How to Prepare Virtual Trainings | National Democratic Training Committee

In order for political campaigns and organizations to be successful in a remote environment, it is crucial to know how to facilitate an effective virtual training. Successful remote trainings give participants the same level of engagement and quality content that they would get in-person. If done well, virtual spaces can be vibrant, engaged communities.

It’s tempting to think the only real difference between in-person and virtual meetings is knowing how to Zoom. However, facilitating successful remote trainings requires a unique skill set. Additionally, there are practices that, if used effectively, will bring a sense of community to a political campaign’s virtual training.

Effective virtual facilitation builds existing skills by focusing on a few key areas:

Being Prepared

When hosting a training for your political campaign, it is crucial to effectively and professionally prepare the material to be presented. To do this, it is necessary to practice good “tech hygiene”.

“Tech hygiene” is applicable to all technology platforms. It includes best practices for managing distractions, setting up the work space, and preparing for a session.“Tech hygiene” is fundamental when hosting a virtual training. It helps trainees focus on the presentation, not the  technology. 

Here are a few quick steps you can take to be prepared for your remote training: 

  • Make sure all technology is in working order. Take time beforehand to test video and audio.
  • Make sure your background is well-lit, and ensure your face appears clearly on the screen. This helps trainees to focus on you, instead of a distracting background.
  • Make sure to dress comfortably, but professionally.  

For more information, check out these best practices for technology use during virtual trainings. Additionally, always go through this checklist before beginning a remote training.

Online presence

Being professional and efficient online involves more than just sitting in front of a camera. It’s important to show up fully for participants and encourage them to do the same.

Staying engaged throughout a virtual training is key. There are multiple steps you can take to stay engaged throughout a virtual training.

Make sure you speak clearly, and enunciate. In the beginning, make sure participants can hear everything and check that microphones are working.

In addition, stay focused and do not multitask. Your sole concern should be engaging participants. If you are not focused on the material being presented, there is no reason for the  participants to remain engaged. 

Furthermore, establish norms for the group. Sharing simple practices for the group to follow helps participants acclimate to the virtual environment. 

Finally, stick to time constraints. Going overtime drains the energy of both you and trainees. It is important to respect participants’ time.

Learn more about staying engaged virtually here, and check out our guide to maintaining energy here!

Virtual community-based learning

Regardless of where they are located, people want to be involved and active in workshops. There are ways to navigate virtual spaces to allow for community-based learning

When possible with a small group, have participants introduce themselves with pronouns. Use an icebreaker to establish camaraderie. Use breakout rooms if necessary, so trainees can get to know each other.

Additionally, always make participants aware of the training or discussions goals. It could be a training on a specific skill, or a more general topic. Regardless, establishing the goals of the training will create a more collaborative, participatory environment. 

Most importantly, establish the training as a place where participants can ask questions. Schedule times during the training to ask for feedback or questions. Provide different ways for trainees to participate, such as raising their hand in Zoom, or using the chat. Furthermore, ask trainees questions throughout to facilitate discussion. 

Facilitators can hone these skills to improve the virtual space. They must keep engagement and enthusiasm high. It helps create effective trainings for campaigns up and down the ballot and strengthen Democratic infrastructure across the country.

For more tips on creating a collaborative virtual space, check out our guide to effective virtual community-based learning.

Hear From Our Trainers

NDTC’s trainers are some of the most experienced professionals in Democratic politics. They are eager to share their knowledge with candidates and campaigns across the country. Here is some of their advice on creating community in a virtual space:

“Encourage interaction in the chatbox by asking for responses to things like: ‘put a ! in the chat if you have heard of XYZ.’ or ‘put a W in the chatbox if you know Wawa is better than Sheetz.’”  – Meghan Blickman

“Connect with the people in your virtual room. Ask for their stories, refer to participants by name, and validate what they share. When participants feel like you’re speaking to them, rather than just speaking, your training will be most effective.” – Melissa Goldberg

Finally, if you are interested in learning more about virtual facilitation, NDTC is hosting a “Train the Trainer” (T3) summit on Saturday, March 13. Come hear from our trainers about the best practices for training a political campaign or organization. 

Read more about T3 and check out the schedule here!

Register for T3

Next Live Training

Earned Media: Writing to Get Coverage

May 17, 2021

1:00pm - 2:00pm (ET)

Online Academy

The training and tools you need, when you need them. Courses are available 24/7. Are you a candidate, campaign staffer or volunteer, at the beginning stages of your campaign or in the home stretch? We have the courses to address your specific needs and arm you with the knowledge to win.

View course catalog

Not sure where to start? Take a short quiz to help you determine the best place for you to get started.

Take the quiz