I’ve done teleseminars up the ying-yang and know how to run those like the back of my hand. Got it down to a fine science.
I also recently held my first training webinar, and it was quite the learning experience.
Here are a few odds and ends things I learned (in no particular order) that you’re sure to find helpful, too.
- Use a timer. It’s easy to get distracted and lose track of time, especially when you get caught up in the moment with the energy and enthusiasm of your attendees. In my first class, we went way over the planned time I told people to schedule, and I felt really bad about that. In the future, I plan to keep a clock right in front of my eyeballs and also turn on a timer to help keep me on track. This will help gauge when it’s time to speed things up and move along to keep everything on schedule.
- Map it out, then stick with the script. I find reading from a script difficult. It seem unnatural or inauthentic. I like the dynamic of a real conversation and interaction, which feels more genuine and in-the-moment. There’s so much I want to share with folks that often I don’t remember something until it comes up organically. But there’s a reason why the experts tell you to script things out. You end up with a more polished production, and it helps keep things focused and on track. Plus, if you suffer from “um” and “ya know” syndrome (like me), a script does wonders in curing the problem. If it feels a bit fake, remind yourself that ultimately, this is about providing a better experience for your participants and it’s their benefit and comfort you’re doing this for.
- Leave your notes unstapled. I know. This sounds like such an inane, irrelevant thing, but it really does take more effort and fumbling around to flip stapled pages than it does unstapled ones. Trust me. Things will flow much better if you leave them unstapled.
- Keep the trickiness to a minimum. I wanted to do something a little more original than anything I’d seen in webinars I’ve attended. One of my ideas was to do on-screen drawing, where I was engaging with participants, asking them questions and then writing down points to help crystallize concepts I was trying to convey. I wanted it to be like they were at an actual, in-person class. In theory, that sounds awesome. In practice, not so much. Trying to do this really slowed things down. It was too difficult switching between all the mental gears it takes to man the control panel, turn pages, keep the conversation on track and flip between the drawing tools all at the same time. While most webinar platforms offer drawing tools, there’s still a lot that needs to be perfected in the technology and controls before they’ll be at a level where this is more feasible. Sometimes, the best solution is the simplest, tried-and-true method.
- Have a co-pilot. Initially, I weighed the option of having one of my colleagues help me. But then I thought that would just make me more nervous and there wasn’t much she could take off my hands anyway. Well, after doing Part 1 of my first webinar, I realized that was a mistake. With everything else I had to do myself, no matter what, it was absolutely impossible for me to also pay attention to those who were having audio difficulties, typing in the text chat area or raising their virtual hands with questions. So in Part 2, I definitely had my administrator help me. She monitored the audio and let me know when someone had a question or issue. It really did help.
- Have everyone mute themselves. Here again, I really wanted a more interactive, dynamic conversation. I didn’t want to be talking at people. The problem with that, however, is no matter how large or small the group, no matter how many times you convey your webinar guidelines and ask folks to observe good netiquette, there is always going to be someone whose audio problems and noisy background will disrupt the class. Dealing with those issues slows things down and only serves to frustrate everyone. So here’s the thing to keep in mind if you feel uncomfortable doing most of the talking: people are there to hear you talk at them, so to speak. They paid for your class because they want to learn from you. They aren’t the ones with the knowledge, you are. So you have to be talking to them to a large extent in order to give them what they came to get. Having everyone mute themselves (and then instructing them to unmute themselves one at a time when you get to the Q&A portions of the class) helps you deliver a better experience for everyone. (PS: As the moderator, you don’t want to mute folks yourself as they won’t be able to unmute themselves when Q &A rolls around. Yup, this happened to us.)
- Establish the Q & A rules. Schedule question-and-answer spots into the sequence of your presentation. You can save them for the end of the class or intersperse them at specific intervals. Just don’t allow questions willy nilly. This will really slow things down and lead you off-track. Set expectations before the class by letting participants know how and when Q&A will be handled. Ask them to save their questions for those times (suggest they write them down along the way or submit them in advance) and to keep their questions on-topic.
- Keep class size small. If you were only doing a teleseminar, I would say it really doesn’t matter how large the attendance is (other than your bridgeline’s limitations). However, conducting training, particularly on a webinar platform, is a bit more involved, more interactive, more intimate. They really do work best and are easier to manage when the class size is limited. Plus, depending on the webinar platform you’re using, you can often keep costs down, if that’s a concern, by limiting the number of participants. I think a group of around 20 to 25 is perfect.
- Spread it out. Break classes down into one or two hour sessions. Beyond that, people get tired. Their mind wanders. They have other things to do. Too much information all at once can be overwhelming and hard to digest. Plus, for practical purposes, smaller recordings are easier to edit and manage. You can always combine separate recordings into one video later.
- Don’t be afraid to boot bad attitudes. I had the most delightful bunch of participants in my first class. I couldn’t have asked for a better group. However, there was one person in part 1 of my training who rudely made it clear she was impatient with what she perceived to be entry-level when she felt she was more advanced. However, this was not her personal coaching session where everything was going to be geared specifically for her. There were others for whom the knowledge and understanding was new — and appreciated. All the parts were important to the whole because they’re all pieces of one puzzle that would not be complete without that information. So, know going in that a) there are going to be people who end up not being a fit, whatever the reason, and b) you don’t have to suffer the company of anyone who is ill-mannered and brings negative energy to you and the rest of your class. If they can’t be courteous and polite and save their complaints for later, you have no obligation to allow them to put your off your game and make you uncomfortable.
RESOURCE: GoToTraining is the platform I used this time around to conduct my first training. All the Citrix products are very good and reliable. There are a few things I would really love to see them continue to improve, and they do seem to really listen and heed user feedback. Initially, they were offering their platform at $350/mo. I told them there was no way the small business owner would ever pay that, particularly when their class sizes were smaller and they might only use the platform a few times a year. The very next day, they introduced a new, lower-priced payment level geared especially for more sporadic use and smaller class sizes. Their customer support is also phenomenal, which, on a side note, is a trend I have been noticing lately. I’m seeing more and more companies put a new, all-out focus on providing outstanding customer support. It would seem that they are FINALLY hearing what the market has been saying for years now: “Your crappy and/or offshored customer service is creating ill-will and costing you our business!” Only good can come of that. But you, Mr. and Ms. Marketplace, need to stop expecting everything for free if you want to continue to benefit from this new wonderful service trend. It goes both ways. For myself, I am oh-so-happy to pay well for that kind of experience.