Training Top 100 Hall of Fame Outstanding Training Initiatives (June 2021)

Details of McCarthy Holdings, Inc.’s Exceptional Virtual Experiences During a Time of Pandemic.

Each year Training magazine requires all Training Top 100 Hall of Famers to submit an Outstanding Training Initiative that we share with our readers. Here are the details of McCarthy Building Companies, Inc.’s Exceptional Virtual Experiences During a Time of Pandemic.

McCarthy Building Companies, Inc.: Exceptional Virtual Experiences During a Time of Pandemic

Presentations to current and potential clients, whether during the request for proposal (RFP), request for qualifications (RFQ), or any other time, are often McCarthy’s single greatest opportunity to showcase why it is the builder of choice for their next project. The cost implications of winning or losing projects can range from thousands of dollars to more than $1 billion, depending on the project. The Exceptional Virtual Experiences During a Time of Pandemic training helps presenters recognize and prepare for the unique circumstances of presenting virtually—including how virtual meetings alter audience expectations and attention spans, and how presenters must shift their own mindsets in order to design and host a virtual experience that truly resonates with the audience during the unique conditions of prolonged stress and mental fatigue that come with trying to conduct business as usual during unusual times.

The program’s emphases on client focus and operational excellence offer the opportunity to impact business by:

  • Creating exceptional client experiences, focused on empathy and understanding, that allow McCarthy to meet the needs of its clients and win new projects
  • Building strong relationships with potential and current clients despite the absence of in-person meetings
  • Enhancing the company’s ability to communicate effectively and conduct business virtually during a pandemic
  • Shifting mindsets to focus on empathy in order to understand and be the best partner for any audience

Program Details

Exceptional Virtual Experiences During a Time of Pandemic is a companywide learning experience consisting of six short modules of less than 10 minutes and accessible at any time via the McCarthy Build U® learning platform. The entire training requires approximately one hour to finish, and learners may view any part in any order.

A three-person team evaluated production options and determined how to develop a fun, humanized, personalized approach using simple recorded interviews, professional drawings, and hand-guided animation with voiceover. Due to shelter-in-place orders, recordings took place almost entirely at kitchen tables, and post-production took place in home offices. The training was developed and launched in six weeks.

The curriculum walks participants through each of the five key aspects of exceptional virtual experiences (plan, build, test, deliver, and debrief) while focusing primarily on what makes them different during a pandemic from the same aspects of an in-person presentation. Content is focused on making empathy and understanding core elements of every step in order to develop content and deliver an experience that matches the audience’s expectations, energy, and attention span, and takes into consideration outside factors related to the coronavirus that were an ongoing distraction.

The first of the six parts, “What’s Different During a Pandemic?” frames the program by explaining why and how audiences feel differently during virtual experiences, and why a mindset shift to empathy and understanding is so crucial to delivering the experience learners want for the audience.

Subsequent parts of the training begin by connecting each of the five aspects of exceptional experiences to the unique circumstances created by virtual presentations. By making genuine human interactions the priority and always keeping the audience’s needs, distractions, and emotional state in focus, the content gives learners a process for meeting the needs of a virtual audience during all five aspects of an exceptional experience.

The training’s central hub, which houses quick links to all six training sessions, also provides links to every resource mentioned during training, plus supplemental resources.


More than 65 McCarthy partners have taken part in the training to date. Outcomes include:

  • In 2020, McCarthy was awarded more than $3.17 billion of work after the training was made available. McCarthy’s chief operating officer tied the training to those results during company-wide meetings and has encouraged company leaders to take the training.
  • McCarthy was awarded the 2020 Premier Award for Client Satisfaction by PSMJ Resources, Inc., in partnership with Client Savvy, in recognition of McCarthy’s commitment to exceptional client experiences.
  • Early during the Coronavirus pandemic, a McCarthy team presented to a potential client. A McCarthy business development manager worked with the project team, using lessons learned from the training and associated resources, to help them prepare and facilitate the experience. The client’s representative told McCarthy the presentation was “head and shoulders above” the others—which the McCarthy manager attributes directly to the training’s lessons and tools.
Edited by Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine, owned by Lakewood Media Group. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.