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You have just been informed that your company is cancelling all domestic and overseas travel due to the coronavirus. This includes cancelling travel to the National Sales Meeting that you’ve been planning for months. Now what?  

Thankfully, with the right planning, you can deliver high-quality, engaging training to your sales force in a virtual environment. The following are some general considerations for running a virtual workshopand suggestions for how to transform live workshop activities into a virtual setting. Note that the specific tools, features, and technological capabilities available will vary by platform.  

General Considerations for Virtual Workshops 

Select the right technology for facilitation of the virtual workshops; consider the size of audience, available features, bandwidth limitations, etc.

  • Once a virtual meeting platform has been selected, ensure that all facilitators and participants have been properly trained on how to use it 

Develop a plan for how to deliver the various components of the training, accounting for the size of the audience and the fact that participants may be calling in from different time zones

  • some activities could be assigned as pre-work (eg, small groups of participants can discuss a topic or case study off-line and bring their findings to the meeting) 
  • didactic presentations could be pre-recorded for participants to access on their own time prior to the meeting 
  • discussion and role play-based activities are best conducted in smaller groups; consider developing smaller, time-zone specific virtual trainings, incorporating virtual breakout rooms, or using email distribution lists to place participants in off-line discussion groups 
  • virtual workshops could be reserved for those activities that would benefit from synchronized, group discussion  

When designing the workshop agenda, consider seat time

  • build in frequent breaks and place a ‘break’ slide on the screen during breaks with the time you will reconvene

Design a plan for how the workshop will be facilitated

  • identify a lead facilitator to take ownership over the workshop 
  • enlist additional facilitators to help monitor the chat feed, identify and resolve technology issues, supervise smaller group discussions in breakout rooms, etc. 

Prepare participants for the meeting

  • eg, communicate expectations, distribute the agenda and handouts, and assign necessary pre-work

Virtual Delivery Options

for Live Workshop Content

Presentations (eg, Medical presentation on disease state or clinical studies; Sales/Marketing presentation on promotional materials)  typically delivered during a general session.

Suggestions for Virtual Training

  • Pre-work option:  Participants view a pre-recorded presentation prior to the workshop and record notes and questions on a worksheet 
    • ask participants to bring their worksheets to the virtual workshop so that the larger group can share key takeaways and address any outstanding questions 
  • Virtual Presentation option: Schedule a few virtual presentations at different times throughout the workshop so that participants can call in based on their time zone 
    • incorporate “pulse checks” (eg, polling questions, true/false and other quick response questions) after each section of the presentation to ensure participants understand the concepts before moving on 

Poster Sessions (eg, self-guided tour of posters that provide information on a clinical reprint or promotional materials, or that provide a patient and/or HCP perspective on a disease) A series of posters display information about a topic; participants typically visit posters during General Session or between workshop sessions. 

Suggestions for Virtual Training

  • Provide content as a self-study PDFs or eLearning modules for participants to complete as Pre-worksupply a worksheet with guided questions for them to record observations 
    • reserve time during the virtual workshop for participants to discuss the module and share key takeaways  

Workshops (eg, topic-focused workshops on product/PI, treatment landscape, clinical studies, competitive selling, objection handling, messaging) Workshop attendees are placed into multiple breakout rooms; often work together at tables in smaller groups such as regions.

Suggestions for Virtual Training

  • Workshop attendees should be divided into smaller groups similar to how breakout rooms are used in a live setting; this could be accomplished through time-zone specific virtual trainings, use of virtual breakout rooms, or by using email distribution lists to place participants in off-line discussion groups 
    • conduct smaller meetings at the District or Regional level  
    • workshops may be staggered and run over the course of a few weeks  
  • Place participants into virtual breakout rooms to enable smaller group discussions, practice role plays, etc 
    • assign groups ahead of time and clearly name breakout rooms (eg, Northeast District)  
    • enlist a manager to act as “leader” for each breakout room to help facilitate discussions 
  • Use email distribution lists to assign participants into groups 
    • pre-specified groups meet at a set time via a conference call to discuss a topic, practice role plays, etc. 

Knowledge-based Games and Activities  (Participants perform various activities to demonstrate knowledge—compete in games, answer questions, complete workmats)

Suggestions for Virtual Training

  • Incorporate PowerPoint-based games that can be launched from a facilitator’s computer and displayed to all participants, which helps avoid bandwidth issues 
  • Ask participants to answer questions and complete activities that gauge their knowledge of the content 
    • use a variety of tools including polls, chat, matching, fill-in the blank, multiple-choice, true/false 
    • find ways to incorporate multiple participants at one time (eg, call on different reps for answers, incorporate polling questions, ask people to take turns recording information on a whiteboard) 

Case Studies (Participants are provided with a case study or scenario to discuss and analyze)

Suggestions for Virtual Training

  • Case study is shown on screen; facilitator walks through key elements of the case and leads discussion 
    • option to work through case in small groups in virtual breakout rooms 
  • Assign groups of participants to work on a case together as Pre-work and bring completed worksheet to meeting 
    • call on groups to share/discuss their cases; option to have them share their screen 

Discussion(eg, brainstorming, account planning) Participants work in groups to discuss an assigned topic; record notes on flipchart or worksheet.

Suggestions for Virtual Training

  • For smaller workshop sessions, pose short questions via chat to begin discussions and call on different volunteers to contribute  
    • use virtual whiteboard to record notes  
    • consider assigning different groups specific topics to discuss/brainstorm (eg, Group A thinks of competitive objections related to safety; Group B thinks of objections related to access) 
    • provide clear instructions for when and how you would like reps to participate (eg, raise your hand/use chat if you have something to contribute to the discussion) 
  • For larger workshop sessions, consider placing participants into virtual breakout rooms 
  • Have groups meet off-line prior to meeting to brainstorm and discuss a topic, and come to workshop prepared to share their key findings 

Selling Simulations, Role Plays & Verbalizations  (Participants pair up and practice delivering a sales call, verbalizing information from a promotional material, handling an HCP objection, etc.)

Suggestions for Virtual Training

  • Place participants into virtual breakout rooms (or use email distributions, time-zone specific VCTs, etc to enable smaller group discussions) 
    • share HCP scenario on screen and call on different pairs to practice verbalizing; other participants observe and share feedback 
    • option to engage multiple reps by engaging in round-robin activity (eg, one person opens the call, a second asks probing questions, etc) 
  • Regroup after breakout room role plays 
    • call on select pairs to demonstrate an effective verbalization 
    • ask participants to share best practices they observed in their breakout rooms, record notes on whiteboard 

Certification (Participants typically meet individually with a manager to be certified; manager/evaluator uses a checklist to ensure key points are addressed)

Suggestions for Virtual Training

  • After the workshop, schedule individual calls with representatives to conduct certification 
    • option to use videoconference or teleconference 
    • send representatives the scenario and pre-call planning form ahead of call to give them adequate time to prepare 
    • ensure the certifier has an evaluation checklist 

Train-the-Trainer (A separate, face-to-face training is often provided for facilitators to become familiar with the workshop activities and materials)

Suggestions for Virtual Training

  • Conduct a virtual training session for all facilitators who will be involved in the workshops (lead facilitator, those who will help monitor breakout rooms, those in charge of monitoring timing, etc.) 
  • Do a test run prior to meeting 

Helpful Articles and Tools

Virtual Meeting Participation

Harvard Business Review

Time Zone Planning Tool

A visual tool to show see if your virtual meeting times make sense globally

Free Meeting & Team Tools

Google and Microsoft are providing options


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