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LiveBlogging a Webinar: Lessons Learned on Facilitating an Online Training Session From the Learner Perspective

This is me, liveblogging a webinar.  I'm not going to name names--just wanted to share the experience as it happens. More of a meta-analysis of the webinar experience with some commentary on content thrown in. I'm doing this to identify tips for when I'm presenting my first webinar in January. My lessons learned are at the bottom. Consider this another in a long line of process posts.

Before the Webinar
About 3 hours before we started, I got an email with links to handouts. Download page wasn't the most user-friendly thing. I could see where newbies would be in a "WTF?" kind of mode upon seeing it. I also personally think it was a mistake to send the slides before the session. I would have sent everything as follow-up, especially since the slides are already in the webinar and we aren't using the other info for this anyway. But that's just me.

Logging In
We're using Adobe Connect as the platform. Have to call in for the audio. I would appreciate better music while I wait--perhaps having different channels available to select? The easy-listening puts me in a bad mood before we even start.

We were supposed to start at 1 p.m. It's 5 after. That always annoys me, but at least with a webinar I can continue to work on other things while I'm waiting.

And We're Off!
OK--they've started--now they're giving an overview of the webinar room. They have a tech guy just for that, which is a good thing.

They're using one-way audio with the chat feature for questions/comments. Only the presenters can see our questions.

I wish that everyone could see what we asked This is one of the ways the presenters can control the conversation, by controlling what is asked. It's the illusion of interactivity, really. If they decide to not address a "difficult" question, then you don't even know it was asked, like you would in a real-life setting.

Now they're giving us an overview of the content. The audio isn't that great--very choppy-sounding. I'm on a landline so it should be better quality, IMO.

1:15--PPT slides are really text-heavy. I'm not surprised--that's the MO of this group. And the nice thing is that they're reading the slides for us WORD FOR WORD. That's always helpful for me. It's not like I could read it myself or anything.

Content Comment--People still need help on goal-setting and evaluating progress? Seriously? They haven't learned how to do this yet?

1:25: Ah. .  finally we have some graphics--incredibly tiny screenshots of a bunch of forms. You can't actually see them, but they are there. At least they aren't more text.

1:27: Hmm. . . they're still reading the slides to me. . . So far this webinar experience is very similar to the worst conference sessions I've attended--without the snacks that at least make it bearable. (Note to self--remember snacks for next time.)

1:28--Oh--good--a poll! That was fun. Lasted about 20 seconds. Now we're back to the talking.

1:30--Now we're switching speakers again (this is our 3rd so far). At least it's a different voice. Another person to comment on how exciting it is to be here, using this new technology.

1:33--Now she's reading a jargon-filled brochure to us. I'd rather read it myself.

1:35--More slide-reading.

1:37(Another content comment)--Lessons learned:

  • situations evolve
  • leadership and vision is key
  • important but hard to stay on track
  • need balance between clear project expectations and allowing flexibility
  • Impact comes from applying what we learn.

Hmm. . . might these be the generic lessons of virtually every project I've ever worked on? Not very helpful.

1:43--Another poll! Seems like they're just doing it 1) to make us think that the webinar is interactive and 2) because they can.  Another 20 seconds of pretending that my input matters.

1:44--Another speaker. Another chance to be thanked for my participation and for using the tech.

1:49--No pictures at all in this thing. Tables, forms, bullet points, but no actual, useful pictures.

1:56--Oops--got a little more interested in looking at my feeds and stopped paying attention a few minutes ago. Must go back to webinar . . .

1:57--They'd better talk fast if they want to be finished by 2 p.m. so we have time for all the questions.

2 p.m.--I'm really not understanding why this couldn't have just been a tutorial they sent out to us. All they did was narrate the slides. Our presence in that moment wasn't really necessary.

2:02--OK, so now we're getting into questions. . . hmm. . . yes, "What is that URL again?" That's a good question.

2:09--Questions getting more interesting. . .Maybe we should have read the PPT slides and other materials ahead of time and then used this as a Q&A session only.

2:17--We're still doing questions.

2:20--And, we're done.

What Did I Learn?

  • The technology worked pretty smoothly and that definitely made the experience better. That's a really key piece to running a webinar and I need to make sure that I have someone to handle those kinds of issues behind the scenes. Don't try to do the technology AND the presenting at the same time.
  • I need to figure out how to make things more interactive and interesting for people--maybe more humor, more story-telling, etc. There's nothing deadlier than bad PowerPoint in a webinar. I didn't even have to pretend to listen. I could just go do something else. Great for me, but kind of defeats the purpose. You have to be REALLY dynamic and engaging to keep people from surfing while you're doing your webinar.
  • Like the polls, but they need to maybe give more meaningful information that adds to the presentation and isn't a sort of lame bid for interactivity.
  • Need to intersperse questions throughout--take periodic breaks to let people ask questions. Maybe allow them to even talk rather than just using chat.
  • The slides need to be MUCH better. These were both ugly and boring.

Interesting experience to liveblog this. Made me much more aware of what was happening and my responses to it. It also made me really consider webinars from the user perspective.

Don't forget to fill out my webinar survey! I need your input!

Comments

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Hi Michelle! We had a discussion on this topic a few weeks ago on the NTEN discuss list. We posted a summary of the conversation here: https://nten.org/blog/2007/09/14/from-the-affinity-groups-tips-for-a-successful-webinar.

Hope that helps!

What can I say there are good online virtual classroom sessions and there are not so good. Thank goodness you were live blogging this one - not one of mine. Well normally with the National events new participants are asked to log in 15 minutes prior for orientation. We don't supply the powerpoints but did provide handouts (which they receive as they are logging in).

Confused by Adobe Connect - normally you can see the chat area. Although I have been caught out with DM a person not realising everyone could see it. In Elluminate do not send DM to individuals, if bad about the presenter, because all moderators can see the messages.

These sessions don't have to be this bad - in fact I have participated in some really great ones.

Hi Michelle - thanks for this posting! I am the in-house instructional designer for InSync Training. We teach people how to facilitate online training and design for the online medium. One of our past participants forwarded your link to us. I am going to include this link in our two certificate programs (Facilitation and Design) because you hit upon common problems in both arenas - and it's always great to have an 'impartial' person tell it like it is! Thanks so much!

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