Businesses are navigating uncharted territory. It started with the wise cancellations of conferences and trade shows, followed by meetings and travel. Here we are now, hunkered down in our homes. The business world has been forced to pivot and adapt to significant change.
What does this change mean for training and learning? How will employees receive the critical knowledge they need to accomplish business goals? With the vast majority of the workforce now remote, ensuring that employees stay up to date and educated will help with business continuity. However, the ways employees learn have changed. Here’s how you can adapt:
Organizations are taking their events and conferences online, and this trend may become the new normal. With virtual information and learning sessions, attendees can log in from wherever they are working. Taking events online will likely increase attendance rates, as it removes common barriers like travel and the associated time and costs.
The success of virtual events will depend on a few factors. For starters, presenters will still need to be engaging and compelling. If they lack the ability to teach in person, moving online will not overcome that challenge. Accessibility will also be a major factor. Registering, logging in and accessing sessions needs to be an easy and seamless process. The more hoops users have to jump through to view a session, the greater the likelihood that they will bail out. The same goes for related materials; ease of access will be important for success.
A key element of big conferences is the opportunity to create sales leads and train users, and an important skill for many successful salespeople in this regard is being engaging in person. In the absence of being able to do so face to face, sales teams must turn to virtual platforms like the ones powering virtual events. Through them, they can offer interactive and realistic proofs of concept, allow product test-drives, and pre-train prospects and users — all helping to accelerate the sales cycle.
One of the top reasons that professionals attend vendor training and certification events is to learn and stay sharp on industry trends, technology and techniques. In the post-conference world, learning environments may increasingly use a blend of instructor-led, self-paced and hands-on learning. Cloud-based learning platforms enable instructors to reach increasingly distributed learners, while giving them realistic sandboxes in which to acquire new techniques.
Hands-on training is one of the best ways to learn. Often, when employees have a new tool that requires knowledge to use, they receive an email that they now have access — and that’s it. As a result, adoption rates are often low due to fear of making a mistake and “breaking” something in the production environment. Virtual training labs provide realistic sandbox environments where team members can not only gain lessons and instruction but can do so in a hands-on manner, without fear of harming infrastructure.
Instructors will need to change their approaches to keep audiences engaged, including interacting with trainees in an “over-the-shoulder” manner as their students explore the virtual environments they need to learn to use. In being able to monitor students’ progress live, trainers can jump in to offer help exactly when participants need it most, via either video or text chat. The right cloud-based platform can provide that capability.
The industry is already seeing heightened interest in webinars. While they can lack the two-way capabilities of more interactive online sessions, they are a great way to deliver quick information to a broad audience.
The increase in webinar attendance is driven by people’s desire to learn and to break up their remote-working day and by the fact that many employees have more time on their hands since they no longer need to commute. While these drivers may not be ideal, organizations should leverage this trend; users are looking for the information, and greater engagement is always a good thing.
A New World
Thankfully, the limitations of delivering training virtually are, themselves, limited. It will require a switch in mentality and approach, but the possibilities and benefits are distinct. The majority of the available tools for delivering engaging sessions are useful and easy to use.
As the industry continues to trend toward virtual events and sessions, more people will be attracted to the convenience, time and cost savings of learning online. The opportunity to cost-efficiently reach even more people at once will benefit everyone. When the dust settles and life goes back to as normal as it can be, people will likely decide that virtual training really is the new and better way to learn.