Adapting Training for Virtual Presentation

Posted Thursday, July 9th, 2020 by Sterling Volunteers Staff

Adapting training materials for virtual presentation is a complicated and unique challenge for nonprofit organizations and should be handled with care. It’s important to remember that virtual training shouldn’t just be a lecture or a PDF of a handout – it should be a custom curriculum, designed to leverage technology.

Perhaps Darlene Christopher, author of The Successful Virtual Classroom, has said it best while stating, “In addition to even more attention to preparation and planning, trainers need to meet participants’ expectations for content that has been customized and optimized for a virtual classroom.”

In a recent webinar, which is now available on-demand, nonprofit expert Beth Steinhorn, President of VQ Volunteer Strategies, shared how to adapt existing curricula to online delivery, while leveraging technology such as Learning Management Systems. Keep reading to learn the benefits of virtual training, steps for preparing online curriculum, and get some tips for engaging online participants.

The Benefits of Online Training

Online training offers everyone involved more flexibility. It increases accessibility even when there’s no crisis and provides the ability to continue operations when there is. It can also be more efficient in terms of resource management such as space usage, and it can be more consistent in the presentation of materials.

Virtual Training and Other Approaches

A general definition of virtual training is ‘an online training event on a virtual platform with a live instructor and remote learners using web browsers.’ It sets itself apart from other approaches such as educational webinars by offering more opportunities for interaction, engagement, and collaboration, as well as learner assessment. Other online approaches offer organizations opportunities, and it might be best to use a blended volunteer training approach.

  • Self-Paced E-Learning

    Pre-recorded and pre-designed trainings in which the user controls the pace and does it on their own. Example platform: Learning Management System

  • Webcasts and Webinars

    Mostly one-directional with hundreds or thousands of participants. Example platform: GoToWebinar, YouTube, Zoom, etc.

  • Meetings and Conference Calls

    Interactive medium-sized group meetings, typically driven by a facilitator. Example platform: GoToWebinar, Zoom, Skype, etc.

  • Micro-Learning

    Blogs, podcasts, emails, social media posts, and short videos can be gathered into online curriculum. Example platform: Website, social posts, email blasts, etc.

  • Blended Training

    Training that uses multiple approaches and may even blend with in-person training. Keeping in mind social distancing and phased requirements as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.


There are at least three roles that are important to think about and design into your curriculum.

  1. Producer, Host or Moderator

    This person launches the meeting or controls the software, introduces speakers and moderates questions and generally facilitates the production.

  2. Presenter, Facilitator, Panelist

    This is the actual trainer or panel of trainers. They deliver the materials and engage participates.

  3. Attendee, Learner, Volunteer Staff

    This is the person attending the training. They need to know in what ways they’ll be engaging with the facilitator.


How you can apply online trainings to your volunteer engagement strategy? Here are some examples:

  • Information sessions
  • Orientation
  • Position-specific training
  • Continuing education
  • Staff training

Online or Not?

This set of guiding questions can help you answer the question “is it appropriate for me to offer this training online?”

Training Needs

  • Does holding the course online offer a better solution?
  • Does the organizational culture support the use of a virtual classroom?


  • Is our organization’s virtual classroom tool stable, reliable, and supported?
  • Will our participants have the right equipment and software?


  • Is it possible to group the content in 60-to-90-minute segments?
  • Does it require collaboration? Dialogue? Interaction? Roleplaying?
  • How much time will it take to produce virtual content?


  • Do participants have good technical skills to participate?
  • Is the environment conducive to virtual training?
  • Are they geographically dispersed?

Facilitation Team

  • Is the facilitator skilled at virtual presentation?
  • If not, what can we do to bring them up to speed?
  • What support staff can you call on to assist you?

Consider Your Goals

What goals you have for your virtual training and what content you share should affect how you build your curriculum. If your goal is information sharing, you might choose to use an online approach only. If your goals are learning or skills acquisition, you might opt for a blended approach or a more interactive platform. If your goal is teambuilding, you might select a smaller platform that allows webcams for everyone so you can build teams meaningfully.

Online Curriculum

In order to build your online curriculum, first you need to step back and think about it holistically. Plan and build a full curriculum instead of just a series of recorded units. We’ll follow the PREP model here – Plan, Rehearse, Execute, Post-Session Review.


In the planning phase, you should first select and learn the platform you’ll use. Then gather your team and establish roles, including logistics such as who is sending out registrations, who’s doing follow-ups, etc.

When you develop your virtual content, you should design it with the whole picture in mind. Would your virtual training be improved by including aids in your course inventory such as homework, prereading, guides, in-person meetings, calls, etc.?

You can break your content down into separate bits of information that can be communicated, such as knowledge, skills and abilities. Then determine what instructional methods to use based on learning objectives, audience size, and platform features.

When developing your training plan, follow these three easy steps:

  1. Develop your course inventory and review all material such as video, exercises, workbooks, handouts, micro-learning, mentoring, and slides.
  2. Develop a sequence of events based on your learning objectives and determine what should be done as pre-work, presented live, and post work.
  3. Adjust content and exercises for online presentation including interactive features like polls, chat box, unmuting, or emoticons.

Plus, here are a few presentation tips:

When you’re deciding whether to offer your presentation as a recorded video or live presentation, you should consider:

  • Duration
  • Engagement/interaction types
  • Flow
  • Knowledge checks
  • Presenters/panelists
  • Slide design

When you’re designing slides take into account however many slides you think you should have – it’s probably too many. You can improve engagement through simple tactics like reducing the number of slides, including animation, limiting text, using whiteboards, and including interactive options.


To ensure timing and a smooth delivery it is important to rehearse. You’ll want to practice with your facilitation team (consider using a mock audience) and refine from there. Remember to do a technology check. Learn more with this helpful On-line Training Technology Checklist.


It’s a go and you are ready to facilitate the online training session(s) with your actual learners.

Post-Session Review

Conduct an in-depth review to assess learning and collect feedback (via survey or check in calls), including feedback about the pace, feel, and other intangibles. Use what you learn to further refine your presentation and process.

Tips for Facilitating

  • Facilitators should set expectations, such as what technology will be required, and whether or not they can expect to be on webcam.
  • If your presentation includes a lobby, consider including warmup activities or icebreakers.
  • There are several ways to engage your learners, including asking for feedback, conducting polls, playing games, using emoticons, etc.
  • Facilitators must be excellent multitaskers and well versed in the technology they’ll be using.
  • Creating a comfortable learning environment and building rapport with your audience improves engagement.

Letting your content and learning objectives guide the instructional method will help you to plan and develop an online curriculum that is not just simply putting an in-person training into a PowerPoint deck. You’ll want to adapt the material for online presentation and leverage many different methods.

Watch the Webinar On-Demand

To learn more, watch the “On-site to On-line: Adapting Training for Virtual Presentation” webinar.

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The information contained herein is for informational purposes only. Sterling is not a law firm, and none of the information contained in this notice is intended as legal advice. Clients are encouraged to consult with their legal counsel about the impacts of any requirements. This, and other important information can be found on the Sterling website at