Top 15 Virtual Training Tips and Best Practices for Trainers

Electra Michaelidou
Electra Michaelidou

Career and Lifestyle Writer

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

Illustration of a woman sitting at her desk and watching an online training course on her computer

Although remote work appears to be dying, many employers — particularly those in tech, media, finance and education — still hire remotely. Despite the endless debates on the subject, no one can deny that working from home does have its benefits, such as better work–life balance. Likewise, we can’t reject the idea that it also comes with its unique set of challenges.

Whether you’re in charge of a team that’s dispersed across the country or you give your employees flexibility when it comes to working from the office, you might be wondering how to approach training new staff and upskilling existing employees.

So, let’s talk about it: the dos and don’ts of virtual learning, how it compares to in-person training, and how to make the learning experience more positive for your team.

What is virtual training?

Virtual training allows employees to acquire new skills, whether that’s during the onboarding process or later on. As opposed to face-to-face instruction that can be carried out in an office space, virtual training utilizes software, like video conferencing tools, to connect instructors to trainees with no restrictions in regards to physical location.

There are two main types of virtual training: live, instructor-led training, and pre-recorded, self-paced learning.

Why is it important?

When a company operates offices in various locations (or is remote-first with no office at all), it must rely on technology to train new employees or upskill or reskill existing staff.

Giving employees proper training on how to do their job and promoting their continuous learning can empower your team members, increasing their engagement, satisfaction and productivity — the latter by as much as 13%, according to Oxford University’s Saïd Business School.

It goes without saying that employees who feel valued and see room for growth within their organization are less likely to resign, which is also beneficial where the company’s finances are concerned. Indeed, replacing employees is expensive, with some studies suggesting that it can cost employers between 6 and 9 months’ of the departing worker’s salary.

The pros and cons of virtual training

Though face-to-face training has its benefits, so does instruction within a virtual environment. Let’s talk about the good and the bad of online training!

The pros

  • Easier to attend, as all you need is a computer and internet connection
  • Easier to plan, since you won’t have to worry about booking a venue and making travel arrangements
  • More affordable to organize
  • Lends itself to self-paced learning, allowing employees to invest time according to their schedule and work hours
  • Learning materials can be revisited

The cons

  • Less engaging for some compared to face-to-face sessions
  • Less personal
  • Harder to establish a connection between attendees and instructors
  • Relies entirely on technology, which can result in problems and interruptions
  • Can require expensive tools, including filming and audio recording equipment

What to consider

While preparing your virtual classroom training sessions, asking yourself the following questions can be beneficial:

  • Does the training plan have a clear objective? Knowing how you’ll measure the training program’s success is essential.
  • Do I have a clear, logical structure in mind? Much like teachers creating a lesson plan, you’ll have to consider what you’re hoping to achieve within the time that you have.
  • How can the learning material be presented in an engaging way? Think about interactive activities, material variety and including some breaks.
  • How can the training session become more interactive? Incorporate learning games, exercises that require collaboration between participants, Q&As, and other ways to involve your trainees.
  • Do I have all the equipment I need? Cameras, laptops, microphones, any software you’ll be using — make a checklist so that you don’t turn up on the day unprepared.

15 tips and best practices for virtual training

Before you start planning your sessions, let’s talk about some virtual training best practices, and how each one can help make your efforts more impactful.

1. Use high-quality equipment

This one is obvious. It doesn’t matter if your training materials are as well-written and engaging as JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit; if your employees can’t see or hear you, your efforts and preparation will all have been in vain.

A decent computer (that can run video recording or video conferencing software, plus any other essential tools with no issues) along with a high-quality webcam and microphone are essential.

2. Make “eye contact”

Looking up at your screen and towards your webcam frequently can establish a more direct connection with your audience. Even in virtual settings, eye contact (or, rather, the simulation of it) acts as a form of non-verbal communication, which establishes a connection with the people on the other end of the call.

3. Work on your enunciation

We’ve all been there: whether in a call with a friend or during a virtual job interview, we’ve had our WiFi connections fail, webcams or microphones malfunction, or applications freeze unexpectedly.

What we’re getting at here is that communicating effectively over the internet comes with its set of inherent challenges: so, if the tech gods bless you with a good day and your trainees can actually hear you, make sure you’re not mumbling!

4. Make your introduction memorable

Your introduction needs to be impactful: make sure to outline what you’ll be learning as well as how your team will benefit from the training.

If your employees are working remotely and don’t know each other so well, consider starting with some icebreakers. Though these activities often make people cringe, if you can push through the momentary discomfort as a group, it can help everyone relax and find common points of interest with others on the team.

5. Follow a clear plan

Much like an essay, which comprises different paragraphs that all work together (but can also make sense alone), your training program must consist of different sections that make up an easy-to-follow, coherent whole.

Keeping your plan in front of you while you provide the training and ticking off section by section can help you stay on track.

6. Schedule in breaks

When it comes to university lectures and work meetings, taking a break every one to two hours is a good rule of thumb. Of course, smaller breathers can be taken in between different sections that you cover, as you load up the next slide or video file.

If your training session is pre-recorded and intended for self-paced learning, you can break down your instructional videos into easy-to-digest chapters, with a prompt to reflect on what was discussed at the end of each one.

7. Use different types of materials

To make your sessions as engaging and interesting as possible, try to utilize various types of materials, like diagrams, videos, audio files and text.

According to research, 65% of people are visual learners, 30% are verbal learners and 5% are experiential learners, meaning they can retain information better when it’s attained in a hands-on format, such as a role-playing exercise. You might want to bear in mind these percentages when picking out your materials!

8. Interact with attendees

Making your training sessions more interactive can be achieved in several ways: through icebreakers, gamified learning, friendly competitions, breakout room discussions, and more.

The more you can include your trainees in what’s being demonstrated, encouraging them to share feedback, ideas and questions as you progress through the materials together, the more you can ensure that they’ll have a positive experience and take away as much as possible.

9. Have a clear, measurable objective in mind

When you’re preparing your training materials, and at all points during the training session, you have to keep your learning objectives in mind.

As live sessions can sometimes have you going off track, what with trainees being able to ask questions or share thoughts in real time, recalling these objectives can help you steer the conversation in the right direction at all times.

10. Personalize your sessions where possible

For one-on-one sessions and small group sessions, consider each individual’s needs, strengths and weaknesses, and learning style, and get the material to align as closely as possible to your learner profiles.

Even for bigger groups, it’s important to have a clear understanding of who is there and why, and keep your learning objectives measurable so you can gauge success.

11. Ensure you won’t be interrupted

Much like with virtual work meetings and job interviews, your location matters. The last thing you’ll want when you’re in the middle of explaining something is for your cell phone to ring or your cat to waltz across your keyboard.

Interruptions can disrupt your employee’s learning as well as cause you to falter, which can make the experience awkward for everyone.

12. Have employees interact with one another

Dividing your employees into breakout rooms on your virtual training platform can help facilitate a discussion around what was demonstrated. It can provide an excellent opportunity for team bonding, too, as one trainee might be able to help another with questions or problems.

As the host, you’ll be able to pop in, provide additional insights, and gain feedback on what aspects of the training worked well and what could be done better in the future.

13. Pay attention to your pacing

If public speaking makes you nervous, even a little bit, that can impact how fast you talk. Try and be mindful of that to avoid speeding through some sections and dragging out others!

The same can happen if you absolutely adore speaking in front of groups, too: you might get carried away and lose track of time. So, it’s best to get into the habit of glancing at the clock, as well as your training plan, to get the pacing and timing just right.

14. Ask questions

Asking questions relating to the training materials and giving your employees time to reflect and respond can help them better retain the information you’ve shared.

Even if it’s a pre-recorded session for your trainees to take in their own time, dotting your session with questions and asking them to pause and write something down or complete a task will work well just the same.

It’s also essential to gather feedback at the end of training sessions, too, so you may adjust and optimize them.

15. Have trainees set goals

At the end of each session, it’s vital for participants to practice what they learned. According to a University of Waterloo article on the “curve of forgetting”, if you don’t revisit any new information you learn within 24 hours, you forget 50–80% of it.

It’s imperative, therefore, to have employees set goals for how and when they’re going to start implementing what they’ve learned — and it needs to be immediate.

Key takeaways

Managing remote employees has its set of challenges: communicating effectively, team building, and providing adequate training becomes a brainteaser when physical presence is removed, and all you have is a screen in front of you.

With the right tools and a bit of effort, however, keeping your hybrid or remote team happy, engaged, and on a path of continuous growth becomes attainable.


  • Personalize your training sessions as much as possible.
  • Be mindful of your enunciation, pacing and non-verbal cues such as eye contact.
  • Have measurable learning objectives so you can gauge efficacy.
  • Encourage participants to interact through games, competitions and discussions.

Do you have any additional virtual training tips to share? Let us know in the comments section below.

Originally published on September 19, 2020.