// Blog

Virtual and In-Person Training Are Different in These 6 Ways

blog author
Written by Andy Springer
Chief Client Officer

Ask the question, “What needs to happen at your company for successful virtual training now that sellers are working remote?” and you’re likely to get answers like this:

  • Facilitators need to engage participants
  • Content needs to be relevant to the buyers and scenarios sellers face
  • Sellers need to practice the new skills
  • Training needs to be dynamic and interactive

It's a nice list, but not unique to virtual instructor-led training (vILT).

Indeed, the answers tend to be the same to the question, “What makes for good in-person sales training?”

Sales enablement and sales leadership are looking at this list and thinking, “Okay, let’s take the training programs we have that we deliver in person and post them online using a video conference platform.”

This is a trap that too many sales organizations are falling into right now.

While the list above is relevant to both in-person and virtual training, the dynamics of virtual training and how you approach the above are quite different.

Here are 6 areas where these differences stand out:





Social Interaction

Happens organically

Deliberate planning needed


3D, multi-sensory environment, easy to hold attention and engage

2D through computer screen, hard to get and keep attention and engage


Rely on presence to bring content to life and create emotional connection

Need to use technology and design to create emotional connection


Few distractions, easy to manage

Massive distractions, hard to manage and control


Can consume 8 hours of content in a day

Deliver in short bursts up to 90-mins for optimal adult learning


Simulated through case studies and role plays

Apply to real opportunities in between sessions


  1. Social Interaction
    In-person: When you meet in-person there is a sense of togetherness and social intimacy. You have side conversations and get to know people. Facilitators take nonverbal cues from the audience and adjust accordingly. There's an emotional connection between participants and the facilitator. Oxytocin is often released, and stronger social bonding follows.

    Virtual: In a virtual environment, that social connection is much harder to create and foster. It requires deliberate attention and planning. Instructors need to call on participants, create small breakout groups for participants to work together, create team challenges, and allow time for chats that naturally happen during lunch and breaks. The more social interaction and emotional involvement, the greater the engagement and motivation you’ll see from participants.
  2. Dimensions
    In-person: In-person training is 3-Dimensional. You're physically there. In the room, you have the projector, whiteboard, flip charts, face-to-face discussion, physical workbooks, tools, and more. You engage with all your senses—sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste (yes, we like to include snacks at our training so no one gets hangry). All of this makes it much easier to capture attention, create engagement, and foster a sense of connectedness.

    Virtual: With virtual learning, you must engage in a 2-Dimensional environment. Training needs to be purpose-built for this. You need different forms of visuals, moving rapidly to hold adult learners’ attention, keep them engaged, and tap their emotions. You need to use virtual learning tools and technology such as breakout rooms, dynamic whiteboards, quizzes, polling, and team challenges. Different attention and engagement rules apply.

    Transitioning to a 2D environment requires a lot more thinking and instructional design than taking the physical classroom and jamming it into a computer screen.
  3. Facilitation
    In-person: In a physical classroom, a great facilitator takes the content and brings it to life. They rely on their presence to create an experience people love. It’s a rational and emotional experience that the participant goes through on their learning journey.

    Virtual: Facilitation in a virtual environment is much more challenging. Facilitators have to deal with all of the challenges outlined here: distraction, lack of social interaction, a 2D environment, and more. They can’t rely on their energy and physical presence. Plus, they need to know how to use the technology to their advantage and deliver at a much faster pace to hold participant attention.

    Facilitators need to be trained to succeed in a virtual setting. It takes some time to develop these ‘digital senses’.
  4. Distraction
    In-person: Away from the office and in a classroom, you remove most distractions from the learner. You're putting them in a new environment optimized for learning. It’s an immersive experience.

    Virtual: With sellers working at home, they’ve never had to deal with more distractions. Children running around the workplace and being homeschooled, pets, the non-stop news cycle, housework, etc. During virtual training sessions, you’re competing for participant attention.
  5. Timing
    In-person: When immersed in a classroom for multiple days of training, sellers can consume 8 hours’ worth of content as it’s broken up by instruction, small group exercises, and case studies.

    Virtual: The timing of virtual training is one of the most important factors to consider. We think of training in 90-minute sessions, which is the sweet spot in terms of how long you can hold an adult learner’s attention. Any longer than that and the audience will max out on the content they’re able to consume.
  6. Practice
    In-person: During in-person training, participants practice new skills through case studies and role-plays and get real-time feedback from facilitators.

    Virtual: One of the major benefits of virtual instructor-led training is the ability for participants to practice new skills in between sessions with real opportunities. They don’t just practice the skills with other participants and case studies. They put the new skills to the test and bring back their successes and failures so they can rapidly improve.

    Homework assignments are often completed with high rates of knowledge transfer because:
    • Learning is chunked into a manageable size
    • Accountability is driven at follow-up sessions (no one wants to be called out for not doing their homework)

Transitioning from the traditional classroom to a virtual one is an entirely different experience for participants and facilitators. Consider the six differences outlined here as you look to convert your in-person training to virtual.

Download: 9 Principles of Virtual Learning Success
Published May 13, 2020

Topics: Sales Conversations Virtual Selling