Engaging Your Participants in a Virtual Environment

Author: Joshua Yorra | Date: June 21, 2024

Some quotes from the author’s recent training program evaluations:

“Josh is a great presenter. He keeps a pleasant learning atmosphere and does a great job keeping everyone participating.”

“Great instructor that has mastered the art of pacing and engaging learners digitally.”

Did I want to show you these comments to pat myself on the back? Possibly.

Did I show these comments to prove to you that you can get engagement when teaching in a virtual classroom? Yes!

In today’s environment where accounting training is often delivered a virtual format, one of the biggest challenges is “How do I keep participants engaged?”

Instructors face several challenges when teaching virtually, including:

  1. Participants are tempted to multi-task
  2. Instructors have a lot of learning tools to manage
  3. Participants are tired of being on a virtual platform

How can we get accountants engaged in the virtual classroom where they can actively participate and learn?

Here are 5 things I do in the classroom that have proven great results:

  1. Being Honest and Authentic – Two-way video trainings create an engaging learning environment that you get if you were doing your trainings in-person; however, so many times participants feel instructors are asking to “turn on your cameras” to check in on you. That’s not the case. As instructors, we ask them to turn on their cameras so we can feel like we aren’t just talking to a blank screen. Using different learning techniques, such as breakout rooms, games, chats, bring all different types of learners together. By being authentic about your reasons behind turning their cameras on, you’ll likely be surprised at the number of participants you will now see.
  2. Incorporate Anonymous Feedback Tools – As someone who personally is less inclined to ask questions during a training or answer questions the instructor asks to their participants due to the fear, of the slight chance I may say something foolish, I embrace any opportunities to use some sort of anonymous feedback. Whether it is allowing people to annotate your screen (while hiding names) or having participants “slide into your DMs” by sending a private message to just the instructor that only the instructor will see. Options like these will give participants more opportunities to answer questions they might be afraid to be judged on.
  3. Practice with Your Technology – It’s happened to you; it’s happened to me. Sharing the wrong screen, muting yourself by accident while still talking. Make sure you show up to your class early and practice tasks like sharing your screen, testing your audio, and playing videos to make sure they play well in advance of the training delivery.
  4. Empathy – Most, if not all, instructors in a continuing education training program bring real-life experience to their teaching. Remind participants that you have been in their shoes, and you know how it feels to be in their position. When participants can feel that you can relate to them, the result will be more engaging conversations.
  5. Have Fun – While many people feel like when you are working in accounting, you are working in The Tortured Accountants Department, that’s not always the case. What do you enjoy about being in accounting? We love to problem solve! We love to find opportunities to be more efficient. So, add those into your training! Whether it is playing a game of Kahoot as a review game at the end of the day or even asking participants fun questions like “Are you an Aisle or Window Seat Person?”, or “What would your Entrance Song be?” to take a mini mental break from the content. Having fun should always be something to work towards. (By the way my answers would be: Window Seat and “Circle of Life” from the Lion King).

At 20-20, we often hear that accounting training is better when it is in-person. Networking opportunities and working through problems/issues with your group are common reasons many learners prefer in-person classes. However, don’t be fooled – you can do this virtually as well! You can mix up the breakout rooms every day so each day you work with different people in the class. You could also give extra time in the breakout rooms to network inside the rooms or you can work through a problem together as a class and ask questions to hear different perspectives from multiple participants. The goal is to find opportunities to be less of an instructor, and more of a facilitator.

If you work to incorporate the tips above, you will see an immediate impact on your course evaluations.   Look forward to feedback such as “Best training ever!” and “Looking forward to talking about these concepts with my team!”

I am hopeful that my tips for increasing engagement from within the virtual training environment are helpful for you! Did you know that 20-20 Services offers training to help your internal instructors become more engaging and impactful?  Reach out to us if you’d like to learn more.

Picture of Joshua Yorra

Joshua Yorra

Josh is the Director of Instructional Development at 20-20 Services LLC. In this role, Josh leads all of our instructors in mastering their craft in the live and virtual classroom.

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