In our last CAD Managers Corner post, we talked about how to approach in-house training and gave some best practices for preparing your sessions. But not all training is conducted in an office anymoreso how can we best train remote offices, home-based workers, and others who can’t attend a live training session? In this post, we’ll cover some techniques you can use to do just that. Let’s see how. 

Remote or Video Training Limitations

What is it about remote/video training that makes it harder than doing live training? Here are the problems I experience: 

Pacing. Since I can’t see the student, I can’t use visual cues to guess how well they’re doing. 

Lack of attention. It is far easier for a student to leave a remote or video-based training session to take a phone call so they don’t always pay as much attention as they could. 

Not finishing. There is far more likely that users will depart remote/video-based training before it is complete and, often, not come back. 

To deal with these issues I’ve found the following strategies work well: 

Pacing should be brisk. If your lesson is too slow everyone will be bored and turn it off. If the lesson is just a little too quick for some they can always rewind and repeat that part of the lesson. Conclusion: Quicker is better. 

Gain attention and hold it via short lesson segments. If attention span is a problem, then break your training into several short lessons that build upon each other. Rather than presenting a one-hour training session that is likely to get paused or skipped, use the same strategy that Netflix uses called “binge-watching” to compel users from lesson to lesson. 

Presentation Tips

Before you record your training session (more in a moment) practice them keeping these presentation tips in mind: 

Show the end state: Before you begin a lesson tell the user what the outcome will be and show them what the output will look like when finished. When the user knows what you’re trying to achieve it’ll be much easier for them to follow along. 

State the approach: After showing the result give a quick, high-level description of what the lesson will contain. Again, when the user knows the approach you’ll use it is much more likely that they’ll understand. 

Start at the beginning: Even if you think your audience already knows a concept it is wise to briefly state it. There’s nothing worse than not understanding a lesson because a simple step wasn’t explained up front. 

Move at a brisk pace but not too fast: Don’t go too slow, but not too fast either. A brisk medium pacing is best. 

Talk as you go: Explain everything as you go along referencing the stated approach you gave at the beginning. Use action phrases like “I’ll move the mouse” and “I’ll click this dialog” so everyone knows what’s going on. By talking as you go, you’ll also avoid “Dead Air” where the user is left to guess what you’re doing. 

Make sure they see the mouse: Sometimes experienced users zap through mouse movements so fast that the person watching can’t see the mouse. Slow down your mouse movements so they can be seen and consider enabling mouse trails. You’ll get used to this approach. 

Click, double click, right-click: Make sure to explain when you are clicking and when you are double-clicking or right-clicking on the mouse. Remember that the person watching can’t see you work the mouse, so you must state what operation is happening. 

Record Your Lessons

In our last post, I mentioned using a recording utility called Camtasia (other software is available) to rehearse your training lessons, but it also allows you to make professional videos with voiceovers. This software is simple to use and, with a little practice, you’ll be recording great training videos. Here are the steps I use to record my training sessions: 

Prepare my example files and get ready to record. This means your machine is setup in a quiet room, your headset microphone is on, email and messenger programs are off, and your phone is on mute. 

Run through my lesson (using tips from above) and record. If you make a few minor mistakes no worries, nobody expects perfection. However, if you make a major error you should simply restart your recording and try again. 

When you have a good version save your work. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost a good recording because I was trying to get a better version. Always, always, always, save.

Training Guide Preparation

Now that you have the lesson recorded, you can easily create training guides and render them to PDF files so users can self-study later. Here are the steps I use to create my training guides: 

Watch the recording and type notes into a Word document. This approach works well because you don’t have to write anything from scratch, you just use your own natural wording from the video. 

Get screen captures. As you watch the video stop at each major input, dialog, command, etc. and export a screenshot at that point. 

Paste into Word, saving often. As you create your screen captures, paste them into your Word document in chronological order, so nothing gets out of place. Save often! 

Repeat until all instructions and screen captures are in the document. Now you’re almost done! 

Proof it. Once you have everything entered, print out a copy and read through it as you listen to your video recording again. Markup and edit as required. 

I like to call this approach “talking my way through the handout” as it allows me to use my natural presentation techniques to craft a training guide that flows well, has minimal wording, and provides rich visuals for the user to follow along with later. This process eliminates writer’s block and the “white screen of death” feeling when trying to write a training guide from scratch. 

Summing Up

If you follow all these steps, you’ll have a series of video segments and accompanying training guides that can form a great remote training program. All you must do now is send links to all your materials to remote office personnel and motivate them to complete the lessons. Best of luck! 

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