Being Brain Friendly in the Virtual World


Being Brain Friendly in the Virtual World

Nearly a whole year has gone by since the first lockdown in the UK. At the time I knew I had to adapt quickly to an online environment. It’s been an incredible journey with challenges along the way, but it’s opened up so many exciting opportunities to think about the way we design and deliver Brain Friendly Learning in the new virtual world.

Structure and content

One significant change to delivering in the virtual world is how you structure your session and also the amount of content that you can cover. The Learning and Performance Institute recommend having 30-50% less time for delivery when training virtually. This means a previously one-day session might need to be adapted to two 2 hour sessions.

We have worked hard to adapt our sessions to ensure we are maintaining engagement and a high level of transfer during this shorter time frame. Some of the strategies we use are:

  • Attention grabbing pre-learning e.g. sending a Biteable video
  • Self-assessment, polling, stamping, break out rooms
  • Self-directed learning e.g. e-module on
  • Action planning and accountability buddies
  • Signposting to videos, TED talks, webinars and useful websites

Personally, I have found it a real challenge to not over-fill the session with content! Particularly when participants are so thirsty for tools and techniques to support them in their new virtual world.  The Learning and Performance Institute suggest that there should be some sort of interaction every three to five minutes.  So, cramming in too much content really takes away from the ability to be interactive and give that real sense of community and collaboration. I find asking a colleague to help me strip out some of the content or think about where I can place it in the pre-learning or signposting useful.


You need to remember that whilst you might feel like a pro on Zoom or any other system that you have been using, your audience will all have a varied level of technical ability or be used to other platforms – so you can’t just assume that everyone knows how to use the system you are on.

I think that is really important is to get your participants to prove that they can use the technology. So early on in the session get them to write ‘Hello’ in the chat box and get them to put their hands up, mute and unmute, all of that is really important that will help your session run smoothly.

Or one other thing that we do with our clients is we offer a half an hour window before the session so that people who are perhaps not feeling as confident can come and check in and make sure that everything’s working.  So, it might be useful to think about building that into your sessions.

Training Tools

I think that one of my favourite tools that I use in a virtual training session is a starter question. I would have a slide set up asking a question like “What percentage is this?” or “How many is this?” and ask people to think about that before we actually start the session. Often, I have a virtual prize that I can give which is a picture of a medal!

I also find that challenges work really well. So previously we’ve has a ‘bring your pet to work’ challenge. We were trying to see who had the most exotic pet at home and so we had a tortoise and rabbits join us on the zoom call! Obviously, you need to adapt this for your audience so you might ask them prior to a break to bring something back to the session that they couldn’t have lived without in lockdown or ask them to bring a book or DVD that relates to the topic that you are training on.

If you are doing a couple of seminars you can even set the challenge as their homework for the next session.

Another useful tool you can use when you perhaps need to have a bit of a break to re-set yourself is something like a wordsearch. You can use the annotate function in zoom and split the group into two groups, with one group using the red annotate function and one using the blue. Everyone can join in which is fun and something you can keep in your pocket if you need it. It always makes me smile how well a word search goes down – give people permission to embrace their inner child!


Having a co-pilot is a big take-away for me. You need that extra pair of hands to check the chat box, answer questions and upload handouts and just check that everything is running smoothly. Don’t try and do everything yourself as that’s when accidents happen and it’s very easy to get flustered if things are moving slowly. Having that second person there to help with the tech side is reassuring and means you are far less likely to make mistakes.


Top Tips

Something to really consider in online training is that you’re talking slightly slower than you were if you were doing a face-to-face session and making sure that you’re talking as clearly as possible.

When you give instructions, make it clear by giving them at least twice and post them in the chat function so there is some clarity around what is being asked.

People can find it harder to contribute online than in person so I’ve found that using their first name even more than you would in a face-to-face session and lavishing them with praise makes people more likely to contribute. They get that positive affirmation, and hopefully they’ll feel more comfortable to contribute moving forward.

The final thing that I would add is that it’s really important to make sure that you’re still building in reflection and recapping. So, on a face-to-face training session, I would always advocate your session being about 20% reviewing recapping or reflecting, and there’s nothing to stop you as an online trainer just getting people to take 60 seconds to write down any notes or reflections.

What would you say are your biggest takeaways from designing and delivering virtual training? Or perhaps you’d like to share your best top tip?

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.