September 28


What Leaders Most Want From Their Virtual Training

By Sara Canaday

September 28, 2020

business leaders, leader, leadership, leadership behaviors, leadership skills, professional success

It’s safe to say that leadership training and professional development look very different today than they did in February. (Apparently pandemics have that effect.) But as I switched my keynotes and presentations to a remote format during the last six months, I have made some important discoveries.

Here are a few things I’ve found that leaders most want and need right now in their virtual development programs.

Moving from onstage to online isn’t a direct translation. It takes plenty of planning and creativity to engage participants in meaningful ways. The best thing I can do as a virtual presenter is to share information/strategies and then get out of the way to put the spotlight on the audience. Despite the remote format, leaders want to have an experience rather than just listen to someone who is throwing out rapid-fire facts.

Given the right challenges and questions, participants DO want to interact. The key is understanding my virtual audiences up front and knowing the challenges they face. That helps me craft questions that resonate with them, prompt them to see new perspectives, and invite them to explore new strategies. Leaders want and need content that is highly relevant and an educator who is in touch with their realities.

Powerful content defies the limits of any delivery format. This premise holds true now more than ever. My participants’ time is precious real estate, and they don’t want gratuitous polling or silly games. Leaders want actionable strategies, time to reflect on fresh insights, and opportunities to practice new skills.

Bells and whistles aren’t mandatory. Early on, I worked hard to learn and adopt the latest technology for online events. But I quickly found that most of my clients don’t expect camera-in-camera setups, multi-angled views or Caribbean sunsets in the background. Leaders are more interested in unique perspectives and thought-provoking ideas than in sophisticated learning technology.

Perfection isn’t the goal, and people are forgiving. I do everything in my power to ensure that my video and sound quality are stellar and that my Wi-Fi connection is solid. But, as we all know, that’s no guarantee. Inevitably the audience is patient and understanding if things go wrong. I’ve learned to laugh and take it in stride. Leaders appreciate authenticity and transparency from the messenger when the messages add genuine value.

The “on-demand” aspect of virtual has taken on a whole new meaning, as we face new and unprecedented challenges, many times on a daily basis. No lag time, no learning curve. Leaders want help “in the moment,” and it’s my job to give them the tools, resources, and information they need right now.  

If you’re a leader, what else do you want and need given the pandemic-driven shift to online training? And have you been able to elevate the virtual development experience to achieve comparable or even superior results for your teams, your colleagues and your customers? I’d love to hear about it!

Sara Canaday

About the author

Sara began her journey working full-time while she earned an MBA. As she climbed the ladder of corporate America, she repeatedly observed a surprising phenomenon: the most successful people weren’t necessarily the ones with the highest IQ or best job skills. She recognized instead that career advancement was much more closely linked with how people applied their knowledge and talents — their capacity to collaborate, communicate, and influence others.

Today, Sara is happily fulfilling that commitment as a keynote speaker, author, and executive coach. These venues have given her the opportunity to mentor and support thousands of people in diverse situations, inspiring many of them to move from insight to action with dramatic career results.

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