The man was clearly sweating buckets. At least I imagine he was – it was impossible to know for sure, as this was an online training session without webcam. However, judging from the shaky tone to his voice and the muttered asides which his highly efficient mic picked up only too clearly – ‘The slides! Where have I put those damn slides?!’ – it seemed likely that he was most definitely not experiencing his finest hour professionally.
“Starting off on the wrong foot”
Things seemed to have gone wrong from the start. The presenter was dealing with a big audience – some 300 people had signed up for this 2 hour Webex presentation on ‘Effective self-marketing’ - and from everything that was happening so far, this seemed the very worst attempt to market yourself as a virtual trainer.
Firstly, this virtual trainer had clearly chosen to set up his session from a hotel room in the US and had forgotten to inform the hotel staff not to be disturbed. The first few minutes of his presentation were dominated by an entirely audible conversation with room service as they tried to clean the room, whilst trying to run the session. We heard the sound of a vacuum cleaner starting and an aghast comment: ‘Excuse me? I am trying to run a meeting here!’ Then we heard a mobile phone ringing, and being turned off again with much fumbling and background noise – as stress levels rocketed upwards. Hardly surprising then that as the trainer grew increasingly flustered, the participants rapidly grew bored .
Indeed, it was probably some of the attendees were actually asleep – since the webinar had been set up at a time convenient to the US trainer alone, with no consideration for those in other regions of the world.
And attendees had every reason to be bored – as the trainer tried to make up time by rushing through text-laden slides, speaking at a break-neck speed which left non-native English speakers struggling to keep up.
Finally, the man was working solo. In other words, despite a group of 300+, he had no co-facilitator, and no technical producer to help when people lost their audio connection, or even could not join the session in the first place.
He perhaps had not given consideration to what he would do when problems arose, and was therefore forced to ignore the issue, and focus only on those who were comfortably in session, could hear and understand him.
And those who could not? They were simply disregarded.
If by now you’re thinking that this is a fictional account, it isn’t. True, it happened some years ago, and while there is no doubt that webinar delivery has become more polished and less boring since, there is still scope for improvement.
Preparing for a webinar
Starting from the basics, an awareness of the simple principles of webinar preparation and set up - can ensure an impactful learning experience for attendees. The following are basic examples.
Beyond this, there are two questions to consider. What do you want your webinar to achieve? What would you like participants to say about it afterwards?
Regarding question one, it helps to think about what the word ‘webinar’ actually means to most of us.
I’ve asked previous attendees of Nomadic IBP’s Train the Online Trainer programme what the word webinar conjures up for them, and their answers included such phrases as ‘Passive audience, no interaction, being talked at, boring slides, no visuals, and feeling unimportant and invisible’.
Oh dear. However, webinars ARE great at some tasks, such as conveying detailed factual information rapidly at minimal cost to a vast audience spread across the world. Indeed, that is what they are best at. But the problem is that they are so often used for what they are NOT best at.
So if your answer to question two – that you would like your online team or training attendees to say after your session that they felt motivated, got to know each other better, learned from you and each other , overcame specific business challenges together –then it may be time to put away those text heavy powerpoint slides and think in terms of - let’s try the word for size – the ‘web-connect’ approach.
Nomadic IBP’s virtual facilitators believe there is a kind of ‘virtual etiquette’ – or rules of engagement – for an successful, interactive online event. While this will need to be negotiated for each team or group according to individual needs and preferences, there are nevertheless some universal principles here.
The rules of engagement
If you want to really engage your attendees – to ‘connect’ with them online – then the rules of play for a ‘web-connect’ might include:
There are many other benefits to focussing on the virtual etiquette or rules of connection with your participants. Nomadic’s upcoming ‘Train the Online Trainer’ programme in January 2019 takes you through an eight-modular approach to becoming ever more effective learning and development people in the virtual arena.
Hope to see you there!
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