In these uncertain times, many organizations are resisting the transition from in-person to virtual programming. My team and I can definitely relate to this sentiment: at Global Public Speaking, we are eager to get back to in-person training and coaching.

But none of us truly knows how long it will take, and we don’t want to wait until an indeterminate future to upskill our teams and help them navigate new virtual environments. 

In my conversations with clients and colleagues, I realized many people are using an out-dated connotation of virtual programming. 

As a result, we’ve stopped recommending webinars.

Why? Because webinars connotate a 1-way delivery of information to a barely attentive, invisible audience. And communication was always meant to be a two-way exchange of ideas, not a 1-way lecture. 

That’s why, instead of webinars, we focus on virtual experiences.

Virtual experiences require us to create deliberate spaces where a speaker can communicate (back and forth) with an audience of any size. You can create opportunities to receive candid, real-time feedback from the audience. There are opportunities for audience members to connect with one another through digital breakout groups that allow for peer coaching and substantive discussion about real-life application of the content. 

Virtual experiences create community, and community creates a feeling of connection and trust. 

What can you do to keep your employees, your clients, and your partners from feeling a sense of loneliness and isolation as we all transition to a remote working environment and during a time of intense personal and professional uncertainty?

I’m doing this in real-time with my 6-week (formerly in-person) course The Arts of Communication at the Harvard Kennedy School and with the two dozen virtual trainings my team and I have led in the past month. 

We keep these four elements in mind when creating a virtual experience.  

Invest in the front-end time. It takes time and energy to adapt in-person content to an engaging virtual format. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. What would make you bored? How would you or a colleague feel most comfortable communicating virtually? You can use numerous ways to engage and interact with your audience. 

Provide a clear, concise program structure. A clear program structure helps set expectations and keep people engaged from start to finish. Typically, I’ll send the agenda and handouts to the audience in advance so they can prepare, and during the program I’ll actually write on a flipchart behind me to show progress from one agenda item to the next

Encourage Video. Inviting participants to join via video instead of by phone adds another dimension of communication. While this isn’t always possible, it is an important feature if you expect to deliver or host a virtual experience that is as impactful as in-person. 

Start with a wellness check. During this particularly challenging time, create connection and understanding by taking an extra minute to check-in on one another. Most individuals are literally in isolation or have very limited contact with others and a personal check-in and family update can help break the ice. 

In this time of uncertainty, invest in your colleagues, clients, and family by creating virtual experiences, not webinars, where people can not only listen but also, respond, react, and engage. 

Would you like us to create virtual experiences to help you and your team through these challenging times? Contact Morgan Singer to learn about our virtual training options.