Webinars have come a long way since the days of dodgy connections and shoddy content. Now, in fact, they’re a great way to deliver L&D to staff spread far and wide. Alison Coleman finds out what makes the perfect training webinar
With flexible working patterns becoming more prevalent and employees increasingly operating from well-equipped home or field-based workstations, one of the big challenges facing employers is how to meet their training and development requirements.
Thanks to rapid growth in web technologies the range of tools and techniques now at their disposal provide some very effective solutions.
Web-based seminars, or webinars, providing high quality visual and audio content, can be delivered from a single point to large numbers of ‘delegates’ all based at different locations.
This solves a particular problem for managers who feel they have too much to do and too little time to do it, says Tony Sheehan, director of learning services at Ashridge Business School.
“Many of them have experienced travelling huge distances to attend short meetings – an immense waste of time and energy – so the effectiveness of the virtual meeting and webinar provides a real opportunity to increase productivity,” he says.
The technology requirements are simple: a PC or laptop and decent broadband connection. While many of the original online platforms required software to be downloaded, most are now web browser-based, negating issues with corporate firewalls or installation permissions. Sessions can be broadcast from a regular PC using an HD webcam straight into the web interface that delegates log into.
Thanks to rapid growth in web technologies the range of tools and techniques now at their disposal provide some very effective solutions
Be careful with content
One of the biggest benefits of online training is its immediacy; however, the content itself requires more careful planning, says Gavin Newman, managing director at iVent, a webcasting and virtual training specialist.
“Training content delivered online is not the same as content delivered in a physical session – you can’t simply shoehorn live content into a virtual programme. Online training has to be devised and delivered as bite-sized, workable chunks, which are more easily retained,” he says.
It is also important to consider the training subject, says Vincent Belliveau, senior vice president of EMEA at Cornerstone OnDemand, a talent management software firm.
“Companies shouldn’t just jump on the ‘latest and greatest’. For example, classroom based learning will always be good for teaching soft skills such as communication while e-learning works really well for hard skills and compliance,” he says.
Feedback from any training activity is crucial, and using an online platform gives greater flexibility for the generation of that feedback, while measurability of attendance and usage is 100% accurate in a digital environment.
You need to think about your target audience, advises Sheehan, adding: “If delegate numbers are large, discussion is light, and people are unfamiliar with the online tools of the trade, a large scale broadcast might be better translated into shared video clips with an online asynchronous discussion group to address key issues.”
The role of the facilitator is crucial in assessing who is, or isn’t, engaging with the training.
“Virtual cues are harder to notice than those we see face to face, but they are still there and need to be addressed,” he says.
In your own time
Smaller organisations, too, are benefiting from web-based training. Business coach Tony Gedge works with private dental practices throughout the UK, delivering webinars on topics such as developing business skills, marketing and staff training.
He says: “It can be viewed live, or as a recording accessed via a web link, and it allows individuals and their teams to get the best out of the training session and apply it to their business without disrupting their practice time.
“It is becoming even more flexible as people are increasingly accessing the content via mobile devices like smart phones and tablets. But it is important to remember that webinars are just one part of the mix, and there needs to be a balance between online and face to face skills training and development.”
In implementing flexible working patterns, training and development remain a priority. As technology becomes more efficient, ease of use and zero issues with accessibility will be key to delivering successful training webinars.
Five essentials of a good webinar session
- Ensure commitment to the session – confirm attendance in advance and set a pre ‘warm-up’ such as a brief survey to grab their attention
- Start gently in case people are unfamiliar – have technical assistance at hand to guide people through the process of joining
- Set expectations – build trust with delegates by explaining your approach – how questions will be dealt with, whether their microphone be muted etc. Small details can impact on flow of the session
- Engage everyone – live polls make the session interactive and secure feedback, which can be supplemented by open questions to stimulate further discussion
- Learn from experience – and use feedback to enhance future webinars