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Hints and Tips for Delivering Online Business Continuity Training and Exercises

Author: Charlie Maclean-Bristol, Training Director, FBCI, FEPS

Find out what tips Charlie has taken away from two years of training delegates online and remotely.

It’s around the two year anniversary of the pandemic, therefore, this week I will be sharing some personal points I have learnt during this time. Having worked throughout the whole of the pandemic, I have had to adapt from always having to deliver face-to-face training to teaching online, which I have now gained a lot of experience in.

The following is what I have learnt:

1. You can do several days of training online

People are happy to spend a day or even a week on face-to-face training. When BC Training delivered their first CBCI Course, this BCI course is usually delivered face-to-face over four days. We had three different tutors to provide some variety, and wondered if students could concentrate for a full day online. The course is now delivered online with the same tutor for 5 consecutive days! This didn’t seem to have an effect on exam results.

2. Breaks

Similar to all training, students need a break! But, I don’t feel that students particularly need more breaks during online training than they do face-to-face. The only tip which I was given, which serves me well, is that you can’t go to the toilet and make a cup of tea in 5 minutes. You need seven minutes. So seven minutes is the length of my shortest break.

3. Worldwide

Training groups can now be worldwide without the expense of them having to fly to the UK. Over the last two years, I have trained people from all over Europe, Saudi, Egypt, Malaysia and Trinidad. Previously they had to adapt to UK time, however now, due to the time difference, I have seen myself get up at 3am to deliver training from 4am to 6am, then go back to bed for an hour and a half before getting up and continuing with the day job. When delivering training worldwide you should consider changing the timing to suit your audience.

4. Time and Money Efficient

When I used to get the train to London, I would have to leave home 24 hours before the training to travel to get there from Glasgow. With online training, I always turn up an hour early, but consideration of travel time, travel costs and accommodation are not required.

5. Interaction - Breakouts

I try to programme in at least two breakout interactive sessions a day to give the students a break from listening to me. I give them an exercise and put them into breakout rooms to complete said exercises. This gives them a chance to chat and learn from each other. I tend to give them longer than I would face-to-face, and leave them in the rooms for 15 to 25 minutes. The delegates always enjoy these sessions. This type of exercise usually takes less than an hour - set the task, get them into breakouts and receive feedback.

6. Interaction – Discussion

Discussions can work by saying, “who has a thought on this question” but online, I find that delegates are more reluctant to speak especially in front of people they don’t know. I have tried using the chat function for answers which works ok, but often people don’t type fast enough, some don’t bother, and the chat takes time to come through. When having a discussion, I ask each person to unmute and answer the question or give their thoughts on the discussion. This works well as everyone is encouraged to participate, they have to concentrate on the training as they could be asked a question at any time. My friend Mike Tierney gave me a great tip he uses during training. He’ll have a list of participants and puts a tick next to their name each time they interact. He can then see who has not been participating and ask them to answer the next question.

7. Action in Breakouts

When the delegates are in breakout rooms, I provide them with a sheet to fill in their answers rather than just have a discussion. The sheet also has the questions on them as sometimes they are not able to see the slides when you put up the answers. Each group should have their own sheet uploaded into the room. The sheet can then be used as a framework for feedback and then sent to the students at the end of the training.

8. Hybrid vs. Online Exercise

Hybrid is the new way of working therefore, I have run a number of hybrid exercises. They work ok, but what happens is that those on the video call tend to get forgotten, and find it difficult to interact with the team. Online exercises work well. At the beginning of the pandemic, we ran an exercise for 60 people which worked well. It was a mixture of presentations and then discussions on department groups in breakout rooms. Yesterday, I ran an online three and a half-hour exercise for a group of senior managers which I think worked just as well as if we had done it face-to-face.

9. Set up

I think it is worth making sure that you have thought about your training set-up, especially if you are carrying out several days of training.

a. Make sure your lighting is good as it has to cope with presenting in the day as well as in the dark. In Scotland, during the winter it gets dark very early so I would consider buying a ring light.

b. Raise your camera. I don’t normally do this for ordinary meetings, but if you are training, I always raise my camera by putting a couple of books under it.

c. Make sure you have a view of what the students see. I use my iPad to see what the students see, as with training platforms you don’t want to always be asking “can you see my slides?”.

d. Dress appropriately! Although the training is online, I think the tutor should be smartly dressed. A tie may be too much but wear at least a proper shirt.

e. Have your coffee and water ready at the beginning of the session.

f. Use a second screen for your notes or slide running list, saving on printing.

10. Start of the Day

We encourage students on the first day to log on fifteen minutes before the training starts. The tutor should be around to say hello, check they can mute and unmute and if their camera works. This allows people to sort out their IT issues before you start and they don’t turn up late. If they miss the beginning it can be difficult for them to catch up on how the course is going to run and they might miss the ‘all about the tutor slide’ which is my favourite one!

11. Timings

With online training, you have to plan right down to the second which is slightly different to face to face training. I use countdown timers or give a precise time. I let the students know that we will start again at 11am sharp and then start exactly on time, not even a minute late. This sets the expectation that people need to turn up on time.

12. Chat for Exercises

The chat function can be very useful for online exercises. It can be used to deliver injects or it can be used as the ‘voice of god’ if the participants are not sure of something within the scenario, such as if the IT isn’t working. I usually listen in the background during the exercise, and then can clarify that the IT is all up and working without interrupting the flow of the exercise.

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