How can accountants and lawyers improve their online training?

For obvious reasons training has had to be moved online but without the all-important face-to-face element, how can accountants and lawyers improve their online training?

The first thing to realise is online training is here to stay.  Restrictions aside, there are many reasons for this:

– Its more cost effective

– They are easier to project manage

–  Location is no longer a barrier to participation

However, there are also challenges:

How do you get people who have signed up to attend an event turn up on the day?

How do you build rapport and establish a personal connection?

How do you engage people (especially with all the potential distractions when you’re working from home)?

What can you do to ensure your online training is a success?

Here are 5 practical tips to help accountants and lawyers improve their online training:

1. Focus on your audience before the training starts

This will make people more uncomfortable to bail on the day.

Here are 3 ideas you can try:

– Share a workbook linked to the event and tell attendees to read the workbook as it’ll help them get maximum value from the workshop.  And make the workbook look attractive so people know the training won’t be boring.

– Make yourself accessible to attendees before the event.  Tell them they can call or email you before the session to discuss their specific training objectives.

– Underline why you’re giving the training by circulating your biography and/or relevant client testimonials.

2. Set clear expectations

Outline what the training will cover, how it’ll be structured and what attendees will get from attending.

You’ll need to do this 3 times – with the initial promotion of the event, with the joining instructions and at the start of the session – and experience has taught me you need to include:

A request for all web cameras to be switched on … yes, you shouldn’t have to say but you do!)

The fact the workshop is interactive and participants will be encouraged to contribute/ask questions.

What you will cover and what attendees will learn as a result (and how this new knowledge will benefit them and their practice).

If you’re group is smaller (i.e. 6 people or less) you might also ask each attendee what they want to get out of the workshop and/or any specific areas that they would like to be covered.

3. Build rapport

Your first task when people enter the room (hopefully a few minutes before the event starts) is to build a connection with them.  This is immediately made more difficult when you’re delivering online so you’ll need to start as soon as possible by:

– Diffusing the tension by saying hello to each person individually as they arrive in your virtual room.

– Initiating small talk.

– Engaging people with a smile and open body language (standing is preferable).

– Setting the tone by being human and using a lighter touch.

– Encouraging everyone to speak before the formal bit starts so they’re more likely to speak when you ask a question of ask for examples.

4. Start the workshop proper by asking a question.

When you ask this question, make it easy to answer and direct the question to the section of your audience you know will be more likely to answer.  If you don’t know the group well this approach may require some homework and a plant!

When you have a response ask the others how they feel or what their perspective is.  The idea here is to break the ice and, again, make everyone comfortable with speaking.

5. Finish with 10 minutes spare

You can use this 10 minutes to pull together the different threads of the workshop then get the audience to commit to next steps and follow up.

All too often facilitators rush this last part and try to pack in lots of extra points they hadn’t covered earlier. This gives the session a very clumsy close and leaves attendees unclear about how they are supposed to apply the learning back in the office.

Effective workshops always have clear and immediate follow up steps!

If you would like to find out more about the ways we can help your lawyers and accountants improve their (online and in person) presentation skills or find out more about the various BD training courses we deliver for lawyers and accountants, please get in touch.

Published by sizetenandahalfboots

Douglas is a director of Size 10½ Boots, a specialist business development agency that works solely with the professional services, helping firms grow by winning more new clients and more work from the clients they already have. Although every project is different our work generally falls into one of three camps - strategic marketing support, BD training and 1on1 coaching and independent client research.

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