Remote Instructor-Led Training (RILT), where the learners and the trainer are in different locations, continues to be a more common situation. A company in one country buys a company in another, and the new employees need to get up to speed. An organization implements a new procedure or introduces a new product.
Employees in other location need to learn about the nuances, but it is not worth the time and cost of travel. What can you expect?
Your voice is your most valuable tool. Without any gestures or eye contact, your voice will communicate everything: urgency, kindness, humor, patience, trustworthiness. Your projection, tone, pace, and pitch (and absence of non-word fillers) will encourage participation and engagement.
Your materials will be required to manage the group, define interaction, demonstrate criticality, as well as impart knowledge and skills. Review current visuals and participant materials with a critical eye, seeing them from the perspective of learning without a leader in the room.
You already have the skills to train remotely — you just may need to strengthen some. For example, asking provocative questions that gain attention quickly or showing empathy to concerns of those in another location. Here are a few quick tips:
Practice what you will say. You probably would anyway, but in this case realize that you need to keep things moving so that things do not fall apart in the other location. You need to be efficient, specific, and organized.
Prepare participants. Use some of the same prework and preparation tactics you use in a virtual setting. Email information early. Create excitement about the content. Use Dropbox or Box.net for sending participant material and document sharing.
Picture the place. Ask for a picture of the room where participants will be to help you plan activities or small group arrangements.
Present a short but robust set of guidelines. This goes against the norm by allowing participants to set their own ground rules. This is a different scenario. They will have many distractions, which are often curtailed with a simple glance.
Set expectations. If this is the first time the participants have experienced a RILT, explain what will happen to address any concerns they may have.
Connect with individuals. It is extremely important to use participants' names and understand their unique needs. Create an annotated participant list with names, needs, and interesting facts about each.
Communicate with confidence. In order to project your voice and maintain control, you should stand. This requires that you use a headset so you can move around.
Have an emissary at the remote site. Someone who can act as your eyes and ears to let you know when small groups are ready to report out or if someone has a question. The emissary can be a participant, but needs to support you in facilitating.
Respect the learners' routine and time zone. That means you may need to conduct training at 6:00 in the morning or 10:30 at night your time.
Picture who's there. At least exchange pictures on a group site. Also consider how you can use your webcam and Skype.
To complicate it even more, a special situation occurs when you have participants in the room with you, as well as a remote group in another location. This may be one of the more difficult virtual training scenarios. In this case, you should have two emissaries, one in each location; they can synchronize between the groups. You may also want to create some friendly competition between the two groups to keep them focused and prevent them from dawdling over activities. Mentally focus on the remote group throughout; you will not need a reminder that you have a group in front of you!
As suggested earlier, stand throughout the session. It not only helps you project your voice, it provides leadership for the participants in your room. One last thing, if the organization has access to video conferencing, that would be another option you may want to consider.
Even if you have not conducted remote training yet, you most likely will soon. RILT will continue to grow as our world and the changes in it move faster and faster. Be prepared.