Archive for August, 2010

I ran across this video that’s loaded with stats about social networking.  I think it could be a good way to start some sales training.  Hope you enjoy it.  

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I’m continuing to research webinars.  It seems that around 10 people or less people have found ways to do almost every type of activity that you can do in a classroom.  This is particularly true if this is an internal session where you know everyone.  If you do this sessions a lot with the same people, they get to know the functionality of the technology and how you like to run certain types of sessions.

So the bigger challenge is running larger open sessions.  In reality if you have a 50 person classroom session, you still have a lot of people multi-tasking or not paying attention to everything you’re doing.  That’s why you have to repeat directions several times to get everyone to do an activity.  However, I think with a little creativity you can do a wide range of activities and add some entertainment value.

For example, video has become something that’s very easy to add.  Services like Vyew.com and others allow you to upload Youtube videos.  This gives you access to all the Youtube videos include you videos that you upload to Youtube.  Small one and two minute videos provide a break from staring at PowerPoints and make great conversation starters.

Another idea to get a little more discussion going, is to create a four or five person panel to discuss a question or topic.  They can also be armed with the typical questions you expect to be asked.

I’m going back to my list of icebreakers to see how you would do some of them in a large web setting.  I’ll post some of the up.

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The biggest challenge for most webinar leaders is that they are getting no direct feedback when they are speaking.  When you are speaking to a live group in a classroom, you at least know they are there and you get feedback from their body language.  When you’re speaking on a webinar, you always have the feeling that you’re talking to empty space.  This is magnified when you ask for questions and there’s no response even in the chat area.  You could be doing a fabulous job and people are quite because they are being entertained or  mesmerized by what you’re saying.

Anyone who has ever lead an audio conference or web conference has experienced this.  So what’s the answer?

The best answer comes from talk radio.  Radio talk show host talk into the ether for hours with a high level of intensity.  What they do is have someone else in the room with them and occasionally engage them with a question.  They might speak for 30 minutes straight but the feedback from that other person live makes it a lot more comfortable.  It also helps them pace their speech.  People on their own talking to space tend to speed up and try to fill all the dead space.  They feel like if they stop talking, the audience will disappear.  This speeding up also makes people more tense and affects their breathing.  So it’s a good idea to consciously slow down and take a deep breath.

Doing a web conference with a co-facilitator is extremely helpful even if they are in a different location.  To make the exchange from one speaker to another more natural it’s a good idea to have a signal when the other person wants to talk.  Don’t just say to the other person, “do you want to say something?”  The second person also makes it easier to handle all the technology and the audience.  It’s a lot like having an engineer in a radio studio.

Video can  help with a small group but it doesn’t give you very much feedback for a big group.  That’s why TV talk hosts have a studio audience.

So look to radio for some good tips and remember to breathe!

Photo by: Angatuba – Legionaire

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The worst type of classroom training are long PowerPoint presentations with limited interaction.  Transforming this type of training into a webinar because it easy and cheap, doesn’t make it good training.  Adding a few discussion questions or a quick poll might make it more interesting, but does it really make it more effective.  Most of what’s written about webinars relates to choosing technology and various features of different providers.  However, there is very little written on how to turn webinars into great training.  Therefore, I’m going to start a series of posts about instructional design concepts for webinars.

I think the first place to start is to consider what type of training is well suited for webinars and what isn’t.  Audience size and make up can make a big difference.  Hosting a webinar with five or six coworkers can be highly interactive with lively discussions.  A two hundred person public session is very different.  Only a few people will actually ask a question and it’s difficult to let more than a few people talk.  Designing these sessions to be more than a one-way data dump or sales pitch is difficult and requires a lot of creativity.  In general, here’s a quick list of what I think webinars can do well and what they’re not so good at.

Best Uses of Webinars

  1. Kickoff Sessions (Big Picture Overviews of What’s Going to Happen)
  2. PreWork (Substitute for reading assignments or self-study before coming to a class)
  3. Just-in-Time Information and Communication (When there isn’t time for anything else)
  4. Lunch and Learns (Quick overviews of topics in series)
  5. Introductions (Replaces things like department visits)

Worst Uses of Webinars

  1. Skill Building (Anything that requires a lot of practice and feedback)
  2. Action Learning (Anything that requires a lot of people working in teams to discover new ideas and techniques)
  3. Coaching Sessions (Most good coaching is one on one)
  4. Longer Activities (Some activities require an hour or more to complete, a lot of dead time on the phone)
  5. Role Plays and Simulations (Tough with more than a few people)

These aren’t hard and fast rules but general guidelines.  Often logistics and budgets restrictions will lead to more webinars and doing something is often better than doing nothing.  I think webinars can be particularly effective when they are part of a blended learning solution.

In my next post, I’m going to try to dig into the actual design of a webinar and share some best practice ideas.

Photo by DimDim Web Conferencing

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I’ve noticed that there are two different backgrounds for trainers and training managers.  First, there are those who are good at a particular job and they get promoted into training.  This is very common for sales forces, call centers and manufacturing.  Their knowledge of the job and often on-the-job training is high and their knowledge of anything formal about training tends to be low.  The second are those with a training background but have limited work experience.  The know education models and theories but often not how business works or other business models.  Hopefully over time, they begin to close these gaps.

The role of mentoring for these trainers and training managers often involves closing some of these gaps quickly while reducing a lot of mistakes and certainly conflict.  Often one of the most challenging things for new trainers and training managers is leading groups and teams of more senior level people without getting run over.  This is a particularly good place for a mentor.  Here are some of my ideas on some of the best things mentors can do:

  • Connect trainers with the appropriate associations and networking organizations
  • Show trainers how to find training resources
  • Provide tools and templates
  • Allow trainers to job shadow especially with higher level meetings
  • Review work and provide feedback especially at the design level
  • Involve trainers in other business initiatives such as quality improvement
  • Work with trainers on building business cases and the finance side of the business
  • Sit in on classes and provide feedback

There are many more this is just a start.  Helping training managers establish their role and learning leaders is an additional challenge you might want to help them with.

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A lot of sales training is built around a sales process.  Here’s a quick test to see how effective your sales process is.  Ask the salespeople in your organization to list the steps in their sales process.  If they can’t fluently answer this question, it’s likely they aren’t following the process.  This is an indication that work needs to be done.

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Steve Wynn is one of the most successful builders of resorts and casinos in history.  This is his perspective on today’s economy and view of the next year.

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