IIL’s Trusted Virtual Trainers Contribute to Virtual Top Tips Report

Over the past 25 years, IIL has been providing clients with thousands of virtual training experiences and we’ve learned a lot in that time; delivering high quality virtual learning is not an easy task!

Whilst we have been ahead of the game, many people in our industry are currently making the move to virtual training, which is a daunting task. So, when Course Conductor told us they were publishing a report to help those people, by sharing the top tips from lots of other expert virtual trainers – we were only too pleased to get involved.

Course Conductor has just published the report and it is aptly named “60 Top Tips to Help New Virtual Trainers (from 60 Trusted Virtual Trainers).”

The report contains a wealth of information from 60 virtual training experts, all of which will be incredibly useful to any trainer that is currently making the transition from traditional classroom training to virtual training.

Three of our virtual trainers contributed to the report: Ed Lively, Ken Terry, and Keith Wilson. They have all been verified by Course Conductor as ‘Trusted Virtual Trainers’.

Here’s Ed’s tip in the report:

Download the full report here: www.courseconductor.com/virtualtips

Learn more about IIL’s virtual courses here: https://courses.iil.com/course/upcoming

Sorting (and beyond!)

By Bob Umlas, Excel MVP

In this blog, I’ll discuss sorting, likely beyond features you knew were available! We’ll start with this screenshot of a file:

It needs sorting. There are many ways to sort data.

There are 3 ways to access sorting from the Data tab:


2–You can right-mouse click on a cell and select Sort:

and this leads to another flyout with more options:

3–Then there are the sort options from the Home tab, way over on the right side (and includes options for filtering, at the bottom half):

Let’s look at these different options.

The A-Z from the Data tab will sort the contiguous range of cells based on the active cell. So, if I wanted to sort the original screenshot by the first column, Country, all I need do is click in any one cell in that column and click the A-Z tool (or select the entire contiguous range of cells), and the beginning of the data would look like this:

Had I clicked the Z-A button, it’d look like this (I’ve scrolled down a bit so you could see then change in column A):

You can see that row 143 has a different country, UK, and that’s being sorted in reverse order alphabetically, after the US. Canada shows up in row 238:

(By the way, sorting is case insensitive, but there’s an option to be case sensitive which I’ll show later).

OK, here’s the first trick I’m going to assume you didn’t know: If you wanted to sort the region within the country, you could simply click one cell somewhere in column B, click the A-Z tool (on the Data tab), click in column A, click the A-Z tool, and you get this:

The trick is to click in the reverse sequence of the order you want the columns sorted. Here, we wanted column A to be the major sort, then within column A, we want column B sorted. So, we click a cell in column B, A-Z tool, a cell in column A, A-Z tool. I’ll do it again, clicking a cell in column D then C then B then A, each time clicking the A-Z tool:


OK, the next icon in the Data tab is also the main sorting tool access:


This brings up the following dialog:

Here are the various values:


The first option is to sort by Country, Region, Company, etc. Excel reads the headers in the first row. How did it know the first row was headers? Because of that checkbox  you see at the top right, “My data has headers.” If this is unchecked, you would see this dropdown instead:


OK, so if you wanted to sort Region within Company, you would select Country as the major sort, then you click on the Add level button at the top, then select Region from the dropdown:

You could continue this process for all the columns, and if you make a mistake you could click the Delete Level button. The Copy Level does just that – copies the level which is the active one.  To see which level is “active” you can see the slight grey background behind it. In the above illustration, Region is the active level. You can use it as a starting point to then only change one item. For example, in the following dialog, the first level was copied to produce the second one, and now all that needs changing is the color in the Order dropdown. This is slightly easier than re-entering all the fields.

You can sort one level A to Z, and another Z to A, etc.

The third dropdown had an option for Custom List. Why choose a custom list to sort by? Well, if you have month names as text (as opposed to real dates formatted as text), then if I sort Jan thru Dec, I’d see this:

Alphabetical, but not very useful! So, you would do this:

Then the result is what you’d hope for:

Let’s take a closer look at the Sort On the dropdown, usually “Values”. As you may have noticed, you can also sort on Cell Color, Font Color, or Cell Icon.

Here’s the dialog for sorting cell color in column B and then font color in column D:

The Order column in the dialog shows all the various color possibilities that exist in the column:



Let’s sort the yellow region (cell color) then a red department (font color):

Or how about Yellow region followed by Brown region:

(Notice Region is there twice to accomplish this sort. Also, notice I could choose “On top” or “On Bottom”):

One more, then we’ll move on!

Same as above, but alphabetical for each as well, and then numerically, descending:

Which yields:

The sort by cell Icon is for when you used any symbols from the icon sets of conditional formatting. A quick example where I used conditional formatting of 3 icon sets in column E:

Now I can sort by the icon set:

Here’s the result after scrolling down a bit:

Okay. One more button we haven’t looked at, the Options button at the top. This brings up:

See? I told you we’d show you how to do a case-sensitive sort! There’s the checkbox at the top to do that.

Usually, you sort top to bottom, but you can sort left to right. Suppose I want to reorder these columns so that I have Company, then Region then Department. First, insert a row at the top, and enter the sort sequence you want to see!

I also need to select all the cells (pressing Ctrl/A) will do it) then bring up the sort left to right feature shown above from the Options button, and I’m presented with this dialog:

The sort by dropdown shows Row 1, Row 2, etc. I want to sort row 1 left to right (blanks sort to the bottom in a top-to-bottom sort or to the right in a left-to-right sort. Here’s the result:

Now I can delete row 1 and the columns are sorted as I wanted.

Last tip. Double spacing data. Or triple-spacing, or more!

Enter the value 1 in a parallel range in an empty column, and select the blank cell to the right as well:

Now double-click the fill handle (dark square in the bottom right corner of the selection):

Press Ctrl/c (copy), then ctrl/down arrow (takes you to last value), then down arrow (takes you to the empty cell below the last value), then ctrl/V (paste), and here’s the bottom of the data I was using:

Now you have 2 rows with a 1, two with a 2, etc. Click on one of these cells in column F and click the A-Z tool and presto!:

It’s double spaced! The blank rows all got sorted into place. Clear column F and you’re all set!

You can do this left-to-right as well. Here is a sequence of screenshots as a sample to insert 2 columns between each column (then we’re done!):

Copy thru 1 thru 5 and paste twice:

Bring up the left-to-right sort options then choose to sort on row 1:

Then delete row 1 and you’re done!!

Happy sorting!

About the Author
Bob Umlas has been using Excel since its inception in 1986. He has had more than 300 articles published on subjects ranging from beginner to advanced, VBA, tips, shortcuts, and general techniques using virtually all aspects of Excel. He is the longest-running Microsoft Excel MVP in the world (25 years). He has been the technical editor of (about 20) of Bill Jelen’s (MrExcel) Excel books. Bob speaks at Excel conferences around the world on his favorite topic, Tips & Tricks, which wows even the experts. He is the author of 3 Excel books and is the current leader of NYC’s Excel Special Interest Group (which meets on the 2nd Tuesday of each month).

This isn’t Excel, it’s Magic!
Excel Outside the Box
More Excel Outside the Box

Tips for Working from Home During the Covid-19 Crisis

As we face the current societal and organizational struggles of a worldwide health crisis, many employees and teams are finding themselves working from home for the first time, or for the first time on a daily basis. Managing a virtual team isn’t easy, and it’s easy to become disconnected from your team members if you are used to working in an office environment. The key to organizational success in a work from home setting is communication. Keep in touch. Over communicating is far better than under-communicating. Establishing a routine and habit of being responsive and proactive with your team members and superiors is the best way to ensure success in a virtual team. Here are some other tips for working from home:

Getting Started

  • It’s easy to work a 16-hour day from home – so don’t! Schedule your day. Establish some structure by documenting when you are supposed to start and finish. It’s easy to keep working or return to work late in the evening, as you have everything you need right there. But it’s healthier to maintain set work hours, and your superiors may have specific hour requirements for you so be sure to establish this right away.


  • Before getting straight to work, set up your home office. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it needs to be separate from the home activities, especially since many kids are out of school. It should have the basic supplies so that you don’t have to go search for a pen and paper if you need to take notes and your computer suddenly freezes. Make it your own, and make it cozy but structured. Sit up straight and maintain a general office environment. This will keep your head in “office mode” and less likely to drift off-task


  • Install any new software or communications tools and apps being used to increase productivity and communication among teams and employees. MS Teams and Skype or Skype for Business are the primary messaging and meeting apps. Use Toggl or other handy tools to track your time. Use Project Management tools and charts for maintenance tasks. Trello and MeisterTask are the most commonly used at IIL. We can assist you in setting up and managing these boards.


  • Tell your family what your requirements, hours, deadlines, and rules will be. Let them know what to expect, and how important it is to not be interrupted during work hours. Working from home needs to be as similar to your office working environment as possible to stay on track. Let them know you have obligations that have to be met, and set clear boundaries for breaks and when it is okay to interrupt.
To to support all of our clients in this time of global crisis, we are offering free registration to our self-paced, online course on Virtual Agile Teams 

Day to Day Operations

  • Get dressed!! Don’t make the mistake of lounging in your pajamas. Waking up and doing a normal daily routine will keep you on track. Splash some water on your face, wear a decent blouse or button-up, particularly for face to face virtual meetings.


  • Avoid bringing work into the family environment. If you have deadlines, escalations, and other intense (which is code for “stressful”) situations, be aware of the impact it can have on your family members. They may see or overhear you handling difficult issues and, as a result, they might internalize that stress or worry.


  • Manage your home time carefully. Not having that commute can be fantastic. In fact, staying home makes it easier to engage in family time. But it’s important to manage it so you don’t get burned out by being home all day (and night).


  • Be respectful and patient of other team members’ home office environments. Some folks will have home offices that are well established, with a professional look and configuration. Others, who are new to working from home, may not. Some may struggle to carve out a workspace in their homes or need to share that work environment with a spouse or significant other, which can cause background noise and distractions. If you hear a dog bark or a baby cry, please be patient with them, and try to minimize noises in your home office as much as possible.


  • Structure your day with breaks. Walk the block, smell the roses, or do a call from the garden. If the walls start closing in, change your scenery. Rest your eyes and stretch your legs every hour for just a few minutes.


  • Schedule lunch and eat it away from your office. Don’t put in 12-hour days (or later) with back-to-back calls and forget to eat or eat poorly. You need both a mental and nutritional break, so take a lunch break. But do it away from your computer. Read a magazine or a book, or catch up on personal messages.
  • Don’t forget to exercise. Some folks will squeeze in a quick run, hit the Peloton, or go to the gym for 30 minutes. Follow their leads – it’s a great way to clear out the mental cobwebs and re-energize your body.


  • Schedule quick 10-minute calls with colleagues or friends. Under normal office circumstances, you might enjoy catching up with folks over the water cooler. While you are home, simulate that connection by scheduling WebEx calls with your buddies. Talking to them not only refreshes your brain but is great therapy.
  • Avoid taking personal calls during work hours. Extended family should know about your situation to avoid interruptions.


  • BE AVAILABLE. Don’t make your superiors or team members hunt you down. Respond to emails immediately, even if you are simply letting someone know you’ve received the message. In times like this, communication is of the utmost importance, as things are confusing enough with these new ways of life and everyone is trying to manage new work environments during the biggest health crises and societal disruptions in our lifetimes. So it is very easy to get distracted and forget you have promised someone a task will be done. Set timers and reminders to help you remember.


  • Don’t underestimate the benefits of a digital assistant. Siri, Alexa, and Bixby can all help you with reminders and lists and will integrate into many of the tools you will be using.


  • If you are able to order high-speed internet, you will be a lot less frustrated with your WFH experience. There are many service providers offering much lower prices during this crisis


Read more about Managing Virtual Teams Successfully from Dr. Willis Thomas, PMP, CPT.  His publications have received global recognition from associations such as the Project Management Institute (PMI) where he received the Cleland Award for “The Basics of Project Evaluation and Lessons Learned.”


About the Author

Roxi Nevin has worked in the support, On-Demand learning, and marketing departments for the International Institute for Learning for seven years. She is also the administrator of operations for the Center for Grateful Leadership. With an educational background in History, Psychology, Business administration and the tech sector, and a previous professional background in political action, her writings based on these broad experiences of topics in these areas have been published in various online publications and blogs. She currently writes a monthly column called Grateful Parenting. She enjoys cooking, painting, and photography in her spare time.


Why Your Agile Implementation Failed

Join IIL’s virtual conference on Thursday, May 4th for more insights on Agile, Scrum, and Kanban.

By Roy Schilling

At one point in my career, I was a manager in a large financial organization.  Being tired of missed deadlines and disappointed customers, I wanted a better way to deliver – faster, better, cheaper.  I had been reading about Agile and how it had helped organizations with exactly what I was looking to solve.

My Agile journey started pretty much like everyone else – hours on the internet and a 2-day class.  At the end of the class, I was the proud owner of a certificate and had a high-level of confidence that I could implement this Agile thing in my organization.  I quickly looked for a project, formed my team and started executing – now we’re Agile!  The result, however, was something quite different from what I expected.  The team never really formed, we had personalities that didn’t work well together, people were getting yanked out of the team for “special assignments”, and a whole host of other anti-patterns which caused us to ultimately fail – and in a big way.

The reality was that I had no idea what I was doing.  I had no experience and no one to help set up the guardrails needed to keep the team (and me) headed in the right direction.  Sadly, this is a very common situation.  Lots of energy, desire, motivation, but no experience to make it work.  Training was a great start, but not enough to guarantee success.


I could have walked away with my failure, and declared Agile to be the problem.  “It just can’t work in my organization” is something I’ve heard far too often as an excuse for simple mistakes.  Instead, I was fortunate enough to have met someone with significant experience in the industry, who offered his help to mentor and coach me.  After spending a short time together, we got my team re-aligned, analyzed skill sets and personalities, setup team working agreements and started working with leadership to help them understand their part in all this.  In short, he got me back on track.


One of the most important things he helped me with was in becoming a better leader.  He helped me understand that I was spending too much time managing down, worrying about “resource allocation” and dealing with the minutia of daily activities.  I had hired good people; it was time to get out of their way, let them do their jobs and give them the support they needed to accomplish the goals they set out to achieve.  This was a major change from my management style, and one of the most difficult and important lessons I had ever learned as a manager.  Without his help, I may never have made that leap.


To summarize, hiring a coach taught me:

  1. To be an active listener
  2. To give my team the environment and support they need and trust them to get the job done
  3. To effectively communicate with everyone, and always find the time for face-to-face discussions (and daily stand-ups)


But most importantly,

He taught me how to successfully implement Agile and get everyone on the same page; how to destroy the barriers and bring a new mentality to the company as a whole.

Having a coach to help me through the transformation (personal and organizational) was critical to the success of my organization.  Without his involvement, I would likely have had failure after failure, or just walked away from it altogether.  The cost to my organization would have been significant due to those failures, and I still would have had disappointed customers.

I’ve since moved on and have become an Agile coach myself, but even with many years’ experience behind me, I still reach out to other coaches and my mentor for advice, and to share my experiences to help others as well.

If you are transforming your organization, or just yourself, take advice from someone who has already gone through it.

Avoid my mistakes – find a coach/mentor, learn from others who have more experience than you, ask for help and embrace your mistakes.

Roy Schilling is an Agile Trainer and Coach and is based in the Charlotte area.  Roy has 30+ years in IT and 16+ years practicing Lean/Agile in small to large organizations. Roy’s certifications include CSM, CSPO, CSP, ACP and ICP-ACC.

How to brand yourself on LinkedIn

With approximately 467 million users in 200 countries, LinkedIn is undoubtedly the largest Professional Network on Social Media. Yet, there seems to be a significant number of users who ignore the very rules of this platform. Here are some tips that will help you maximize your presence and brand yourself successfully on LinkedIn.

  1. Headshot and Cover Photo.

It takes a tenth of a second to form an impression of a stranger.  This is your moment to make a great first impression! A warm and welcoming smile will tell more about you than a thousand words.

Depending on your industry, you can add a bit of a flavor and color to your cover photo. A great example is Ashwath (found below). His headshot is professional with a clean and solid background, yet his cover photo reveals his adventurous nature and love for diving.

I cannot begin to count how many times I’ve witnessed entirely inappropriate photos for the nature of the LinkedIn platform. Although I do understand how you like to zone out and party once in a while, there’s a good chance that your future employer won’t. So keep it simple, solid, and avoid filters from other social media platforms.

What’s a good rule of thumb? My advice for your headshot is simple and pretty straightforward:

  • Wear a suit or a blazer
  • Have a solid background
  • Adjust the lighting to your benefit
  • Be confident and smile
Ashwath Muralidharan is a Senior Consultant for EY and a Duke University graduate.


  1. Headline

That’s the first virtual handshake where you present yourself to a global network of professionals. You wouldn’t approach an employer in real life with the opening line, “I’m an Account Executive for XYZ company,” but rather, you might present yourself as a “Social Media Producer working for a tech startup.” So why act differently online? Customize your headline to your career goals. In other words, focus on who you are as a professional and what industry you’re expanding to.

An additional benefit from tailoring your headline with industry keywords is that it gives you an edge on the algorithm search.  Subsequently, your profile ends up appearing on more searches from recruiters and professionals who are looking for someone just like you.

Here’s the example of Jessica Lyon, an award-winning Communications Strategist, who is a 40 Under Forty winner, and a frequent presenter at conferences.




  1. Summary

See this part as your time to shine —this summary is your 15-second elevator speech. That’s a good space for you to talk about your passions, your strong points, and what your experiences have taught you so far. Unlike cover letters, LinkedIn still remains a Social Media platform which allows your summary to be creative, fruitful, and have media attachments. Another use of this area is to optimize your industry’s keywords and list some of your most relevant skills.

In the example below, Fangzhou demonstrates her passion for technology and communications by combing pieces of her past and future goals. She also highlights some of her most relevant skills, such as programming languages.








Fangzhou Cheng is a Data Engineer at the Earnest Research Company and an NYU graduate.






  1. Skills

In the Skills section, you can add all of your skills that set you apart from the rest. From coding to media planning, and data analysis to spoken languages, LinkedIn allows you to add up to 50 skills. It’s a good idea to demonstrate a variety of your competencies in that section, such as programming languages, Microsoft Office Excel, Media Planning, Project Management, etc.

HINT: if you’re a job seeker, LinkedIn will show you how many of the required skills for the job you have listed.

  1. Recommendations

The majority of young professionals fail to ask in time for a recommendation on LinkedIn. Either shying away from it or neglecting it, having zero recommendations is definitely not, well, recommended. Ensuring your Professional Network will get a chance to see what type of team player you are, your work ethic, or your contribution to a certain project from
the perspective of the people who’ve worked with you is the best type of advertisement. So next time you’ll work with or for someone, take initiative and simply ask them to write a few things about their experience working with you.



Sofia Zafeiri is a Social Media Coordinator at IIL and and NYU graduate.



  1. Articles

Regardless of your industry, being a good writer and efficient communicator always sets you apart as a thought leader. Writing articles often and discussing current news or predicting industry trends demonstrates your thought process and in-depth analytical skills. The downside of this part is that not all of us like writing. If writing is not your best trait, keep in mind that your posts don’t have to be long nor extensive. A well-written article of 350 words is all you need to showcase your expertise on a certain matter.

Additionally, being active on the platform and sharing valuable news is another easy and fast way to show that you stay updated with current issues.




Fred Helio Garcia is president of the crisis management firm Logos Consulting Group and brings his 37 years of experience to NYU students and CEOs around the globe.






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About the Author

Sofia Zafeiri is the Social Media Coordinator at IIL. She graduated from NYU with a Ms in Public Relations and Corporate Communications. Before moving to New York City, she worked for a variety of organizations in Europe.