Virtual Training: How to Keep Your Participants Engaged in Today’s World

Virtual training has been around for years. Platforms such as: Adobe Connect, Zoom, GoToMeeting, and WebEx are among the many outlets that have provided the technology for online learning to ensue. Since the rapid spread of the coronavirus around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a new normal within the training development arena.


Virtual Training Today

Traditional person to person training courses and programs are being forced to be put on halt or transferred to a virtual platform. Although there are many voice risks and uncertainties around virtual settings, virtual trainings actually have many advantages. Virtual trainings can reduce costs, which in turn eliminates the travel expenses companies would have to shell out to fly their leaders to the program sites. It can also attract people from all over the world, which can increase profit. Once you have the participants enrolled, the big question is, how do you continue to engage these leaders across your virtual classroom?


Designing for Virtual Engagement

It is hard to keep participants engaged when you are competing against the biggest distraction machine: a computer. It’s your classroom versus email, Facebook, YouTube and other various outlets. It may be hard to get 100% engagement from your participants, but there are some ways you can design for engagement to increase your participation percentage. Increasing your participation can directly raise your retention rates.


Designing for engagement entails detailed brainstorming and thorough planning. It will be helpful to start with a storyboard and facilitator guides. Facilitator guides help with planning out the details of your classroom and helps keep your classroom consistent among multiple facilitators. Different virtual platforms have layouts where it can also help you with the flow of your classroom. Within these layouts you will be able to add breakout rooms and different pods for engagement. Pods such as: chat boxes, whiteboards, timers, polls, and Q&A’s. Incorporating these different pods throughout your classroom curricula will help keep your participants engaged. You should prompt for interaction at least every 5-7 minutes during your classroom. Polls are one of the best and easiest forms of interaction for participants. (Learn more about Adobe Pods here).

Be Visual

It is pertinent to provide content that is very visual for your learners. Having slides that include too much text within the slide is a sure way for your engagement to decline within your virtual classroom. Be sure to minimize your text on each slide and incorporate numbered and bulleted lists. It also helps to include audio and video, infographics, charts, and funny newspaper clippings to assist in reinforcing your topic. According to an article written on engagement in virtual classrooms, the authors found that visual imagery is related to higher levels of course engagement by participants.

Obtaining an Enthusiastic Facilitator

To help with executing your interactive and engaging content, you need an energetic and engaging facilitator. Your facilitator can make or break your virtual classroom. It is extremely hard looking at a computer for over an hour listening to a facilitator that can’t grab your attention. You remember being in college and sitting in your geology class listening to your lethargic professor talk about rocks? You can easily mentally check out and venture off to doing your own work or checking your social media.


It is essential to have a captivating and experienced facilitator who is able to attract and sustain participant’s attention. As well as foster development though their connection and transparency. Having an instructor that can connect with their participants on an emotional level by revealing past experiences and relatable stories, actively keeps students engaged. It also helps to have a facilitator that is experienced in facilitating online courses and programs and is well versed in the online platform that is being used for your virtual training.


Collaboration and teamwork are a huge part of leadership development training. It is a way to keep your students engaged while learning and also a great way for them to foster a team environment. Fostering this teamwork environment encourages your students to be open and transparent with each other in a smaller and more vulnerable setting.

You may wonder, “how can I keep the essence of collaboration among students within a virtual training classroom?” Easy! A lot of online learning platforms have the option to have breakout rooms within a classroom. These breakout rooms are similar to how you would breakout out your students into teams during an in-person training. This way, the participants can still be active with one another, share ideas and have deeper conversations regarding the content to gain a new perspective or understanding.Facilitators also have the option to pop in and out of these breakout rooms to check in on the participants progression and provide any input or additional instructions if needed.

Ultimately, this tool is a great way for interactivity among learners in smaller groups and to enhance engagement levels.


Although virtual training differs from your traditional in-person training, it is still possible to have a successful engaging online training program. Just remember the following tips when designing or redesigning your content and your engagement rates will increase:

  • Include interactions at least every 5 -7 minutes
  • Limit text per slide and use visual imagery
  • Seek a personable and engaging facilitator
  • Incorporate collaboration exercises among the learners throughout the training

In conclusion, keeping these tips in mind will help elevate your virtual training experience and engagement for your participants.


  • Lee, Alistair. Creating Virtual Classrooms that Engage. Adobe Connect, 13 Jan. 2020. Webinar
  • Ehrler, Mercy. “How to Best Engage Virtual Learners in a Corporate Training Event”. 16 Jul. 2019. Web.
  • Pulley, Phillip. “Visualize the Possibilities: Using Visual Elements to Enhance Online Learning”. 6 Jul 2018. Web
  • Pappas, Christopher. “5 Proven Ways to Engage Employees in Your Virtual Classroom”. 30 Dec 2015. Web

Designing During Uncertainty: A Visual Response to COVID-19

Visual design created in reaction to specific moments in time is always interesting to examine on its own merits. At the moment, many of the ads or visual content on our airwaves are doing their best to react to the unfortunate events of the last few months. Themes that recur often here include that of community, adversity, preservation, and hope (this last theme typically highlighted in support of whatever product is paying for the ad space). “It’s a sweet gesture, and a novel one too. Of all the things Taco Bell has given me over the years, a hug is not among them.”

Visual Design During COVID-19

At the same time, a lot of commercial work is sidestepping the crisis of the day entirely, and (understandably) leaning hard into escapist sentiments where they can. Particularly if their product is a new video game or season of TV. We won’t be examining these particular kinds of commercials in great detail here, but it is worth noting that just because a work avoids the topic of Covid-19 doesn’t mean it isn’t responding to it. In fact, it can be defining itself by presenting a contrasting message to stand out. For the moment, however, we will look at designs that have been appearing around the topic of COVID-19 itself. This can range from a direct approach, where the main topic might be presenting helpful or cautionary information, to a more indirect approach, where the topic acknowledges current events while also presenting their products or services like how they typically would.


What, So What, and Now What

Backing up for a minute, these visual design approaches to COVID-19 all tend to have one thing in common: They are all a synthesis of, or reaction to, information that is initially presented (in large part) as tables of numbers and other data. “[This] doesn’t inspire much action among the public because tables are dense, our brains don’t process them well, and nothing meaningful pops out.”[ii] Graphics created here are thus meant to touch on three general questions: 1. What 2. So, What? and 3. Now What?[iii] Essentially, we need to know what is the big issue at hand, why it matters to us, and what we can do about it (or what it will lead to if we do nothing about it). Ultimately, in a globally-impactful situation like Covid-19, “we need to take action quickly. Public health officials should take note of successful data visualization and designs used in other awareness campaigns. And we, the public, should ask for the data, presented with clear messaging and strong visuals.”[iv]


The Drawing Board

Many of these topics were addressed during the initial visualizations of COVID-19 itself. As the virus emerged as a newsworthy issue over the past few months, a group of designers was asked to create the initial graphics that would accompany media coverage. Drawing upon a range of backgrounds and expertise spanning both the medical and illustration fields, “one of the key things [these designers] had to keep in mind was to use colors that would communicate the gravity of the situation to the public.

[They didn’t want it to be too playful, but [they] didn’t want it to be scary either. [They] also wanted the structure to have a realistic feel to it.”[v] The compositions and renderings for the Coronavirus model were carefully considered, so as to make the final image “relatable, visually coherent for even a layperson, and of high design quality.”[vi] Colors therefore were chosen “to make sure they would harmonize with any published collateral. [Red] on gray, with orange and yellow accents, was the most arresting, [as] it just really stood out.”[vii]


Common Motifs

Following this development stage of the look of COVID-19 itself, designers naturally turned to creating supporting materials. Certain designs are fairly straightforward, the above graphic being a good example. “Graphic-wise this is fine,” if overly minimalistic,” according to one designer.[viii] The reds and blacks convey themes of urgency and somberness, and the iconography is both serviceable and straightforward. This kind of design has been used in many similar kinds of contexts over the years, generally as a warning or other cautionary visual design device. According to a report by Applied Ergonomics, “the salience of a visual warning can be enhanced using large, bold print,  high contrast, color, borders, pictorial symbols, and special effects like flashing lights,”[ix] all of which appear here save for the final item. Put another way, ““The simple visual aid of the color red in the United States will get some Americans to perk up and pay attention.”[x] In short, not necessarily the most inspired design, but there is some thought that went into its creation.


Another Take on This Approach…

This particular graphic uses a lot of the same visual design vocabulary, but in a much more detailed fashion. It organizes its information in an almost-flowchart style and likely falls on the busier side of the design spectrum. Whereas the previous design was minimalistic, this design, feels a lot more cluttered. That said, the content is useful, and as one designer states, “This graphic has some information. This is probably too much information, but seeing as how none of the text is too small to read, it’s a great graphic. I’ve learned a lot here.”[xi] Ultimately, this may speak more to whether your audience is experiencing your graphic by choice or by necessity, but it’s generally helpful to at least make the attempt to display  the information in a presentable way.


Many recent designs on this topic are a mixed bag, visually speaking. This particular image presents both distinctive visuals and helpful information, but much of the information here is only helpful in a very general sense. As one designer observes, “Nobody touches their face like that. You don’t have to tell me not to place my open palm over my left eye. I was never going to do that. Please revise the illustration to depict someone picking their nose right here, so that way I’ll actually learn.”[xii]


Simpler Can Be Better

While individual designers have a certain amount of discretion in crafting their images, it is interesting to examine how more official sources are visually presenting information related to COVID-19 topics. Above is a graphic currently used by the CDC.[xiii] It is a very clean approach. Everything is neatly arranged, with complimentary colors being used to highlight key bits of information. The composition is well-balanced, and simply presents facts that are likely on most people’s minds like how to avoid the virus if possible, what the symptoms are, and where to go for more information. Even the graphics here are simple, yet specific. The designer had very specific goals for these graphics, which were achieved quite effectively.


Different Approaches

Finally, there are some other recent (unofficial) ad spots using visual approaches that are worth discussing here. One campaign presents spoilers from streaming TV shows, the implication being that if you were staying home (and watching said TV show), you would not have been spoiled in the first place. “The concept seeks to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic by using the threat of spoilers to stop millennials from being tempted to [socialize] and encouraging them to binge on Netflix instead.”[xiv] It’s a very light-hearted, almost escapist approach, and stands out as an effective and unique call to action among a great many more grounded efforts.

Visual design aside, the motivations behind all these approaches are clearly good ones. The intent is to provide helpful information in a way that is easy to understand and implement. However, what is also clear is that solid design choices are just as important here as they are anywhere else. If a set of infographics is undercutting its message by presenting vague or contradictory visuals, that is unfortunately not going to be nearly as helpful as a commercial that is memorable, accurate, and well-staged. Please share some of the effective visuals you have recently seen in the comments below!

If you want to learn more about CATMEDIA’s creative process and approach click here!


[i] Schwartz, Addam. “Great. Now the Coronavirus is Infecting TV Commercials, Too.” N.p., April 2020. Web

[ii] Evergreen, Stephanie. “How Design Can Stop the Spread of the Coronavirus.” Fast Company, Inc. January 2020. Web.

[iii] Evergreen.

[iv] Evergreen.

[v] Kallingal, Mallika. “Meet the Illustrators Who Gave the Coronavirus its Face.” WarnerMedia. April 2020. Web.

[vi] Delbert, Caroline. “How Illustrators Created the Iconic Coronavirus Image.” Hearst Communications. April 2020. Web.

[vii] Delbert.

[viii] Kulwin, Noah. “Coronavirus is Causing Some Real Code-Red Graphic Design.” Bustle Digital Media. March 2020. Web.

[ix] Wogaltera, Michael S.; Conzolaa, Vincent C.; Smith-Jackson, Tonya L. “Research-Based Guidelines for Warning Design and Evaluation.” Applied Ergonomics 33. 2002. p. 221. Web.

[x] Evergreen.

[xi] Kulwin.

[xii] Kulwin.

[xiii] “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) – Communication Resources – Graphics and Images.” N.p. April 2020. Web.

[xiv] Ormesher, Ellen. “From Guinness Genius to Netflix Spoilers: The Best Coronavirus Spec Ads.” N.p. April 2020, Web.


Staying Connected During COVID-19: “We are on a journey together”

In times of adversity, it’s most important that we unify and stand together. Now, as we face the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) health crisis, it is more critical than ever.

Your health is our #1 concern

CATMEDIA began teleworking three weeks ago, in order to protect the health of our families and the families of our clients.

We understand that many families, communities, and businesses have been significantly impacted by this pandemic and want you to know that your health and well-being is our #1 concern.

As we persevere through this crisis and navigate the uncertainties, we realize that the next 30 or more days will continue to present obstacles as we all work to protect and preserve the health of our families and loved ones.

Just keep in mind, we will get through this.

We will prevail, and while we work through the difficulties of this pandemic, CATMEDIA remains committed to our five core values: creativity, quality of products and services, exceptional customer service, innovation, and integrity. We’ve consistently applied these core values to meet the ever-changing needs of our clients and will continue to serve you as needed.

We’re Here for You.

In the meantime, we’ve made the necessary adjustments to telework and observe social distancing safety precautions, so that we can continue to support your needs and provide first-class customer service. We’re here for you and remain committed to our clients during this time. Here is how our team is staying connected to each other and to our clients remotely:

  • Regular morning staff video conferences to check in on projects in progress
  • Contacting our clients about their potentially changing needs due to COVID-19
  • Conducting video presentations for clients remotely
  • Checking in on our employees and our clients about their health and well-being

We’ll be back in the office again, but for now, let’s stand together, and do our part to help stop the spread of this virus.

We thank you for the continued opportunity to serve you. Please be safe and take care of yourselves and your families.

– Catherine Downey, CEO and Founder of CATMEDIA

For more information on COVID-19, visit the Centers for Disease Control Prevention. (


CATMEDIA is an award-winning Inc. 500 company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1997, the company specializes in advertising, creative services, media production, program management, training, and human resource management. As a Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB), CATMEDIA provides world-class customer service and innovative solutions to government and commercial clients. CATMEDIA clients include Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).