A lot of business people enjoy at least an occasional in-person, training session. There’s something about the energy, connection, and passion of a crowd, even a small one, that many think is irreplaceable when it comes to learning.
But is it possible that there are aspects of virtual skills-building sessions that are (gasp) better than live? In the course of switching our training workshops to online team training during the pandemic, we have surprised even ourselves with the following three pluses of virtual vs. live.
#1: “Chunking” Increases the Absorption of Information and Breadth of Learning
The sheer difficulty and expense of getting people to a live session gave rise to the practice of training as a multi-day “event.” The opportunity to get together like this was rare and we all had to get the most out of it!
However, this often led to the formation of packed agendas that participants likened to taking a sip of water from a firehose. Contemporary learning theories have proven that this is not the best way to commit new information to memory.
Chunking is the practice of breaking long strings of information –like how to build the various pieces of a great strategic plan – into smaller units of knowledge. Modern experts believe this is a better way to make learning more permanent.
Most companies have now realized that virtual training has to be “chunked”. Even Zoom power users don’t want to spend 3 straight full days in virtual training!
What we’ve noticed is that spreading a training event over several, shorter virtual sessions (the 2-2.5 hour range appears to be ideal) has radically increased the ability of participants to master and remember the discrete parts of our strategic marketing system. Chunking works! It just needs a better name.
#2: Time In Between Virtual Sessions Leads to Better Depth of Learning
Insight occurs in human learning when people recognize the associations between content and the problem-solving actions they can take in their day-to-day work. Trainers do their best to help foster insight in live training sessions by providing relevant content examples and cases.
But nothing beats the ability to test out new learning in the real world. And unless a live session included a “field trip”, this testing was often impractical.
Not anymore. The space between virtual sessions should include specific assignments to test out new concepts in cross-functional, customer, and or day-to-day interactions and actions. Because they are more flexible, virtual training agendas can include time to debrief real-world experiences and work through any difficulties.
In our virtual sessions, we don’t introduce new material until we’ve heard what participants learned after our previous session. The improved depth of learning is dramatic.
#3: Virtual Sessions Make Training Meaningful and Practical For All Participants
Strategic marketing trainings should always involve an application case. And that case should be relevant to your business.
But in trainings that include upwards of 20-30 people, it’s difficult to find team cases that are initially meaningful to all participants. And in live trainings, this inevitably leads to some participants feeling a bit disconnected to the team cases they are working on. You can’t expect them to become educated on new material and an unfamiliar business over the course of 2-3 days.
But delivering a virtual training curriculum over time creates an opportunity for these people to engage with the case in a meaningful way. They can use some time in-between sessions to get better acquainted with the case specifics and talk to some of the case owners. A good strategic marketer needs to be both curious and a fast learner, and this in-between time provides an opportunity to practice both.
Should you expect this type of additional engagement between sessions from a training participant? We think so. In our experience, just a couple of hours of engagement between sessions radically increases the training return on investment in the form of breadth, depth, and implementation of new learning.
Until We Meet Again Live
Mary, Sean, and I have spent the last –and professionally-best — 20 years of our lives running strategic marketing workshops in hotel ballrooms, conference centers, company training rooms and even discotheques (but that’s a story for another day.)
We love live training and know that some positive aspects of it can’t be duplicated virtually. But virtual training does have advantages –actually even more than we had space to mention here. There’s no better time to test these ideas out for yourself, until the time when live gatherings are possible again.