Challenges of virtual workshops

In March 2020 I was supposed to give a full-day training about Google Cloud Platform fundamentals. Unfortunately two days before the date I had to prepare it in the remote form so it was a bit challenging to me as I have never hosted a webinar nor remote training before.

Luckily I am working in a cloud company so we are using tools that help with remote communication on a daily basis, I have a good internet connection and remote work is nothing extraordinary.

At first, I had to get access to an online training platform. Fortunately, our company has been using Zoom for some time so I had to contact a particular person to get access to it as a host, generate whole-day meeting information and reserve the slot to make sure nobody else will need it that day.

Secondly, I had to prepare my training room. I reserved a separate call room for that day in our office in Poznań, made sure that I have good Wi-Fi range and a stable internet connection with good throughput. Then I had to move an external screen and my laptop there and connect everything. The second screen is important because my laptop’s screen was a “director console” and I was presenting the second screen to the audience.

At that stage, I had to test my toolset. I was presenting a slide deck on the second screen to my colleagues while talking and reading the chat. It took a while until I got familiar with it. Everything needs some practice.

As I mentioned before I am used to remote discussions and webinars on a daily basis while working on customer projects for customers from all over Europe. However, these meetings never lasted longer than one and a half hours so I was a bit worried about talking to the computer for the entire day.

On training day everything was fine. Taking part in a remote training was a new experience not only for me but for all participants as well. I asked the audience to mute the microphones and enable them only while asking questions. I was organizing breaks between modules as during normal business training – everybody needs to get up and take a short walk, get a coffee, water or tea or refresh themselves. We also set up one one hour lunch break.

The most challenging to me were three things:

  1. Observing the chat window while presenting the knowledge to the audience if anybody asks a question there. 
  2. Asking people about questions more often than I would do if I was giving conventional training in the same room. 
  3. Reminding myself that I am not talking to a red dot near the camera the whole day but there are real people who are listening to me and learning.

The downside of the remote form of training was that it is hard to do training labs in that form. I wasn’t able to walk through the room and watch people doing a practice scenario and helping here and there if someone got stucked. One can demonstrate that but is not able to see if people are getting it and are able to do it themselves.

I missed interacting with the audience. My perception of receiving information was very limited. There were almost no discussions between participants nor me. I felt more like a lecturer, not a trainer.

In my opinion, the training was a small success to me. From a technical point of view, everything worked as expected. I presented all modules of the training. The participants were disciplined and muted themselves while not asking questions. Most participants were satisfied with the training in the end. I had no bad opinions among ca. thirty people, who took part in the remote training.

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