Archive for the 'Other Articles' Category

Incredibly Inventive Uses of Excel

August is Inventor’s Month. Most people could name very famous inventors like Albert Einstein or Alexander Graham Bell, but what about Tim Berners-Lee, who essentially invented the internet or Katharine Burr Blodgett who created the non-reflective glass used on camera lenses and computer screens? And what about those who are astoundingly inventive with our favourite spreadsheet program, Excel?

Excel was designed for such things as Data entry, Accounting, Scheduling, Producing charts, Identifying trends and many other business uses, but with a surprisingly broad range of graphical options, and with the possibilities that VBA and macros offer, it can stretch well beyond its intended use. Even Excel’s designers and programmers could not have imagined some of the more inventive and unexpected uses of Excel.

Make Music with Excel

Youtuber Dylan Tallchief created a drum machine in Microsoft Excel, but didn’t stop there. He went on to create a fully functional Excel DAW (“Digital Audio Workstation”) called xlStudio. There’s a transport section with playback controls, a looping function, the ability to solo and mute tracks, and it even exports projects as .als files. You can try out xlStudio for yourself by downloading it for free on Google Drive.

Sudoku Solver and Generator

If you are a fan of Sudoku and are want new Sudoku games to play, this humble .xlsm file, utilising the program’s VBA capabilities is for you! It generates an unlimited number of different Sudokus and even solves ones that you are stuck on. Designed by Bruce McPherson, there is an explanation of how it was put together on his website and you can download it here.

Make a Realistic Digital Clock in MS Excel

It sounds impossible, but you really can make a realistic looking digital clock in MS Excel. Find out how in a series of videos on the excellent Excel Unusual website, which has a large number of different ‘unusual’ examples of Excel use. This one requires some work in PowerPoint and working with VBA.

A Working Flight Simulator

Another project from Excel Unusual uses the program to build a functional flight simulator. The visuals are basic, but still impressive and use the mouse as the joystick of the aircraft. It isn’t a ‘game’ as such, more of an exploration of just how far the limits of Excel can be pushed.  If you are interested, find out more and download the Excel Workbook using the link above.

Incredible Excel Art

Excel provides the tools for creating your own digital art. It requires creativity, but you can work using Excel’s basic shapes (or autoshapes) It will also take practice before you reach the standard of  Tatsuo Horiuchi, who layers countless Shape designs over one another to create seriously impressive artwork.

Take a look at some Horiuchi creations here.

Monopoly

One of the world’s most popular games, this example puts an actual Monopoly board into an Excel spreadsheet, which allows play with 3 different people.

Once you are familiar with the tools and functions in Excel, there is very little you can’t use it for. At Infero, we offer courses at all Levels of Excel. Once you have the knowledge, the only limits are your imagination.

Happiness Happens Month

August is Happiness Happens month. It is a whole month dedicated to celebrating what makes us happy. Its simple premise is that there is no limit on happiness. Moreover, happiness is contagious and can be shared with others.

The Secret Society of Happy People was founded in 1999. It instituted an “Admit You’re Happy Day” on August 8th of 1999. This wasn’t enough, however, so in 2000, they expanded the celebration to include the entire month of August.

Happiness is actually hard to define, although most of us would say that we know it when we feel it. In her 2007 book ‘The How to of Happiness’, Sonja Lyubomirsky defines happiness as:

 “The experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”

The most important thing to remember is that Happiness is a choice. It is also the case that just because you are happy it does not mean you are problem free. Happiness is not a destination, but rather a journey.

“To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive”

― Robert Louis Stevenson

The Stoics of Ancient Greece observed that happiness is about the quality of your thoughts. The essence of stoicism is this: no matter what is wrong with the world in general, and your life in particular, you can choose to be happy if you learn how.

“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”
― Abraham Lincoln

The idea of Happiness Happens is that people share the little things that make them happy each day with others. Making someone else happy is often one of the best ways to make yourself happy. You can make someone else happy by a simple kind gesture, from something grand like making someone a special meal, or simply by giving a compliment or sending a quick “thinking of you” message.  

 Happiness Happens can be observed by noticing more of these happy moments and sharing them with others. Use #HappinessHappensMonth in social media.  Just remember that Happiness Happens.

“Happiness too is inevitable”

― Albert Camus

The Ten Best Free Cloud Storage Services

Cloud storage is a computing model that stores data on the Internet and allows “anytime, anywhere” data access. Cloud computing providers manage and operate this data storage as a service, ranging from offerings for individuals to business plans for very large companies. Depending on the cloud service chosen, files can be backed up manually or automatically and then accessed via your web browser. Paid for plans can be very expensive, however, so we here at Infero have put together a list of the top-ten best free plans for you.

Is Cloud storage Safe?

Cloud storage companies typically use encryption to keep your information safe and two-step verification to ensure the right person has access to the account.

Zero-knowledge encryption is private, end-to-end encryption and means that no-one apart from you can access your data, not even the service you’re storing your files with. This is because encryption is performed on your local device before the files are transferred to the cloud. The downside is that if you lose your password, the data is gone forever.

Dropbox

Dropbox is the best known of cloud storage providers with 2GB on its free plan. It is easy to use, but its features are basic, although it does allow you to share your files publicly. It is possible to expand your free Dropbox storage up to 16GB by referring new users. Dropbox has suffered data breaches in the past and doesn’t support zero-knowledge encryption.

pCloud

pCloud’s has 10GB of storage free, but you are required to do additional tasks such as refer others to pCloud to get this. It has a built-in HD media-player that allows videos to be played and lets you build your own playlists from your saved music files.  It does not have zero knowledge encryption, however.

Sync.com

Sync.com has 5GB of free cloud storage, upgradable to 10TB of storage on its paid for plans There are no file size limits. It is one of the best free cloud storage options for Android, with an easy-to-use mobile app. It’s also one of the best zero-knowledge cloud storage providers.

Google Drive

If you have a Google account, you already have 15GB free of free storage. which seamlessly integrates with Google Docs. However, there are privacy concerns; Google has been known to scan users’ files without permission, and it doesn’t include file encryption. To get extra storage you will need a for paid plan, but extra storage can be shared with family members. There is also good support for backups.

MEGA

Mega calls itself “The Privacy Company” and has zero-knowledge encryption for files. New users get 50GB of free cloud storage, but this is temporary. The default free cloud storage amount on the free MEGA plan is 15GB; the extra 35GB expires after 30 days. Extra storage can be unlocked by installing the desktop/mobile apps and by referring users, but these too expire. There is end-to-end encryption for secure chats and integrated file versioning and recovery. However, transfer speeds are slow.

Amazon Drive

Amazon Drive offers 5GB of storage free for anyone subscribed to Amazon Prime, but as a service, it’s fairly basic, has few features, and no encryption for your files. Amazon Drive does have unlimited photo storage, and it is possible to create a shared “family vault” to combine and store shared albums. If you have Amazon Drive you may already have this, but not be using it.

Apple iCloud

Apple iCloud is simple. It is just there, available as a storage drive in your Mac Finder app, or as a backup solution for your iOS devices, with 5GB free online storage for Apple users. iCloud does come with two-factor authentication, and data is encrypted. It’s not zero-knowledge, but Apple has, in many high-profile cases, refused to give data to authorities. Upgrades are also relatively cheap.

Microsoft OneDrive

OneDrive is similar to Google Drive. It directly integrates cloud storage with Microsoft Office, i.e. you can save Word documents straight to your OneDrive storage. Free users get 5GB of storage, with a 20GB file-size limit. An Office 365 subscription, gets 1TB of storage. The storage can also be used with Microsoft’s mobile and desktop apps. Because of its seamless integration with Office, it is the best online storage for collaboration. Security wise, OneDrive offers encryption for files. Microsoft’s does, however, have a history of incidents regarding the privacy of its users’ data.

Box

It is geared towards businesses, but Box also offers personal plans. There is a desktop app for syncing between your computer’s hard drive and your account. The mobile app allows you to upload and access files online from your smartphone or tablet. There is 10GB of free storage with an individual file size limit of 250MB. Box for Office also lets you open, edit and save files in Box from within Microsoft Office

BT Cloud

All BT broadband customers get some storage space with BT Cloud, either 10GB, 200GB or 1,000GB depending on your broadband package. To find out your allowance, log into My BT and click on the ‘Manage BT Cloud’ button under ‘Your included extras’. It is possible to pay to get extra storage.

Keeping Your Online Storage Secure

It is important to keep your online storage and data safe:

  • Change your password regularly and don’t use the same password across multiple websites.
  • Don’t use predictable passwords.  Choose a secure password using a combination of key words and numbers.
  • If you struggle to remember large numbers of passwords, use a password safe or password manager to store them securely online.
  • Turn off the auto-upload function on services such as Dropbox or Google Photos. These services automatically save a backup version of your documents.
  • Keep your antivirus software up to date. 

12 Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste in Your Office

Plastic is a problem that we have all become increasingly aware of. Organisations like Greenpeace and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation report that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish, causing devastation to the  oceans and horrifying damage to wildlife We need to drastically reduce the amount of plastic that is being discarded each day. As we return to our offices, cutting down the plastic used there would be a great start. We’ve put together a list of ways to reduce plastic waste in your workplace.

Provide Unlimited Filtered Water

Single-use plastic water bottles are among the most common items we find washed up on beaches. Globally we use  a million plastic bottles a minute, which seems totally indefensible in countries where tap water is safe, clean and free.

Install a mains-fed filtered water cooler or put a water filter on the office kitchen tap. Filtered tap water tastes better and is healthier than bottled water. Encourage your colleagues to use reusable water bottles.

Encourage Staff to Bring Their Own Lunch

A lot of plastic waste comes from staff lunches Provide your staff with facilities to store and reheat food and encourage them to bring in their own lunch. This cuts out shop-bought sandwiches, ready-made meals and pasta dishes in single-use plastic packaging.

Reusables Items in Kitchens & Canteens

Provide reusable items in the kitchen and canteen areas and/or encourage colleagues to bring their own plates, cups, bowls, cutlery, lunchboxes, etc., as well as providing facilities for washing them after use. There is no excuse for disposable cutlery. A single plastic fork used for a couple of minutes will remain in the environment for many, many years to come.

Reduce Plastic in Tea & Coffee

Tea and coffee making produce an awful lot of plastic, but there are ways you can cut this down. Have milk delivered in reusable and returnable glass bottles. Use Find Me a Milkman for a local supplier.  Have sugar in paper packets or put into refillable tins, not in plastic pots.

Most tea bags have plastic in them. Use tea bag brands that avoid using plastic. As for coffee, use glass jars (just the lid is plastic) or tins of coffee.  Avoid machines that have single use pods. Have a cafetière available for staff. Of course, use reusable mugs and spoons.

Give Your Team Something Reusable

If you have budget, a great way to kick-start your plastic-free office environment is to give employees one reusable item, such as a water bottle, coffee cup or lunchbox. You can even brand these, if appropriate

Have Company Bags

Recent research has shown that reusable ‘bags-for-life’ are adding to the problem of single use plastics produced by supermarkets, as they are not being re-used. Make   canvas and biodegradable bags available in your office for your team to use, for lunches or trips to the shop. These can be Company printed to showcase your brand!

Recycle

This is obvious one and you are probably already doing it. Ensure that items are genuinely recyclable and are in the right bin. Here is a guide that shows you what can be recycled in the UK. Inform your team, clearly label recycling bins and minimise general waste bins. Use biodegradable bin bag options when possible.

Responsibly Source Your Office Supplies

Think carefully about office purchases, e.g. before buying toner, check if the supplier has a send back scheme for empties. It is even possible to request that suppliers use less plastic packaging by drafting a formal letter with guidelines of how you would prefer to receive your deliveries in future. Receiving less plastic will cut down on own your business waste costs. It may even cause a beneficial ‘ripple effect’ through the supply chain.

Promote an Anti-plastic Culture

Encourage good plastic habits amongst employees. Consider suitable incentives for team members who go out of their way to help reduce the plastic waste at the office. Encourage people to take practices home with them.

Organise an Outside Clean-up

Arrange a littler picking walk to help clear your local area of rubbish, or organise a park, river or beach clean with your team This could be worked into a team building activity where teams compete against each other to fill the most bags.

Share Successes and Inspire Others

Record improvements in the amount of recycling waste your organisation generates on a daily/weekly/monthly basis and report these back. Get the offices around your workplace involved by sharing useful articles, posts, tweets and blogs. Try to spread good practice and habits.

Ask Your Team for Ideas

The people with the best insights into how to cut plastic usage in are your team. They are the ones who know the biggest sources of plastic waste in your business. With a little prompting, they will come up with some brilliant ideas for doing things differently.

It’s important not to be disheartened. You will probably never eliminate all plastic from your office, but making consistent reductions in your plastic usage over time adds up to make a big difference.

Using less plastic in the workplace is not rocket science. It does require some time and investment and you will never achieve zero waste, because that would be virtually impossible. Cutting plastic use means recognising that we can’t go on treating an indestructible material as disposable waste. Once we do, we can come up with better ways of doing things, to protect our fragile environment.

Easy and Free Video Editing

Need to create Videos for Work?

Many people agree that the current health crisis may well have changed working patterns permanently, with more people working from home, even after lockdown ends. Because of this, many organisations are looking at creating company videos that can outline company procedures or systems.  We here at Infero recently came across a video editor that can do most of things that a professional video editor can do, but is entirely free.

Shotcut User Interface

Shotcut

Shotcut is a free, open source, cross-platform video editor and supports hundreds of audio and video formats. It offers many standard video editing features, and with a little practice is not that hard to use

Shotcut can be downloaded for free and is available in a portable version, that can be run without being installed. It is also available for Windows, Linux and Mac operating systems. Unlike many video editors, it’s a small download of only 184MB. It is updated fairly regularly, even though it is an open source app, and the first time it is run the app checks if you’re running the latest version.

https://shotcut.org/download/

Interface

Shotcut’s interface is sparse when first opened. On opening a video file and click the timeline button, however, you will see source clips in a panel at top left, a preview window at the top right, and the timeline along the bottom. The panels are undockable, allowing the interface to be customised, especially useful if using multiple monitors.

There are three interface colour themes: dark, light, and system.

Shotcut can do most things from Basic Joining and Trimming, creating transitions between video clips and also adding Text to videos

To apply effects to videos, open the Filters panel, hit the plus sign, and choose an adjustment; lighting and colour, for example), filter. Other filters include Opacity, Colour Grading Blur and five Old Film effects. A  Rutt-Etra-Izer filter creates 3D extruded distortion from a video image.

Shotcut will even produce a Picture-in-Picture (PIP) effect for your videos PIP is considered a filter. The tool provides handles for resizing and moving the picture in picture.

Titles and text can be added, and as with other effects in Shotcut, these are also considered Filters. There is even a 3D Text option, with five font choices, something not normally available in a free application.

Adding Text

  • Select the video track you want to caption.
  • Click the Filters tab at the top left of the timeline
  • Type “TEXT” into the search box. then choose one of the three options: Text 3D, Text Simple and Text HTML

Fix out-of-sync audio

It is annoying when picture and audio in a video aren’t in sync. This is easily rectified in Shotcut:

Right click your clip on the timeline and select Detach Audio. This drops the audio on to a separate timeline where you can drag it independently of the video until the two are in alignment. (If you cannot see the detached audio, expand your timeline so it is visible.) For precise adjustments, zoom into the timeline using the slider.

Although there is not any help documentation as such, the Shotcut site has a number of video tutorials available. We suggest you start with the introduction video that is available here:

https://shotcut.org/tutorials/

There is also a lot of help documentation available for Shotcut at: https://guides.lib.uoguelph.ca/Shotcut.

Essential Ergonomics Tips for Remote Workers

Under the law, Employers have the same health and safety responsibilities for home workers as for any other workers. Whether the home-working is permanent or temporary, there are some areas an employer should consider:

Working with display screen equipment

Those working at home on a long-term basis must be risk assessed for using Display Screen Equipment (DSE) which includes them doing workstation assessments at home.

For those working at home temporarily, home workstation assessments do not necessarily need to be done.

Employers should, however, provide workers with advice on completing a basic assessment at home. The HSE provides a downloadable workstation checklist here: https://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/ck1.pdf

There are also simple measures that can reduce the risks:

  • Breaking up DSE work with rest breaks (at least 5 minutes every hour) or change the work activity if possible.
  • Regularly change whilst working and don’t remain static.
  • Periodically move around and try stretching exercises
  • Changing work activity focus and blink to avoid eye fatigue.

There is more help from the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors for people working at home here https://www.ergonomics.org.uk/common/Uploaded%20files/Publications/CIEHF-Working-from-Home-Infographic.pdf

Specialised DSE equipment

If employees have specialised DSE needs, Employers should meet these where possible.

Workers can be allowed to take equipment, such as keyboards, mouse, riser etc. home.

If a worker normally uses items such as ergonomic chairs or height-adjustable desks, try other ways of having a comfortable working environment, such as supporting cushions.

Reviewing DSE arrangements

If temporary home working extends, regular discussions should be had and, assessments made and additional steps put into place if required. Areas that should be checked include:

  • Developing aches, pains or discomfort related to temporary DSE arrangements
  • Possible adverse effects of isolated working
  • Employees possibly working longer hours without adequate rest and breaks

If home working is made permanent for an employee, the full responsibilities of an employer under the law come into effect and full workstation assessments need to be done, with workers provided with appropriate equipment and advice.

Reviewing DSE arrangements

Workers may be using tablets and smart phones at home. These, too, have ergonomic issues and areas that need to be considered:

  • Texting and other small-screen use can be stressful on the thumbs. Limit this to no more than 10-15 minute sessions.
  • As with other DSE equipment, stretch often when spending extended time on a device.
  • Posture should be thought about. Use something to support your arms and don’t hold them aloft for long periods. Don’t maintain a bent-neck posture.

Other areas may need to be considered when assessing home working ergonomics, including lone working and stress and mental health.

How to Get a Job in Project Management

If you have excellent communication skills and a gift for organisation, project management could be for you. It might be something that you have always thought about, but just how do you get started?

 

What is a Project Manager?

 

Project managers oversee processes from start to finish. They are essential to the smooth running of an organisation and can work in a variety of sectors, from business and construction to IT, marketing and retail. Project managers ensure projects are delivered on time and to budget, by planning and organising resources and people.

 

It is possible to become a project manager, even if you haven’t previously worked in a similar role. You may already have some of the skills required. Many of the attributes needed to be successful in project management, such as leadership and time management, may be things that you have acquired in previous work or education. Any experience leading and organising the activities of a team will be valuable.

 

This could include things such as the completion of a successful project at university, a new initiative you manged in a previous role, or leadership of a team or club outside of work could potentially show off your project management skills. Even planning an event such as a charity evenings or weddings, may be useful.

 

What skills do Project Managers Require?

 

The skill set you start with is important, but it is important to improve your knowledge of project management processes, techniques, frameworks and tools, and develop the right soft skills required.

 

– Time management – it’s important to be skilled in managing your own workload, as a project manager must prioritise and delegate tasks for others successfully.

 

– Organisation – A project manager organises the work of others, so cannot be unorganised themselves. You’ll be responsible for setting goals, managing meetings and tracking the progress of a project.

 

– Communication – Much of a Project manager’s time is spent liaising with others. You need to clearly state ideas, goals and project issues to a variety of people; in written form with reports and verbally in meetings and presentations. Good listening ability is also essential.

 

– Negotiation – As a Project manager you may need to work with teams with competing interests to negotiate resources and schedules.

 

– Risk management – Identifying and managing risk is extremely important. Being able to predict and create solutions to problems before they arise may be the key to delivering projects successfully.

 

– Leadership – You have to lead your team, as well as just manage their activities. You need to be able to inspire and motive your colleagues.

 

Project Manager Entry Level Positions

 

Even when you have worked on the skills that you require to become a Project manager and have some experience, it is still the case that many Project Management positions will still not be attainable.

 

It may be the case, however, that there are entry level positions that could require little of no experience to get started such as Junior Project Manager, Project Assistant, and even Product Assistant. These allow you to building your experience up while you work, gain more knowledge and perhaps complete a Project Management qualification.

 

Project Management Courses

 

It is not a requirement for being a project manager that you have Project management qualifications.  It is not even necessary that you have knowledge of the area that you are project managing to be able to successfully complete a project, although it definitely helps and , for more specific project management roles, such as those in engineering or IT, subject knowledge is more important.

 

Whatever route you take into Project management, it is the additional knowledge gained through professional qualifications and short courses that will help you to progress as a project manager. And you will not always have to complete these qualifications before finding employment, as the many employers will fund these as on-the-job training.

 

Courses are available in the various project management methodologies, such as:

 

PRINCE2 – A structured methodology, commonly used for end-to-end project management. Courses are available at foundation, practitioner and agile level. Foundation courses are suitable for new recruits with a basic knowledge of project management processes.

 

AGILE – Suited to environments such as IT, where there may be constant change, as the methodology uses short development cycles to focus on continuous improvement in the development of a product. Training is available at foundation and practitioner level.

 

Industry certification can also be gained through the Association of Project Managers (APM) and the Project Management Institute (PMI).

 

Common Project Management Interview Questions

 

To make sure you’re well prepared for a job interview read our previous blogs on preparing for a Job Interview here http://wp.me/piy8w-Cb and here http://wp.me/piy8w-Cr.

 

Also pre-prepare your responses to these specific, common project management interview questions:

 

  • What project management methodologies are you most familiar with?
  • What are the most important qualities of a project manager and why?
  • How do you plan a schedule for a project?
  • How do you allocate resources?
  • How do you ensure your team stays on track to meet project deadlines?
  • How do you motivate a team?
  • Two key stakeholders have opposing views. How do you manage this?
  • What did you find most challenging about your last project?
  • What is the most complicated project you have managed? How did you handle it?
  • What was your most successful project?

 

It is entirely possible that you can achieve your goal of a job in Project Manager. Infero Training delivers course in PRINCE2 and in Microsoft Project.

Make Project Management Easier with Microsoft Project

Project

 

It is possible that you have heard of Microsoft Project, but have never used it. It isn’t included in the standard editions of Microsoft Office, which is why it is relatively unknown. It is, however, a powerful piece of software that can streamline Project Management. In this article, we set out its capabilities.

1 – Planning, Tasks and Resources

Project managers can use it to develop plans, assign resources to tasks, track progress, manage budgets and analyse workloads. Perhaps its most useful feature is it’s ability to see a project in a number of different views.  A View in Microsoft Project is a representation of data in the form of table and graph.

2 – Many Different Views

Essentially, the project can be viewed from different perspectives and representations, all from one platform. These views can also be customized providing particular solutions for specific projects. In the latest versions there is even a Board view, that looks like a traditional Kanban board.

3 – The Gantt Chart

The default view is the Gantt Chart view. This has two sections; a Table on left hand side and Graph on right hand side. Traditionally a Gantt Chart contains Tasks names, tasks duration, start and finish dates and a bar chart drawn to show the tasks duration over time.

There is also a Network Diagram view, a Team Planner view, a resource usage chart view, a calendar view, and many, many more.

4 – Create Tasks and Timelines

Microsoft Project helps planning and scheduling, by allowing the definition of project tasks and setting the prioritisation of these. A Timeline view can be added to identify important tasks and Milestones in the project.

5 – Customised Reports

Project has extensive reporting facilities, allowing complex and detailed reports to be generated very easily. As well as built in reports, it provides the facility to create custom reports that meet your own organisation’s requirements. Reports include burn down reports; an overview of the entire project on one page; the conditions of available resources and their utilisation; a cost overview; a list of pending tasks; and a list of targets achieved and upcoming goals.

6 – Easy Resource Management

There are a number of tools in project that allow effective resource management, allowing the tracking and monitoring of available resources. Project also allows the assignment of costs to individual resources, and check if certain resources are being overused or underused. Tasks can be correctly assigned to match resource availability. A Resource Pool can even be created that can be accessed by multiple projects.

7 – Subprojects and Master Projects

Smaller projects, being looked after by different teams can be merged together into a Master Project, but still exist as separate entities, allowing a lot of flexibility on how the projects are managed, whilst still showing how smaller projects fit into a larger overall Project.

Project is a very flexible tool that is extremely useful for project management. It is also quite simple to master. Infero Training offers courses in Project at all levels. Click here to find out more:

https://www.inferotraining.com/course/project-courses_c_58_64.html

Part 2 – Delivering in the Virtual Classroom

InkedVirtual Training-Infero-Training

 

When delivering Virtual Classroom Training, it is important to remember that just because something works in normal classroom training, it does not mean that it will also work in online training. Not only does material need to be adapted for the online setting, but trainers too need to adapt their delivery, their training methods and the whole approach that they take.

 

Engaging a remote audience is entirely different from engaging one face to face and many of the visual clues that trainers normally make use of will not be available. In some Training sessions, there may be long periods when you cannot see or hear your audience.

 

A virtual Classroom Trainer should be able to type quickly and communicate clearly and concisely.
They should also be patient, as virtual classrooms produce lags in communication. This means allowing pause time for people to connect, or type answers.

 

Virtual Training is a skill that can be learned, like any other, but these are some of the things that you should consider.

 

Final Preparation

 

  • Be prepared for anything that can happen with the technology and equipment and have plans in place. Practice with the learning platform and record yourself to review how you are doing. Be confident and sure of yourself.
  • On the day check everything again. Enter the virtual classroom early and check the connection and audio. Invite trainees to join the training 10 minutes early to “live check” audio and visuals.
  • Make ‘eye contact’ by looking straight into the camera, not down at any notes. Have an interesting but not distracting background. Practise, practise, practise!

 

Keep Trainees Engaged

 

  • In all training, learners should be involved. This is especially true in a virtual Classroom; don’t talk at attendees, talk with them, engaging them in the conversation. Do this right at the beginning of the training, so that delegates feel comfortable from the start.
  • Use Ice-Breakers: If it fits and especially in a long session, start with an interesting ice-breaker.
  • If possible, and taking into account bandwidth and screen space, ask people to switch on their camera. Do this at least at the start of the training. This will help both you and your delegates to settle and massively help interactions.
  • Get to know the students as much as possible and note names at the beginning of the session, so that you can call on them individually during the training.
  • Use Interactive learning activities that involve the participation of everyone. Exercises. Discussions. Games.
    Within the limitations of the Platform that you are using, try to make slides as interesting as possible. Avoid bland, over-wordy slides.
  • Make it relevant by asking how the subject matter relates to trainees, either personally or professionally. Ask Interesting and Thought-Provoking Questions.
  • Limit Chat Moderation: It is good to limit cross-talk during a presentation, but allow people to talk to you and each other whenever it is possible during the training.
  • Hold Think-Pair-Shares with Breakout Groups: If your platform support break-out rooms and if it fits, place delegates into pairs and groups to discuss, complete exercises and report back to the group.
  • Try to change thing and get interactions from delegates every five to ten minutes. Don’t go any longer than this, as delegates will drift off. If you are inventive enough, get trainees to use their smart phone to respond to exercises. Play games together. Connect people, share stories and tips on what works for them.

Structuring a Virtual Classroom

 

  • At the start of each session, after a break, do a formal check-in, ensuring everyone is back and happy so far. End with a check out and ask individually if they have any questions.
  • Keep concepts clear: Be extremely clear what are the key messages, concept and learning areas are. Do not be afraid to repeat the same message many times.
  • Try different things: Use polls, breakout sessions, whiteboards, ask people to draw on screen, unmute people, annotate etc. Things will go wrong, but don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself as you use all of these tools. Tell delegates to expect glitches and make a joke out of them.

 

It is possible to create a successful, engaging and even fun Virtual classroom. Remember to keep things interactive and start (and end) with your delegates. After all, they are the people who the training is all about!

Part 1 – Preparing For Virtual Training

 

InkedVirtual Training-Infero-Training

 

From a Trainer’s point of view, preparing to deliver Virtual training is quite different from normal face-to-face classroom learning. It requires acquiring new skills and perhaps adapting the normal method of delivery of a subject. In a series of Posts, we here at Infero are going to take you through planning, preparing and delivering a successful Virtual training session.

 

Platform and Equipment

 

The first and most important step is to invest In Stable, Reliable Virtual Technology. It is a mistake to not take time and effort to find the best platform for the training that is being delivered. There are lots of online meeting platforms, the most well-known being GoTo Webinar, WebEx and Zoom. Before deciding on which is the best for you, think about the following:

 

  • Is the training for small groups, large audiences, or both?
  • Can the training be accessed on multiple platforms and devices, such as phones and tablets?
  • Do you need a platform specifically designed to support learning delivery?
  • Does the platform allow the upload of shareable files and content to a secure location?
  • What are the platform’s messaging capabilities and how can they be used effectively?
  • Will the Training need Whiteboards, break-out rooms, annotation tools, the ability to look at attendee’s screens and other such tools?

 

Before deciding on a particular product, it may be useful to sign up for the free time-limited trials that many platforms have. They can be tried out to see if they are a match for your Trainers and for your material.
It is also really worth Investing in a Hands-free Headset, with a good quality microphone. Make sure it fits well and is comfortable, as you may be wearing it all day.

 

Preparing for Technical Difficulties
When delivering virtual training, technical problems will happen. There can be issues with sound/video, attendees being unable to connect to or access the meeting, the trainer’s machine crash and more. Prepare by:

 

  • Trying to anticipate all possible problems and have a plan in place to address each one. As a trainer rehearse and practice with the software as much as possible. Practice, Practice, Practice.
  • Having backup equipment and solutions ready if something fails.
  • When picking the platform that you are going to use, ensure it has good technical support.
  • Preparing attendees: they should know how to set up their systems and have the appropriate software installed beforehand.
  • Keeping the Technology as simple as possible, but make sure it is reliable and you have tested it properly.

We all know Murphy’s Law, but don’t forget O’Toole’s Law: Murphy was an optimist.

 

Prepare the Physical Space

 

The space and environment also need preparation. not just the technology.

 

  • Consider the background – a clear wall is best.
  • Check the light source – generally it is best if the light source comes from behind the screen.
  • Think about seating and standing positions when training and how to transition, if you plan to do both.

 

Training Material

 

It may be useful to look at and the training material you plan to use. Ask if the content can be divided into smaller sections, delivered in shorter sessions. Remove any excess material. Use visual aids but keep words and images to a minimum. Get rid of anything you don’t need.

 

Preparing is just the start, however. Come back again for our next post on delivering successful Virtual Online Training,