Technical Preparation for Webinars and Virtual Classes - dummies

Technical Preparation for Webinars and Virtual Classes

By Elaine Biech

Get in the habit of practicing a few basic guidelines in every training situation. This ensures that everyone has the same output expectations and will also help remind you of everything that needs to be completed before delivering a virtual session. In fact, it is a great idea to create your own checklist that you can refine after each event.

Ignore preparation and your training program is likely to fail despite a great design. These tips will assist with preparation from a technical perspective:

  • Use a producer. If your system locks up, people need help getting online, or a side conversation needs to occur, the producer can address each one while you continue to train.

    Cindy Huggett, one of ATD’s star virtual trainers, states that it is most common, and a best practice, to have two people: a facilitator who leads the learning and facilitates the session, as well as a producer who helps with the behind-the-scenes technology and assists participants with any tech issues.

    However, real-world discussions suggest that organizations often don’t have resources for a producer, and so more often than not, it’s just one person (the facilitator) who is running the entire production. On the other hand, if you are hosting a webcast with a super large audience, you might expect to have a host, a featured speaker, and a behind-the-scenes producer. You also might have a third person if it is a global audience with needs for language translation.

  • Plan to acknowledge your producer as part of the team at the beginning of the presentation. When you need to call on your producer during the session, your learners won’t be confused about a new person who has suddenly become a part of the program delivery.

  • Test your audio, video, and any URL links every time, even if you did a presentation yesterday. If you plan on jumping from a PowerPoint presentation to a website with links or video, pre-load everything and have it waiting for you while you are delivering.

  • Use your phone for audio. Cellular telephone reception is a risky choice; use a landline if possible. If you are using Voice over IP (VoIP), your audio and visual presentation will both be cut off the moment you lose Internet connection.

  • Print your presentation and notes. If an Internet failure happens, you can continue training if you still have audio via the use of a telephone.

  • Dry-run your program as many times as needed. Technology can still make a fool of a great trainer. Your confidence in both the content and the delivery platform is key to staying cool under pressure.

  • Practice using a headset to free your hands to juggle all the other things you need to do.

  • Take care using videos and other animations. Despite guarantees from the delivery platform providers, video and animations are risky. Learner web access, location, Internet provider, and computer can all affect the quality of your presentation, and you often have no power over any of it. If you can use still images and still train effectively, it may be the most reliable option.

  • Practice using breakout sessions, whiteboards, and advanced annotations until you are competent in these transitions.

You will want water by your side to stay hydrated. Use a glass with a lid to avoid spills that could signal disaster for your laptop.

Before you dive into webinars as the miracle solution to training, remember: One epic failure on a webinar is hard for your audience to forget, so be sure your first attempt is dynamite. Start well before the content development occurs. Your organization should have a successful marketing, delivery, and registration plan in place. It should also have a vendor to host the webinar, like WebEx or GoToMeeting. A key to success is ensuring that all involved know their roles.

Training alone? A webinar of one requires a commitment to practice and simplicity. Wow them with simple engagement options like slide changes and the tone of your voice. If you work solo, avoid videos, complex quizzing or polls, and choose your chat opportunities wisely. Convince admin to help with tech issues during initial sign-in; that will keep your stress manageable.