With many nonprofits working remotely or being restricted to host big gatherings due to Covid-19 regulations, we have all had to find new ways to connect with one another.

Over the last year, we’ve had to adapt or die by attending and hosting online trainings, conferences, networking sessions and meetings.

What started out as a temporary solution, has become an integrated method of organisations’ operations and communication.

Here are five tips to equip you with the knowledge to approach the online world with confidence:

1. Select the right platform

Zoom? Google Hangouts? Skype? Microsoft Teams?

How do you pick the right platform to host your online training?

The most important thing to remember is to pick something that you and your audience are comfortable with. Select a platform that is user-friendly, easily accessible and has the necessary tools required for your session.

Here are three questions to guide you:

  • Can I afford it?

Not all platforms are free, and those that are free often have additional features that will cost you more over time. Do your homework first to compare cost and features.

  • Does it inspire and support learning?

Platforms that have features like questions, polls and raising-hands functions can enhance the learning experience and assist with making your sessions more interactive.

  • Can everyone access it?

Depending on your audience, not everyone has access to high-speed internet, smartphones or computers.

These are real challenges you need to keep in mind when choosing a platform. Or perhaps offer a hybrid solution where a handful of people may come to your offices, but those who have access, can join online.

2. Practice, practice, practice

When it comes to online events the biggest weapon is the facilitator.

Remember to play to your strengths and to be open and honest. Feeling nervous about online sessions is normal and people on the other side of the screen might feel the same.

Preparation and planning are key.

Create a check-list to ensure that everything from the internet stability to PowerPoint presentations and guest facilitators are taken care of. You can also allocate support roles to your team members, like a back-up computer with everything loaded, or have someone answer the questions on screen etc.

It’s your responsibility to ensure that all the checklists have been ticked and everyone is aware of their role before the training starts.

Do a test run and practice on your platform and in the exact area where you will be presenting. This will help you identify struggles with the internet, screen-displays and background. It will also help to test functionalities like raising-hands, showing emotions, changing your name or writing in the chat box while practicing your presentation before going live.

3. Adapt your Content

Creating content for online training is not just a duplication of your previous material. You want to create impactful slides to keep the attention of your attendees.

Great content will win in every medium, but it needs to be adapted visually to suit the new platform.

  • Limit your number of slides to the amount that will get the job done. A good ratio is 30 minutes = 5 slides of content and 5 slides of engaging activities.
  • Put the main takeaway as the header on each slide or in a complete short sentence.
  • Emphasise the key points by highlighting the text and use bullet points instead of paragraphs.
  • Use high-quality images that are applicable to the topic.
  • Add memes, videos or jokes as humour to keep online audiences engaged.

4. Engage your Audience

It’s up to the presenter to engage with your audience and keep the session as interactive as you can.

You want them to be involved and participate. If you don’t try to engage with your audience, they won’t pay attention to what you are saying and the session may end up not being fruitful.

Some ways you can get your audience engaged:

  • Encourage attendees to ask questions, share experiences and contribute.
  • Show your face on camera and encourage attendees to do the same.
  • Use tools on your platform like polls, breakout rooms, emotions and voting.
  • Take breaks in between to rest eyes and move bodies.
  • Host fun in-between sessions like chair yoga, or ask them to change their background to where they want to be.

5. Reach out afterwards

How do you ensure post training engagement and evaluation on the training you hosted?

This is a big step that is often missed or not given as much attention as it should receive. There are several functions for post communication on training, below I have listed a few:

  • Reflection: Attendees need to review the new material they have learnt and how to apply it in the current situation.
  • Team debrief: Schedule an internal meeting to share learnings if you had other people working with you.
  • Assignments: Post training tasks will assist to cement the new learnings in a practical way.
  • Survey: Receiving feedback on the session in terms of what worked and what did not work will assist the trainee in the future.
  • Recording: Spreading the training material further than just the attendees of the event.
  • Monthly newsletter: Sharing dates and content of new sessions, topics, and trends.
  • Network: Keeping connections with the attendees.

Hosting online training sessions or meetings can become overwhelming, but with practice and knowledge about your platforms and audience, you will be able to adapt quickly.

Article compiled by Elsa Fourie; Social Investment Manager at Valcare.