Date: August, 2021 | Autho(s): Dorette Lochner

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Return of face-to-face training

Classroom sparks nerves and excitement in equal measure


Hello again to all our fellow trainers and facilitators! As I reflect on the past 18 months, I wonder how similar your experiences have been to ours. The biggest shock came in March 2020 when all face-to-face training was cancelled. It was a huge blow that effectively wiped out the rest of the year – but don’t think for a second that we just sat around twiddling our thumbs! In fact, 2020 turned out to be a year full of innovative developments and hard work, a year in which we became experts in online instruction and virtuosos of virtual training. Today, business is booming, and we are really enjoying our online training interventions. Yet we have sometimes missed that special group feeling that you only get face-to-face. So now that we have finally reached the amazing moment of returning to a traditional classroom and interacting with our participants in the real world.

We’ve been discussing how it feels:

“After all these years, I had almost forgotten the meaning of stage fright, but suddenly it hit me! Standing in front of a group again certainly gets the adrenaline pumping.”

“As a trainer, you get far more energy back from the participants when you’re all in the same room. In online sessions, trainers have to put in a lot more energy, but they get less back.”

“Group dynamics are much more intense in face-to-face seminars than they are in a virtual classroom. When you’re in the same space, you have to allow for more debate, discussions and questions, so I had to work hard to stick to the timetable!”

“The great thing about a classroom is that you have all the participants right in front of you. You can see how people are interacting, identify who needs help because they haven’t understood the instructions, and spot people who are debating in whispers or clamouring for attention. Some people follow everything, while others have doubts or questions – it’s much easier to read the room and respond quickly and appropriately.”

“I love using eye contact to keep everyone involved, and that obviously works much better in face-to-face training than online.”

“Something I’ve adopted from online training is to take shorter, more frequent breaks rather than one longer break every 90 minutes. It seems to be something that participants like. But the way people behave when we take a break has changed since the pandemic, with more people looking at their smartphone instead of chatting to the other participants. I’m wondering if that’s just a phase that will pass.”

“During the pandemic a large part of my wardrobe went into lockdown, too! So when I held my first in-person event, I had no idea what to wear, or which items even match.”

I won’t try to generalise about whether online or face-to-face learning is better. Since our real working lives involve both in-person and virtual forms of communication, then it makes sense to incorporate both these styles into our leadership and communication training. And since all learners are different, offering both these options seems to be the best way to meet our customers’ needs. In 2022, we plan to offer our customers a hybrid mix that will make it easy for them to switch from one format to another. Because we are still very much living in a VUCA world.