Virtual Training Engagement Tips (With or Without Faces)

How comfortable are you on camera?

Many of us are missing the energy in the room of in-person training events, and despite getting used to features we can use on platforms such as Zoom and Teams, we still feel like something is missing.

We’ve been doing the job and getting results, but now the need to increase engagement seems an even higher priority. It feels like we must be more and more creative to keep the attention of our audience and ensure learning is taking place.

Sure, it’s easier to turn the camera off and deliver content when you can look at your notes –and probably more comfortable in less dressy clothing or shoes than you’d wear in a training room setting. However:

If your learners can’t see your face, they are missing out.

Recently, I gave several suggestions for engaging audiences in virtual presentations with “no faces.” In other words, these are presentations when the presenter and attendees are all missing all the priceless non-verbal information and feedback from seeing each other’s facial expressions. (This was during a session for trainers in precisely that environment.) This style of training is perfect for work-remote days and on-demand learning, and absolutely serves a valued need in our industry. But it’s my least favorite by far.

I am a dynamic presenter who walks around the room, makes eye contact, and reads people continuously, adjusting my content or style to match audience needs. I’ve been comfortable with Zoom for several years and particularly love small virtual groups for the magical combo of convenience and connection they offer. So, I’ll admit it – I had a really hard time adjusting to this “no faces” style at first!

How can you spark engagement regardless of training format or platform?

Because there will continue to be sessions without faces into our future, and because we are always hungry for more ideas to keep things fresh, I provided a few suggestions which could apply to almost any training:

  • Sprinkle in some virtual platform-inspired features such as polling, voting, and chat or instant messaging even in person. As long as they aren’t overused, these can wake up a lot of participants!
  • Asking planned questions, which stimulates problem-solving in the brain. Consider including pre-work questions if you have the ability to reach out prior to training.
  • Direct them to take specific actions by saying things like “write that down” or “draw a star next to” “make a box around this section” or similar.
  • Invite them to stand up (who cares if anyone is watching!), and in response to a statement, shake their left foot if they disagree, or right foot if they agree with it.
  • Have participants add follow-up action item to their calendar.
  • Ask them to write which idea they are most likely to use first, and offer the specifics, such as in the course feedback form, on a sticky note, in an email to me, etc.
  • Use storytelling, whether you share your own experiences, or feature stories from others that illustrate the real-world value of your training content.
  • During the design stage or while practicing delivery, ask yourself “How Can I?” spark more engagement in this session?

Avoid zoned-out training zombies by having some fun with ideas like those above. When you’re having fun, your energy will be appealing and contagious – whether they can see you or not. We can all tell if someone is having a good time by how they sound! But it’s even better when we see their face lit up…

You can learn to be comfortable on camera.

Years ago, I was a confident speaker, but boy oh boy I was not comfortable on camera. I really admired others who made it look easy! After being interviewed on a TV show and feeling so nervous I didn’t remember anything I said, I decided I should push myself past the fear. I challenged myself to create a video and publish it to YouTube every day for a month. I started in January and shared 31 days of goal-achieving tips. I had 3 objectives: do it often enough to get past my discomfort, get faster at editing, and offer a collection of tips online for my audience. It worked! Bonus: I improved enough that I hardly needed any editing.

I don’t expect everyone to take on a challenge like this, but I invite you to set yourself up for success by identifying what you’d like to be more comfortable with, deciding how you can improve, and scheduling it in your calendar. You may want to consider having an accountability partner for this who can also give helpful, supportive feedback. Start small, and build – I promise with the doing comes more confidence!

Whether or not you show your face in your next training session, I encourage you to try some of these ideas to enhance the participation level of your learners.

Remember to have some fun with it! And please let me know how it goes in the comments.

Heather Legge

Join me in our next Train The Trainer: Impactful Designs!

Heather Legge, Senior Training Specialist, is passionate about sharing priceless skills that every trainer and presenter needs to cut through unnecessary distractions and fully capture and inspire audiences!