Earlier this week Tom and I delivered our first synchronous training to staff at PLCMC. We delivered three Learn to Learn Online* sessions and had about 10 participants in each session. The sessions were great. We only had one major technical problem and luckily that was on our side not the participants side.
Ironically this week Michele Martin at the Bamboo Project Blog delivered her first webinar. She wrote a great post, 9 Lessons I Learned From Running My First Webinar. Inspired by Michele’s post, I’ll share what I learned this week about delivering synchronous training.
- Plan, develop, practice, then plan some more. Anyone who has delivered or for that matter taken online training will tell you it is more work than a face to face class. A lot more work! Give yourself plenty of time to plan and develop the training. Then try it out. Then revise it.
- Don’t try to wing it. I can’t tell you how many face to face sessions I’ve had to teach with little or no time to prepare. The very first computer class I ever taught was on Microsoft Project and I’d never used Project before. Though it’s not a good idea, you can pull it off in a face to face class. But in a live, online class forget it! Why? Keep reading.
- Silence is not golden! Silence will kill you in a synchronous environment. The minute you stop speaking without warning the participants will think they’ve lost their connection and confusion will begin. If you are starting a brainstorming activity, let the participants know by saying, “You have 30 seconds to _____ during that time you will hear silence. I will let you know when there are 5 seconds left.”
- Script or notes? Know your style. Because you don’t want any silence, you need to have a script at least when you start rehearsing. Tom and I practiced a few times with a script then by the time we had our first class I was down to just a copy of the slides, an outline, and some key phrases I wanted to say. Some people, like Tom, are great with a script but when I use one it is painfully obvious that I am reading. I do better with just a few notes.
- Have a producer. This is actually one of the most important lessons. Since we are going to be offering at least 60 LTLO sessions, I thought I could do some of them by myself. Tom and I quickly discovered why it is so important to have a producer. You want an active class. You want lots of participation. In order to keep that pace going, you need two people. One person just cannot talk continuously, annotate slides, and monitor and respond to chat. Additionally in our last session, Tom ran into a technical difficulty with his microphone. Had I not been there to back him up, the class may have come to a halt only 10 minutes in.
- Record the session. I hate the way I sound on recordings! But I was able to pick up a few things after the first session and improve them for the subsequent sessions. For one, all that talking makes you want to talk fast. Don’t! Remember to breathe.
- Let participants know up front who is monitoring chat. I noticed after watching the recordings that a few people were sending me private chat messages. I was not able to facilitate and monitor chat so some of the chat questions went unanswered or recognized by me.
- No one knows when you make a mistake, so don’t call attention to it. This is true for face to face and online training. If you click on the wrong slide and it’s not glaringly obvious, just roll with it. The participants don’t know. Your presentation will seem more polished if you let the little mistakes go.
- Each facilitator/producer needs to have two computers logged in to the live classroom. One computer needs to be logged in as the instructor and one needs to be logged in as a participant. You need to see exactly what your participants see. This is especially helpful if you are using application sharing. Additionally if you have technical problems on the instructor PC you can quickly grab the headphones and move over to the participant PC. This happened to both Tom and I during separate sessions.
- Have fun! Yes it is a totally different experience to deliver live, online training. I was incredibly nervous before the very first session on Wednesday morning. But once we got going I started to have fun and forgot about how nervous I was. In fact once we really got going it was all about the learning and I didn’t even think about the two computer screens in front of me.
That is the goal with live, online training. It’s about the people and the learning and not the technology. I have to give credit here to Jennifer Hoffman and Kassy LaBorie at InSync Training. If you are still unsure about online training, take a free course from InSync. Once you experience synchronous training done right, you’ll wonder why you waited so long to jump in.
*These sessions were adapted from the Learn How to Learn Online sessions developed and offered by InSync Training.