7 virtual facilitation and training tips to increase interactivity and engagement for your learners

We have now ushered in a world where everyone from a Saturday Night Life (SNL) show, Netflix episodes, Schools, Trainers, Consultants, and everyone is using Zoom and so many more tools to bring everyone together virtually. As I experience this new normal, it took me back to my technology role where we have facilitated many global hackathons and cloud adoption events virtually using video conferencing, collaboration, and messaging tools. So this new way of working came naturally to me. As a trainer though, it was different, I was so used to delivering an engaging experience in-person. I learned several skills co-teaching with some of the best trainers in the industry. Designing engaging training slowly started becoming second nature. Having delivered great in-person experiences it was hard to go back to boring slides and sharing screens virtually, there had to be a different way. This article is the first of its series of my virtual learning journey as I lead myself and others through this journey.


Liberating Structures (LS), Training from the BACK of the Room (TBR), Bikablo, and facilitating virtual cloud adoption events with over 250 participants that are all working from home came to my rescue. Of course, being adept with online tools and virtual facilitation ideas shared by Kriti Jaising really helped.


As I started my journey, I started attending some amazing virtual training delivered by trainers from all over the world. One I would like to highlight was by Anna Jackson and Fisher Qua on virtual liberating structures. I also joined forces to re-design and deliver the two-day scrum and product owner training with great trainers like Valerio Zanini, re-designing TBR for virtual delivery with trainers from all over the world and co-delivering a virtual design workshop for Covid-19 charity and sharing with trainers globally as we learn. This opened up so many opportunities to re-design and deliver many different topics including User Stories, my agile leadership game, and my hands-on culture and delivery pipeline DevOps training. So here is what we learned:

In the first of its series I would like to share 7 tips for delivering virtual workshops and training:



Split 2 day in-person (6-8 hour) training into multiple days of 2-3 hours of virtual training

Online collaboration tools like Miro, Mural, Mentimeter, Socrative, and tons of techniques from LS and TBR can keep your audience engaged, learning, and have fun. A two-day in-person is exhausting for learners, convert that in the virtual environment means being completely engaged while learners have people at home, remembering to put up a card or press a button, being aware all the time when to speak giving others a chance to do so as well as engaging on these collaborative tools can be much much more exhausting. We know from brain science that the brain needs frequent breaks and time to absorb new concepts. Teaching in smaller segments and enabling learners to get back to work or to their families increase the ability for the brain to learn more.

Consider having a co-facilitator/ wing man

I have always believed in partnering with great trainers to co-teach in-person training and workshops. Both trainers learn from each other as well as your learners get invaluable experience. Of course, this would mean calendar coordination and sharing revenues. In the virtual environment, co-teaching becomes a necessity. A good trainer can help both in facilitation as well as navigating technology and gotchas: zoom breakout rooms, Miro/Mural issues, chat windows, admitting participants who drop off, uploading your Bikablo drawings on the iPad to share with your learners, etc.

Get help from audience on keeping an eye on the chat window, admitting participants, etc.

Just like in-person classes, invite your learners with setup and group management in the virtual world. Learners instead of being distracted become able participants to partner with you create an amazing learning experience

Make your start memorable: Invite attendees to change names and add locations, Playing music as attendees are joining

As learners join, share how they can rename their name and share their location on their zoom video window, this instantly connects them with their virtual environment and makes them feel comfortable to share how they would like to be addressed/called during the entire workshop. As learners join consider playing some light and welcoming music. In these times of stress, these small auditory and visual techniques help make everyone feel safe and comfortable.

Create a chat storm with everyone press enter at the same time

Invite your learners to share something in the beginning, as a review activity or at the end using a chat storm. Ask a question and invite them to type in the chat window but wait for you to press enter. Once everyone has a chance to type, ask them to press enter at the same time creating a storm. Give everyone some time to review everyone's answers and learn from each other. This is another technique to have learners connect with each other and feel safe and not have one answer to influence another

Special characters to share Instructions and questions in chat window

Sharing instructions are hard when you deliver in-person training, now consider trying to share instructions verbally in the virtual environment. Is everyone listening or having the same understanding of the instructions? Checking for understanding (a technique used in TBR by Sharon Bowman) can help and I would add a few other ideas. When you share instructions verbally, also add the same instructions in the chat window prefacing them with 3 or 4 forward slashes. for e.g.: ///You will have 5 minutes in a breakout room to discuss ...

Invite your learners to preface questions with a question mark at the beginning and end with a question mark while you are teaching a concept so that they don't forget and give you a chance to read and answer once you are done. For e.g:?How does the ScrumMaster help the organization?

End your training with a memorable technique

Keeping the primacy and recency aspects of your learner's brain in mind, always end with a memorable takeaway or conclusion. I love to use the virtual ball toss where everyone stands up and tosses a ball to each other while sharing one or two valuable lessons they learned. This is a virtual celebration, a different activity that simulates the brain and both the technique and what they learned becomes memorable for your learners.

So am I done, hell no! If this is the new normal, I am only starting, I will continue sharing my learning journey with you, so watch this space for more tips, videos, tools, gotchas, iPad drawing tricks, my virtual cloud adoption experience and more.