In an ideal world, every training we run would be fun, engaging and memorable – with the audience walking away feeling truly enlightened on a particular topic. But it’s not always possible to check all of those boxes, particularly in the current environment with teams working from home. However, there are certain techniques you can implement to make your trainings as effective as possible, whether you’re live in-person or running them remotely.

1. Don’t rely too heavily on a presentation

PowerPoint presentations are a great tool to help organize content and make sure your training covers everything you had in mind. However, they can quickly put a damper on engagement if all you’re doing is reading off the slides. To prevent this from happening, you can try the following tricks:

Have your audience read the training ahead of the session, and then use the training time to emphasize the most important concepts, answer questions and do a live demo or workshop.

Build in places in your presentation where the audience needs to engage, e.g. creating bullets to prompt discussions.  Here is an example from our training on effective email communication:  we have a slide with a made-up email with common mistakes and then ask the group to call out what’s wrong with the email and what they would change.

Review your presentation to ensure that you are using minimal text and plenty of images to force yourself to speak more conversationally instead of reading full sentences from the slide.

These tips can be useful both when running a training in-person as well as remotely over video conference.

2. Use a whiteboard

Some of the most effective trainings don’t use a PowerPoint presentation at all, and instead rely solely on using a whiteboard to illustrate a concept. Try out this technique when you are training on something where the audience can list out what they think should belong in a certain category or in a certain place on a diagram or scale.

Using a whiteboard can also be effective when brainstorming ideas as a group. For example, when we train on campaign optimization techniques, we ask the group to think of as many ideas as possible for how we could optimize a campaign and list them down on a whiteboard. Then, we can go back and discuss how we’d prioritize those things.

Whiteboard training can be tricky for remote sessions, but videoconference tools like Zoom have a built-in whiteboard feature that can be used to share a blank screen that you can write or draw on. If that’s not an option, you can simply screenshare a Word document, Excel spreadsheet, etc. where you can collaborate with the audience live.

3. Consider doing trainings in smaller groups

Sometimes large groups can be intimidating for people to participate or offer their thoughts, particularly for brand new employees who don’t know each other well. Breaking large audiences into smaller groups of 3-4 people can help foster a safer environment where people feel more comfortable participating.

This can be particularly effective when doing trainings that require a lot of audience participation and can easily be done with in-person groups or remote training. One drawback is that this technique can require more trainer time to run multiple sessions with the different groups – if that’s an issue, try spreading the responsibility of leading the training to multiple people. Audiences can benefit from hearing different people’s perspectives, and it helps to lighten the load for the main trainer!

4. Do a live demo or walkthrough

A great way to break away from the standard PowerPoint training format is to build in time for a live demo or walkthrough of what you’re training. For example, if you’re training on a new platform that people will be working in, make sure to save time to actually click through the platform live to show people what it looks like and any tips and tricks you have.

When doing this, remember to put yourself in the trainees’ shoes and imagine you are seeing what you’re walking through for the first time. This means going slowly and repeating steps multiple times, even when it feels redundant.

5. Plan a post-training exercise

After completing a fantastic training where your audience was very engaged, you want to make sure that they are going to retain what they learned. One way of doing this effectively is to plan a post-training exercise so they can practice their new skills right away. It’s okay if the exercise is something that won’t necessarily “go live” or be used for the business – the most important part is that it’s getting the trainees to use what they just learned so the process and concepts sink in.

Make sure you also build in time in your schedule to review the exercise and give feedback. Just as important as having your audience complete the exercise is giving them timely feedback on what they did well and what they could improve on, so they can take that feedback and immediately improve on what they just learned.

Running effective trainings that engage your audience can be challenging, especially when the trainings need to be fully remote, with your audience spread out in different places. By utilizing these tips, you can make simple adjustments to your training content that will help to get your audience participating – whether it’s in-person or over videoconference, and increase their likelihood of retaining the material.