Sink or swim with online training

Mr Cooper towers over our class of skinny, shivering 10-year-olds beside the local pool.

‘Today, we’ll practise surviving in a storm at sea,’ he says.

‘You were bailing out seawater with a bucket when your boat capsized. You have only the bucket, and you’re all alone in a huge ocean. Waves are smashing over your head and you can’t catch your breath. What do you do?’

Confused silence. (We live as far away from the sea as you can get.)

‘You put the bucket over your head. It makes a splash-free space round your face and you can breathe easily. Everyone get a bucket and jump in the pool.’

I’m the last one to grab a bucket, so mine is the smallest — so small that I have to wedge it onto my head. I jump in the deep end… and my red bucket fills with water.

That’s not supposed to happen. It’s so heavy! I can’t breathe, I can’t pull the bucket off, and I don’t know where the edge of the pool is. I panic and start drowning.

Strong hands pull me to the side and yank the bucket off my head. I’ve never felt more relieved.

Image of a bright yellow bucket on a sandy beach

We made our bucket the right size. Image by Courtenay Moore / Unsplash licence

Jumping in the deep end

I felt a similar sense of panic when the first lockdown hit and our normally bursting workshops calendar went from packed to empty in a few days. Like so many businesses, we were staring our demise in the face.

The obvious ‘bucket to put on our heads’ was online training — we’d dabbled in it before and used it with some of our overseas clients. But all our resources were created for a face-to-face environment. On top of that, our workshops were usually a day long.

Our bucket was way too tight and we knew it. But we jumped in anyway.

Small girl in togs jumping off a diving board into a public swimming pool

Jumping in the deep end. Image by Przemek P / Flikr licence

An online refuge

And here’s where Write’s story diverges from my primary school nightmare. We made our bucket bigger so it became what it was meant to be — a refuge from the storm. We broke our workshops into shorter, more manageable blocks. We re-made our resources so they work for people learning online. And we grappled with our technical gap until Zoom and Teams became happy places.

Now, I see live online workshops as another — welcome — string to my bow. It’s a different skill set from in-the-room training. Online, I find more opportunities to give people specific feedback on their writing than in face-to-face training. Participants also gain many opportunities to share their knowledge with their colleagues.

I can say with my hand on my heart that online workshops can be as thrilling and as satisfying as working with people in a room. Here’s one of my favourite quotes from a participant: ‘I didn’t really know what to expect, especially online, but finished the workshop feeling significantly more confident.’ Thanks, Maddie Walker!

And I love how paperless online training is! People don’t fly around the country to attend our workshops any more, and we don’t fly around the world — an environmental win.

Training has changed forever

We’re seeing a new trend that we call ‘Zoom and the room’ workshops. Some people attend online and the rest of the team are in a room with us. And why not? If the technology’s good enough, a team based in several countries can learn together.

I’m glad that technology allows us more flexibility in our work and our learning. People no longer think work needs to happen at an office. We’ve soldiered on from bedrooms, garages, and kitchen tables all over the world. So online workshops are here to stay, alongside face-to-face training and ‘Zoom and the room’.

Now that I’ve been metaphorically dragged out of the pool, and I have an adult-sized bucket beside me, I’m excited to see what my future holds as a trainer.

Insights, tips, and professional development opportunities.