A tool to generate virtual training activities and lesson plans in under 10 minutes (sort of)

Virtual training delivery has always been tricky, but since COVID-19 basically eliminated business travel, just about everyone has made a push to convert existing training programs to virtual.

Sometimes converting programs to virtual can be fairly simple, but usually the best results come from keeping your learning objectives the same, but starting from scratch when it comes to activities. Virtual programs and in-person programs are simply two different experiences, and retrofitting in-person programs to fit into virtual delivery may have been appropriate when we were desperately looking for quick ways to continue offering professional development, it’s certainly not the best long-term solution.

Virtual programs and in-person programs are simply two different experiences, and retrofitting in-person programs to fit into virtual delivery may have been appropriate when we were desperately looking for quick ways to continue… Click To Tweet

Within the next week or two, Soapbox will be updated to allow users to choose whether they’d like to create an in-person or a virtual training program. Here’s a closer look at how you’ll be able to generate an entire training lesson plan, with activity instructions customized to your virtual delivery platform, in about 10 minutes.

Step 1: Enter some basic information (Approximately 2 minute)

Simply begin by entering the name of your presentation, the amount of time you have to deliver your presentation, whether your presentation is to be delivered in-person or online (this blog post focuses on online delivery), the approximate number of people who will attend, the type of presentation and your virtual platform.

The amount of time you have to deliver your presentation, the approximate number of people who will attend and the platform will all impact the actual activities that are generated for your presentation. You’ll be given different activities and instructions if you have 4 people attending than if you have 400 people attending. Similarly, you’ll be able to use different features of a virtual platform to engage your audience if you’re using a platform like Zoom that has breakout room capabilities compared to if you’re using a platform like Microsoft Teams which does not allow for breakout room discussions.

Step 2: Decide what your learners should be able to do by the end of your session (Approximately 8 minutes)

There are about 30 different choices for your learning outcomes. The key question here is: given the amount of time of your presentation and the goals of your program, what is it that your learners will realistically be able to do by the end of your presentation?

Some people contend that they can cover 6-10 objectives during a 30 minute presentation. While those people may have 6-10 talking points they’d like to cover, those aren’t learner-focused objectives.

Soapbox will limit the number of learning outcomes you’ll be able to select based upon the amount of time you have available for your presentation. This will ensure a presentation that stays focused and offers participants an opportunity to find ways to practice using your content.

Once you’ve made it through steps 1 and 2, you’ll have a presentation with activity instructions that connect to your learning outcomes and that is customized for your delivery platform. Most users have suggested it takes less than 10 minutes to get to this point.

Step 3: Customize and refine the activities to suit your needs

There’s no need for you or your team to spend time thinking through the best combination of activities that align with your learning objectives and that will keep your learners engaged. In this final step, you can now invest your time in making sure you have the right activities and talking points for your presentation.

You can drag and drop activities to re-arrange the sequence and flow of the presentation that’s been generated.

You can swap out a suggested activity for one that may better suit your facilitation style, your comfort level with the virtual platform and your learners’ needs.

You can edit the activity instructions and add talking points that are important to cover during your session.

Step 4: Generate slides and a facilitator guide

Some Soapbox users find the PowerPoint file generated to be a time saver, and they modify the slide deck with some specific talking points, diagrams, illustrations or other key visuals. Others find that they will use their own slide templates, but copy some of the content from the Soapbox-generated slides. Either way, you have a visual resource that can be downloaded and used as you see fit.

Many Soapbox users like to have a hard copy instruction guide at their fingertips, so they’ll download the Facilitator Guide that can be generated. This guide offers step by step activity instructions and reflects any edits and talking points you may have made to each activity.

That’s it. Soapbox’s virtual capabilities will be released by August 15 (perhaps sooner!). If you think Soapbox could be helpful to you, you can sign up for a free 14-day trial here.

You can also sign up for a brief demo to have someone walk you through Soapbox by using the link below.

Free Lesson Plan: Training Your Staff on Converting Programs from In-person to Virtual

Here in the United States, our Spring of COVID-19 has turned into the Summer of COVID-19, and soon, we’ll have the Autumn of COVID-19. It doesn’t appear that we’ll be coming together to deliver in-person training or in-person conference sessions any time soon. So how can organizations best help their presenters convert their programs from in-person to virtual delivery?

Retrofitting your existing programs to try to do the same thing, just in a virtual environment is tempting. Keep in mind, however, that virtual delivery offers opportunities for which in-person instruction doesn’t allow… and there are some things you can do in-person that you just can’t do online. Below, you’ll find a lesson plan that we’ve created for a 90-minute session that you can use to help educate your staff, co-workers or clients on ways to think through the conversion from in-person to online instruction.

Retrofitting your existing programs to try to do the same thing, just in a virtual environment is tempting. Keep in mind, however, that virtual delivery offers opportunities for which in-person instruction doesn't allow. Click To Tweet Continue reading

Scary moments in Presentations

Happy Halloween. Fun scary days call for spooky stories…

In a dark room, a visage is backlit by a square projected light. Ghost-like and monochromatic the visage speaks, is he speaking directly you? Should you answer his indirect questions? No, the words are abstract and generic, almost as though he is reciting an old childhood adage he has recited over and over before he has brought them before you today. Continue reading

A tool to help design strategic planning workshops

In about a month, my team will be launching a tool we’ve developed to help create better presentations, faster. Our original concept was to dramatically reduce the amount of instructional design time spent on developing training sessions.

I’m currently working with several clients on facilitating strategic planning sessions, which got me to wondering: would our tool be useful in helping to design elements of strategic planning sessions?

After three or four minutes of playing with the tool, here is the lesson plan it generated for me Continue reading

4 Activities for Group Problem Solving

We recently wrapped the first round of beta on our new presentation creation tool, Soapbox. A piece of feedback that we received quite often was that people were excited about all of the fresh activities that Soapbox provides. Beta users were energized at the prospect of trying out new activities suggested by Soapbox to add depth and engagement to their training. Chances are that if you’re tired of your learning activities then your learners are too. Here are four application activities straight out of Soapbox to try as your next problem-solving activity.  Continue reading

Four Steps to More Engaging Training Design

A little while back, I was showing a tech industry executive – someone who knows both his way around the C-suite and who knows his way around training design – a lesson plan that was generated by our training design tool, Soapbox.

“Hmmmm. When you first told me about this, I thought I’d see some sort of instructional design model integrated into the way you designed this.”

I pointed out that the lesson plan actually did follow the formula of a 4-step instructional design model. He looked at the lesson plan again and smiled. “Ah, I see it now. Yes, this is good.”

Being intentional about the design of your next training program by using a model rooted in adult learning theory can make the difference between a meandering, ineffective session and an engaging session that leads to change. Following is the model we use Continue reading