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Train your distributors online in real time

Person studying and learning - Knowledge concept

One of the key elements that I took away from the Herbalife case was the need to train your distributors and keep records of distributor trainings. Training is not a new idea for direct selling companies—it’s the lifeblood of the industry. We use training techniques to explain both product information and compensation information. Trainings are often a part of a company’s value proposition. But following the Herbalife settlement it seems wise for companies to change their training strategies in two ways:

  • Start training new distributors on business basics.
  • Start capturing data that demonstrates which distributors completed the training.

The easiest method for achieving that second change is through live online training—that is, training delivered in the form of a video call or webinar. If you deliver your trainings in this format, you can record the meeting to prove which representatives attended.  Live online trainings make it possible for trainers and trainees to interact with each other regardless of where they’re located. Interaction helps us learn and build relationships. Let’s get into the benefits of and best practices for live online trainings.

Interaction helps us learn

One of the benefits of a live online training is that trainees can participate. A live online training places both the trainer and the participant in the same online space at the same time. 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 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. Keep this in mind when you are training. Schedule time to answer questions. Depending on how you like to train, you can tell trainees to hold their questions until the end or to submit their questions as you go. Either option works, as long as you are comfortable with the system. Most video conferencing software offers a variety of options for controlling and facilitating this process. If your trainees don’t ask questions, then you can ask them questions to get the interaction started.

Interaction during training also helps you, the presenter. Staying aware of your audience and prepared to answer questions makes you a more dynamic speaker. If you have to record a training which the audience will watch after the fact, then visualize a live audience while you record. Imagine them interested and willing to learn. The audience is a dynamic part of the presentation event.

Being live on camera builds relationships

Direct selling connects people. The relationship aspect of direct selling provides the basis for trust. Live online training let’s you use video to build relationships. Many business trainings show a slideshow or the product and avoid video of the trainer’s face. This is a mistake.

Neuroscientists found that certain parts of the brain are activated more when we see faces (Rutishauser, et al. 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.

Tips for good video technique

Going on camera might make you nervous but if you know some basic video techniques, you’ll do fine. Here are a few tips I have learned from watching hundreds of online presentations.

Combat audience fatigue.

What can you do to increase your live online training effectiveness? One 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 the training short. You will need to keep the training short perhaps even as short as 5 to 10 minutes. You could have different lengths of training based on the type of training. For example, product demos may be kept short whereas compensation training may be longer. When you announce the training, you should also announce the length of the training and then stick to that length. Your trainees are more likely to stick with you if they knew in advance the time commitment they were making.

Put the camera at eye level or slightly higher.

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. Another unfortunate side effect of placing the camera below eye level is that it causes you to look down toward the camera, enhancing your double chin or creating one from scratch! We humans love eyes, so set your camera at eye level. If you set your camera slightly higher than eye level, you might be able to disguise a double chin, if you have one.

Point the light source at your face.

Offices often have overhead lighting which casts shadows on our faces. Wearing a hat while presenting creates even more shadows. Being lit from below gives your face a spooky look. Buy a desk light that is high enough to be in front of and slightly above you. Again, we want the focus of the video to be on your face and your eyes.

Practice and prepare before the training.

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


I believe in technology’s ability to 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. Training can be more motivating when it occurs live. By following a few tips, you can create a successful live online training.

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 & Marketing33(1), 5-19.

Rutishauser, U., Tudusciuc, O., Neumann, D., Mamelak, A. N., Heller, A. C., Ross, I. B., … & Adolphs, R. (2011). Single-unit responses selective for whole faces in the human amygdala. Current Biology21(19), 1654-1660.

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