9 Advantages of a virtual Think Outside The Slide training program

Now that I have delivered a number of virtual sessions for the Smith Business School at Queen’s University, and more than 25 virtual sessions for clients, I want to share how I think my virtual training programs may actually be even better than the highly rated in-person programs I have delivered for over 21 years.

More flexible schedule

My two-day program has been re-designed as a series of eight 90-minute sessions, four focused on teaching practical repeatable approaches, and four on learning Excel and PowerPoint techniques. This makes it much easier to schedule for the participants. We can choose the same day and time each week, some sessions back-to-back, multiple sessions per week, or almost any combination that works for those who are attending. No more struggling to find a full two days that works in everyone’s schedule.

No geographic limitations

Participants in my programs have been literally all over the world, including Africa, India, and all across North America. With a virtual program, you can easily offer training to geographically dispersed groups. With the current work from home approach that many organizations are taking, this allows staff to attend from wherever they are located. We use whichever meeting platform you already use so there is no learning curve for the participants.

Increased customization

My programs still contain the customized slide makeovers as they always have. These makeovers are often the highlight of the sessions as they demonstrate that participants can apply the ideas to the presentations they create. With multiple sessions in each program, I have the flexibility to adjust the topics or include additional makeovers in future sessions based on the feedback and questions I get after each session.

New content for existing topics

I’ve taken this opportunity to revisit everything I’ve been teaching. I’ve gone deeper in many areas and developed new approaches to share with the participants. This includes many short videos I’ve created that demonstrate a technique in Excel or PowerPoint. When they see how easy it can be, the participants are eager to learn the technique. I also bring in live website demonstrations when appropriate.

New session on virtual presenting

I’ve developed an entire session on tips and techniques for presenting virtually. Not only are participants seeing me demonstrate the techniques throughout every session, I take them behind the scenes and share how I engage participants, the equipment and setup I use, and the techniques for delivering an effective virtual presentation.

More effective training on Excel and PowerPoint techniques

I’ve totally revamped the way I teach Excel and PowerPoint techniques. Instead of participants trying to keep up as I demonstrate the techniques in one day, there are now four sessions, each focused around certain skills. For each session they watch videos on their own at a pace that works for them, apply what they learn to one or more exercises, submit their work to me, and then attend a live review session. In this review session we discuss what was submitted, answer questions they had, review challenges they ran into, and extend the learning with new techniques. This is a much more effective way to learn software techniques. And I am able to provide far more instruction than I could during an in-person session.

Private portal for participants

For each group I set up a private learning portal. This site holds all the handouts and course materials for them to download and refer to. I can add more resources based on questions that come up in the sessions. Videos of the teaching sessions as well as the video tutorials for the software techniques are available on the portal. The participants can login and refer to them at any time to refresh their memory and have just-in-time learning as their role changes in the future.

More engaged participants

I actively engage the participants with polls and exercises that get them to practice the techniques right after they are taught. I then review everyone’s anonymous answers to give immediate feedback to the group. This deepens their learning. The exercise on writing headlines has proven to be particularly effective at helping participants see what a level 1 vs a level 2 headline would look like. I also engage the participants during each session through the strategic use of the chat feature of the meeting platform.

Better value for my clients

Virtual programs allow you to offer training at a lower cost. There is no travel expense for me or the participants. There is no time away from the office for the participants where they feel like they have to take time from their family to catch up. You get better training at a lower cost.

I know that the pandemic and resulting change in work setting and approach has thrown us all for a loop. I pivoted my programs from in-person to embrace an all-new way of delivering more value virtually. You’ve likely had a lot of changes in the way you manage your business too. Now that we have survived the initial panic and have figured out a new rhythm, it is time to look to the future. We have a new way to work and we need to help our teams communicate effectively in that new environment.

If you are ready to start offering high impact professional development for your staff to help them create and deliver more effective PowerPoint presentations to executives in this virtual presentation environment, contact me so we can set up a Zoom or Teams meeting where I will demonstrate how my new approaches can benefit participants.

By Dave Paradi

Dave Paradi has over twenty-two years of experience delivering customized training workshops to help business professionals improve their presentations. He has written ten books and over 600 articles on the topic of effective presentations and his ideas have appeared in publications around the world. His focus is on helping corporate professionals visually communicate the messages in their data so they don't overwhelm and confuse executives. Dave is one of fewer than ten people in North America recognized by Microsoft with the Most Valuable Professional Award for his contributions to the Excel, PowerPoint, and Teams communities. His articles and videos on virtual presenting have been viewed over 4.8 million times and liked over 17,000 times on YouTube.