Friday, October 09, 2015

10 ways to avoid snafus in WEBINARS

Whether it’s a webinar, webcast, online meeting or online instructor-led training, the potential for snafus is enormous; no audio, feedback loops, chaotic breakout groups, timezone confusion… you name it, it WILL happen. You’re only one click away from oblivion. So here's a few tips to reduce the risks.
Virtual snafus
First, let me say, it’s a wondrous thing, being able to communicate visually and orally across the globe. Yet it is not easy to do well, as it comes with a truckload of potential snags, glitches and complications. What you need to do, to be effective, is master the process, so that you can focus on the delivery of the experience, not get sucked into distractions and troubleshooting. So here's a few tips.
1. Use checklists
Seems simple but people often underestimate the management and logistics of virtual sessions. Checklists for planning, marketing, troubleshooting.... whatever. They seem to work for a lot people, as it’s easy to miss things and you benefit from the accumulation of experience. Preparation matters but structured preparation matters more.
2.  Takes two to tango
Some organisations have large teams, with a Producer, Presenter, Technical support and Monitor. Most recommend that you have at least two people, especially for sessions that want to have polls, high levels of engagement, or breakout sessions - one to present, the other to manage the process and sort out problems. That second person can be a godsend, not only when there's problems but also to monitor chat, welcome people and wrap up.
3. Test
Test before your session. There’s lots of things that can go wrong; technically, loading PowerPoints, loading videos, audio issues, timing issues. One full test will save lots of live pain.
4. Audio is No 1 problem
Audio is the number one problem in virtual learning. If it can go wrong, it will. What if your audio disappears? Do you know how to open mics and mute? What problems will users have at their end? If you have hundreds online this can be overwhelming. First, get to know the software. Second, try the software. Third, test, test, test. Know how solve the problems that WILL arise.
Ideally you want to hardwire your device to your router via an ethernet cable or at least sit as close as you can to your router. Then use headphones and, ideally, a headset microphone. get your audio levels sorted prior to launch. Know how to mute and unmute.
5. Instructions
Remember, you can send lots of stuff beforehand but, believe me, they won’t read it. So you have to find a way of making this simple and effective. Make this really clear with visual and verbal cues. For example, on timezones, state what time they need to be there in their timezone. Explain, before you start, that there will be questions, polls, whatever. Encourage them to chat.
6. Takes time
Timing is tricky but critical. Some things are quicker online but many are take longer than you think. Presenters often go way over time. The biggest problem is too much content – too many slides. The second is going off at a tangent. Rehearsal and practice will solve these problems.
7. Presenter skills
Try to avoid the ‘uuums’ and filler words. Speak enthusiastically but be natural, be yourself. Learn to cut and paste URLs for your audience. Coaching is useful here as it’s not easy to see ourselves as others see us. Above all, avoid reading from a script (the audience can tell) and don't do a monotone delivery. They often can't see you and don't have any facial or body language cues, so up your level of enthusiasm and emphasis. Also, pause, occasionally, especially when you're moving to a new topic or want people to reflect, even respond.
8. Engagement
What tasks are required to produce engaging, virtual, online sessions? First, don’t load them up with long biographical intros, dull learning objectives or a manual’s worth of instructions. You must grab them by the throat or they’ll be off doing email, Facebook or Twitter. Rely more on visual and verbal cues. Change screen frequently and don't do PPT slides with endless bullet points and text - which you read. if you catch yourself doing this - STOP! Add questions with prompts. Keep things moving as your audience may feel that things have gone wrong if they see the same thing on screen for too long. One word of warning; with breakout sessions, they always take longer than you think and it’s sometimes difficult to get them back.
9. Monitor chat
Presenters often set off at pace then forget to monitor chat. A good practice is to stop, periodically to review chat and answer a few questions. Above all, keep in control and make sure you are happy to both present and monitor chat. There may also be a need to stop chat if it gets out of control or disrespectful.
10. Practice, practice, practice
How do you get to carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.  You need to be on top of your game to run these sessions well and that means rehearsal and practice.
I know a lot of this seems obvious but it’s the obvious things that most often cause problems. Your audience has to see, hear and engage to learn, the rest must be made invisible or as easy as possible.

There's more!
Top ten tips in top ten topics in online learning:
10 ways to make badass INTROs in online learning 
10 bloody good reasons for using much-maligned TEXT in online learning 
10 essential online learning WRITING TIPS in online learning 
10 stupid mistakes in design of MULTIPLE CHOICE questions
10 essential points on use of (recall not recognition) OPEN RESPONSE questions
10 rules on how to create great GRAPHICS in online learning 
10 sound pieces of advice on use of AUDIO in onlinelearning 
10 ways based on research to use VIDEO in online learning
10 ideas on use of much maligned TALKING HEAD videos in online learning

This started with a simple observation that I'm seeing, over and over again, the same mistakes being make on screen, with online learning. I hope you find them useful.

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