let’s say you’re training fresh customer service talent to use your customer relationship management (CRM) system. Not exactly riveting stuff, especially when you can’t be in the same room with the participants. But what if you were to talk about the common mistakes you’ve seen in an authentic but entertaining way? Weaving true narratives into your presentation helps everyone remember what you said. Plus, it makes the time go by much faster and adds some much-needed laughter along the way. 

3. Offer training in digestible chunks.


Have you ever sat through an hour-long online meeting only to discover that you remembered very little of what was said? Even if you were interested in the subject and the speaker, your brain could only digest so much. As a result, you ended up forgetting most of what you heard. Sure, you might be able to watch the training again if it was recorded. However, most people may never take the time to re-watch a meeting without being prompted. They’ll just accept that they forgot the main messages and move on without the necessary takeaways from the training. 


The workaround for this problem is simple: Try offering training in digestible chunks. Rather than hold a two-hour training session, turn it into eight 15-minute segments. Then, hold one or two segments a day. Ensure each segment has a learning objective that all trainees can try shortly after. Short and sweet is the secret to stickier information.


4. Aim for continuous improvement.


It can be challenging to know if your remote trainings have the intended effect on audience members. You can only see faces, making it impossible to read body language. Are attendees fidgeting? Checking texts? Doing other work? You can’t be sure because you’re focused on talking and not watching everyone’s eye, head and shoulder movements.


The only way to tell if your virtual training approaches are “landing” is to measure each training’s success. After each online session, send everyone a short survey. Ask them to rate the experience on everything from technology to instruction methodology. Of course, you’ll need to create uniform “scorecards” so you can compare trainings in an apples-to-apples way. Their feedback can help you adjust with small and large improvements, making each presentation better than before!


5. Call out participants by name.


As long as your remote employee training session is small enough, make a point of addressing attendees by name. Instead of asking a question and waiting to see who responds, be more pointed: “Doug, what do you think would be an appropriate choice given those parameters?” If you start doing this at the beginning of your presentation, everyone will stay on their toes because they’ll know you won’t overlook them.


It’s very easy for virtual training audiences to feel anonymous. But anonymity isn’t conducive to full-fledged engagement and growth. Therefore, do your best to nudge everyone using the names they’ve given. Thank them even if they provide an incorrect answer or decline to answer. Remember that you’re not trying to trick or trap them. You’re encouraging them to join in.


Being a remote trainer means facing the fact that your trainees will have lots of distractions you can’t control like dogs barking and doorbells ringing. Nevertheless, updating your training approaches can improve your confidence and the experience of your listeners. You got this.