Friday, April 27, 2007

Training via Web Conference (Part 2 of 3): How?

I'll trust that you already have an idea of your content and your audience. These tips are mainly geared toward business training - I'll tackle traditional education later on.

1. Use Visuals
Make your presentation even more visual than you would for an in-person session, because there's no moving thing at the front of the classroom to keep everyone's interest. Use features like highlighters and pointers to make your points clear - if you're talking about a certain dropdown menu, for instance, go ahead and point it out. It's kind of like marking plays as a sportscaster. You may find that you have to redesign your content with a more visual focus to be effective over web conferencing - long lectures won't be as effective as the combination of key bullet points and succinct explanation.

2. Pace Yourself
...and be realistic about how much people are going to learn in a single session. Run through your presentation fully a few times before you deliver it. Are you expecting your students to learn the full software suite in 90 minutes? Do you have to speak like an auctioneer to get through all of your notes? Try not to include more than 10 key points per training session or comprehension (and retention) may start dropping. More presentation design tips can be found on the blogs of Seth Godin and Guy Kawasaki.

3. It's not that obnoxius
to use polls (short quizzes, usually only 3-5 questions) at the end of each section to make sure everyone is still following you. Mention people by name, too... but not in that way that your high school history teacher did when she knew you were falling asleep. Just mention names every now and then to subtly encourage participation (e.g. "Everything working on step 3? Joe? Miranda? Great.")

4. Set a Q&A Policy
Some presenters can respond to questions via instant message as they come up, while others prefer to wait until the end. There's no right answer, but do inform the participants if you will or will not be taking their questions while you're teaching so that no one feels ignored. Personally, I think it's best to take questions as they come up; everyone is still tuned in to that section, and it's likely that other participants had the same question. You can always...

5. Delegate
Bring in additional Q&A help for large groups, and consider sharing presenting duties if the presentation will be long to help people stay focused.

6. Follow Up
I said it in my general tips, but following up with a recap, a copy of the presentation (if possible), and Q&A after each session is especially important for training. Do everything you can to make the information available and clear to each participant.

Remember that your voice will be the strongest "human" aspect of this class, so it's important to set the right tone. If you're doing a new beverage roll-out for a restaurant, for instance, you want to make sure to stay upbeat and excited about the product. "Pass the microphone" frequently to allow students to speak up - the more they connect during the lesson, the more they'll retain. Many teaching games/icebreakers can work just as well over a web conference as they do in person, so consider starting with something light to get everyone warmed up.

Next up: Who? I'll be reviewing some groups that are already training via web conference and see what can be learned....

If you have a specific web training question/need, feel free to ask in the comments.

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