Three questions to ask before every virtual class

Three questions to ask before every virtual class
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World-class athletes invest time, effort, and resources to prepare for their competitions. They set priorities and practice so they can perform their best. Similarly, the best trainers and presenters put forth effort in advance of virtual events to make them successful. They wouldn’t dream of showing up unprepared. They take the necessary time to get ready. The steps they take aren’t complicated, and they just require intentional effort and planning. In this blog post, you will learn important questions to ask yourself to set expectations, engage participants, and ensure technical readiness for an effective virtual class.

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Important questions to answer

Here are three questions they ask, along with how they follow through to answer them.

Question 1: How will I clearly set expectations for participation and engagement?

The benefit of virtual learning is that people don’t have to leave their workspace to join, which is also the biggest challenge. We ask people to stop what they’re doing in the middle of their workday to make a mental shift and focus on learning. We ask them to practice new skills while they can still see email notifications and other work piled on their desk. Even the most disciplined of learners struggle to avoid distractions. Most people are just used to joining passive webinars where they can easily multitask throughout. They half-listen while checking email and are surprised if they join a virtual event that asks them to engage.

Setting expectations in advance helps participants know exactly what to expect when attending your virtual class. It also helps drive the behaviors – engaged, active participants – that are needed for effective virtual training. If participants aren’t engaging, then they aren’t learning. And if they aren’t learning, then they won’t be able to apply the new knowledge and skills back on the job. The exact expectations to set in advance will depend upon the program. You may need participants to log into a software program so they can follow along with a brief demonstration and then complete the case study practice exercises, or you may simply need to remind them that this class requires active involvement in the learning experience.

The most obvious way to set expectations in advance is to put expectations in the registration process and calendar invitations. Yet these methods usually aren’t enough. You may need to send a personalized email message a few days in advance, or you may need to use your platform’s waiting room message to reinforce expectations. You might also plan to start your virtual event with an engaging activity that establishes an interactive tone. Whichever method – or combination of methods used – is used should be part of your advance planning.

Question 2: What exactly does my audience need to know or do as a result of this program?

A virtual class designed for engagement will keep participants involved in the program. But it’s not about interaction for the sake of interactivity. It’s to help participants be involved in their own learning so that they can be more effective in their jobs, which ultimately leads to better business results.

When the program goal is learning transfer and on-the-job application, then the virtual trainer must be deeply knowledgeable about the anticipated learning outcomes and how to best support participants in this discovery. Therefore, the best virtual presenters and trainers find out what exactly the audience needs to know or do as a result of the program. A trainer might immerse themselves in the participants’ world by job shadowing or observations, interview them to learn about the types of situations they encounter, or even talk with participants’ managers to gain clarity on performance expectations.

This information will help the trainer be able to share with participants the realistic benefits and WII-FM at the start. This information enables the participants to prioritize the virtual class over any other distractions surrounding them. Even if it’s the third virtual class in a series, circling back to this information each time reminds participants of the program’s importance. By knowing the WHY the business impacts, participants will be more motivated to engage. When participants are aware of the objectives, they are more likely to achieve them.

Question 3: Is my tech-ready with a primary setup and backup plans?

Virtual presenters and facilitators who know their online platform inside and out are able to focus on what’s important instead of spending wasted energy on tech issues. They can share their own content, keep an eye on participant inputs, and smoothly transition from one learning activity to the next. They know how to adjust their audio and video settings for clear communication. It takes time to practice using the platform tools. However, this preparation is what sets them apart from the rest.

Those who invest in preparing create a more seamless technology experience for all. When the tech works as expected, learning can happen. In addition, the best virtual trainers take precautions to have backups and redundancies in case of unexpected challenges. They ensure their laptop is fully charged and their mobile device has the most current version of the platform app downloaded. They have written down the online meeting number and password or have saved the virtual classroom link in an easy-to-access spot. That way, in case of disruption, they can quickly reconnect. Virtual presenters who intentionally check their tech setup and plan ahead for contingencies are the ones who can overcome nearly any challenge. They are able to remain focused on the participant learning experience.

Virtual class improvement

The process of asking and answering these three questions sets everyone up for success with virtual learning. Create a meaningful and effective learning experience by considering them before your next virtual class. In conclusion, the key to successful virtual training lies in meticulous planning and thoughtful execution. By setting clear expectations, understanding the learning needs of your audience, and ensuring technology readiness, you can create a meaningful and effective online learning experience. These proactive steps not only engage participants but also maximize the transfer of knowledge to real-world applications, ultimately driving better business results. So, before your next virtual class, remember these crucial considerations to set everyone up for success in the world of remote learning.

Three questions to ask before every virtual class
Cindy Huggett

Cindy Huggett, CPTD, is a leading virtual training expert with over 30 years of experience with technology-enabled learning solutions. She is a longtime trusted partner to Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and businesses around the world.

Cindy upskills facilitators to create engaging online learning and helps organizations achieve success with their virtual and hybrid learning programs. She has written five acclaimed books on virtual training, including The Facilitator’s Guide to Immersive, Blended, and Hybrid Learning, and Designing Virtual Learning for Application and Impact: 50 Techniques to Ensure Results.

Cindy is a past member of the ATD Global Board of Directors and was one of the first to earn the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP, now CPTD) credential.

Based in Raleigh, NC, she serves clients globally. Find out more about Cindy on her website:

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