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Benefits of live online training

Article by: Nancy Tobler
May 24, 2017

One of the key elements that I took away from the Herbalife case was the need to do and document distributor or representative training.

The need for training is not a new idea for direct selling companies—it’s the lifeblood of the industry. Direct selling companies exist by and through training. We use training techniques to explain both product information and compensation information.

There are five common training methods: face-to-face, live phone calls, pre-recorded phone calls, live online video, and pre-recorded online video. Each type of training provides a way to “get the word out.”

Today I want to discuss live online trainings because they are the easiest method for satisfying the requirements of the Herbalife settlement. Live online trainings allow you to capture data about who receives the training. With them, you can record the meeting to “prove” that representatives attended. But there are other benefits to live online trainings, aside from the concerns of regulators. Let’s get into them.

Interaction helps us learn

Live online trainings place both the trainer and the participant in the same online space at the same time. One of the benefits of live online training is that trainees can participate. Human interaction motivates us. If we know that we are going to be asked questions, or if we are going to participate in the meeting in some way, we are more likely to stay in-tune.

Not only does the thought of human interaction motivate us to listen, it helps us learn. When we talk through our successes and our concerns, our minds can create new connections that help us remember. Be sure to leave in time in the training to answer questions. Depending on how you like to train, you can tell the representatives to hold their questions until the end or to text their questions as you go. Either works, as long as you are comfortable with the system.

Predictability combats audience fatigue

What can you do to increase your live online training effectiveness? The first key to effective live online training is to recognize that participants may be fatigued. Research shows that the number of hours a person works influences the likelihood that they will drop out of trainings (Sitzmann, 2012). Most people who join direct selling companies work a full-time job and then work the direct selling business part-time.

In 2013 the Direct Selling Association reported that 94% of direct sellers work the business part-time. This means that most of the people joining your call have worked all day either in the home or at another job. 77.4% of direct sellers are women. 57% of women participate in the workforce. 68% of women with a child ages 3 to 5 work in the labor force. That means that a good portion of your audience has been at work and also has children to care for as well.

What can you do to help trainees overcome fatigue? Keep trainings short and predictable. You will need to keep the training short perhaps even as short as 5 to 10 minutes. You could have different lengths of trainings based on the type of training. For example, product demos may be kept short whereas compensation trainings may be longer. Even more important is that your trainees can predict how long the training will last. When you announce the training, you should also announce the length of the training.

Being on camera builds relationships

The last key is to use video to your benefit to build relationships. Many business trainings show a slideshow or the product and avoid video of the trainer’s face. Neuroscientists found that certain parts of the brain are activated more when we see faces (Rutishauser, 2011). The more familiar the face, the more specific and intense the brain activity appears to be. It is important to show your face and to smile. We know that if the person endorsing a product smiles then the audience has a more pleasant emotional experience of the endorsement (Kulczynski, Ilicic, & Baxter, 2016). The listener mimics the emotion of the person speaking.

Keeping the focus on your face also means you need to use some basic video technique. Here are a few tips I have learned from watching hundreds of online presentations.

Put the camera at eye level.

If you set your camera below eye level, we get the opportunity to look up your nose during the presentation. It can be distracting to have your nostrils as the primary focal point. We humans love eyes, so set your camera at eye level.

Put the light source shining on your face.

Often, a person’s office has overhead lighting which casts shadows on your face. Wearing a hat while presenting creates even more shadows. Buy a desk light that is high enough to be in front and slightly above you. Being lit from below your face has a spooky look. Again, we want the focus of the video to be on your face and your eyes.

Practice before the training.

Be sure to do a “dry run.” Practice and record yourself and then take a good look at how the presentation went. Do you have clear talking points? Do the attendees know why they are there? Are the visual aids large enough to be seen on a small screen? Do you know attendees will signal that they have a question? How will you handle questions? Is the camera at a good angle? Is the background distracting?


I am a believer in using technology to help bridge the physical gaps between us. The live online meeting is one way to create closeness similar to what we experience in face-to-face meetings. Trainings can be more motivating when they occur live. By following a few tips, you can create successful live online trainings.

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Hollingshead, A. B. (1998). Communication, learning, and retrieval in transactive memory systems. Journal of experimental social psychology, 34(5), 423-442.

Kulczynski, A., Ilicic, J., & Baxter, S. M. (2016). When your source is smiling, consumers may automatically smile with you: Investigating the source expressive display hypothesis. Psychology & Marketing, 33(1), 5-19. doi:10.1002/mar.20857

Rutishauser, U., Tudusciuc, O., Neumann, D., Mamelak, A. N., Heller, A.C., Ross, I. B., Philpott, L., Sutherling, W., & Adolphs, R. (2011). Single-unit responses selective for whole faces in the human amygdala
Current Biology, 21(10):1654-1660.

Sitzmann, T. (2012). A theoretical model and analysis of the effect of self-regulation on attrition from voluntary online training. Learning and Individual Differences, 22(1), 46-54.

Nancy Tobler

Nancy Tobler has a PhD in communication from the University of Utah. She specializes in research on how organizations change,...

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