Online Vs. In-Person Training – The 2020 Smackdown and what we’ve learnt from the Pros and Cons of online and in-person training.

As the head trainer, I used to sweat a lot.

I’d be in a huge conference room, facilitating 100 people for 3 straight days. We’d present, run workshops and get people activated and charged up. And the more they charged up, the more sweat streamed down my face.

Exhilarating and exhausting. For both of us. Myself and the audience.

It’s been 7 months since we ran an in-person training session. We went from a 100% person-to-person service to purely digital, overnight. Every training session since February has been held online.

However, this pivot unlocked the opportunity for us to explore the pros and cons of online vs in-person training. We learnt that both have their merits and their shortcomings and I thought I’d share them with you here. But before we go there it’s important to understand how we reshaped our training to accommodate digital demand.

The structure of our training sessions:

What our in-person training looks like:

3 consecutive days of full-day training and workshop facilitation. Sessions are held and people break out into workshops to interact with the content and learnings. 

What our online training looks like:

2x 2-hour sessions spaced out over 4 days. “Homework” is given to the audience to go away and interact with learnings and content in their own time.

With the above in mind, we noticed the following pros and cons of online and in-person training:

The pros of in-person training

  • Tangible
    You can get really down and dirty with your audience and be right there with them to address any of their problems.
  • Physical presence
    In-person training frees a person from distractions. It’s more taboo to be on your phone and the people around you force you to interact.

The cons of in-person training

  • It’s exhausting
    Smashing 3 consecutive days worth of content in your audience’s face is tiring for them. Although we always receive really positive feedback, it has often been from very tired, happy customers. In-person training can be mentally draining for your audience.
  • The attention investment is high
    3 full days is a lot of attention to ask of people when time is precious. We’ve learnt that to internalise information, does not require attention quantity but attention quality.

The pros of online training

  • Information retention
    For us, going online meant we could break up our sessions and give people a long time to do “their homework”, decompress and interact with their learnings and content in their own time. We found that this had profoundly positive effects on information retention.
  • Better Questions
    With time to mull over the topics learnt the previous day and interact in their own time with the content, we found that audiences came back with better questions. This showed us that the information was really being digested.

The cons of online training

  • Online fatigue
    Working remotely has meant a total surge in back-to-back meetings. Look at someone’s calendar and it looks like a completed Tetris game (with one shape)! It’s a fight to stay mindful of people’s time and human needs (like coffee and toilet breaks).
  • The fight against distraction
    With digital comes the perpetual fight for an audience’s attention. Whether on desktop or mobile, they’re constantly being pinged away from you. We’ve had to come up with innovative ways to let them play and be distracted within your actual session. Here’s how you can keep your audience engaged online.


We’ve seen significant increases in information retention and content engagement since taking our courses 100% online. But there isn’t a silver bullet. In this smackdown between the pros and cons of online and in-person training, there is no clear winner. There is only one clear distinction. Right now, the demand for online training is higher. Get it wrong and you’re bound to lose your audience within 10 minutes. But get it right and your audience’s return on attention will be incredibly rewarding. Learn more about presenting online here!

How to present online like a pro


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