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Taking a Program or Event ‘Virtual’

Posted on Mon, June 1,2015 @ 14:54 PM

Maybe your event or program is so popular that corporate wants to take it nationwide – but without cloning eight of you. Maybe you’re simply looking for a cheaper way to reach more people, more quickly with a more consistent message. Perhaps your targeted workforce or attendees are mobile, demanding some sort of off-site offering, but in several sites at once.


Whatever the reason, more and more programs and events today are going fully virtual, or have a virtual component to expand their reach and accessibility.

That poses significant challenges to individuals and departments accustomed to delivering traditional, location-based events or programs. Specifically, what technology platform do you use to present the content, and how do you repurpose content to fit this system of delivery, look good on the devices it will be viewed on, and leverage the technical tools available?

So, what are my delivery options?
When it comes to delivery platforms for virtual programs, the options are practically endless. Larger companies can access tools provided by their network communications provider or even use their internal tools to deliver programs to their associates’ desktops. Smaller organizations might simply leverage free tools like Skype or Google Hangouts to broadcast content directly to their audience.

Somewhere in the middle falls the webinar, the most common delivery method used today for virtual programs and events. The market offers a myriad of webinar and conferencing tools, and finding a provider that fits your needs shouldn’t be too difficult.

A quick search will reveal a nice features grid and pretty comprehensive reviews of 10 providers on toptenreviews.com (click “sort by standard rankings” to see their picks). You might also want to visit Capterra’s directory of providers, where you will find a lot of customer reviews. And if you want to see one individual’s testing of various providers, go to wpcurve.com.

Information that might help you pair with the right provider is your expected audience size for each webinar; how many webinars you intend to conduct; how many licenses you will need; and possibly, can you integrate it with your registration software. You might also seek some desirable features (easy to use, nice interface, works on mobile, allows screen markups, provides chat/other interactivity, etc.), some of which will become clearer once you’ve developed your virtual content.

What’s so tricky about creating virtual content?
Creating content for a virtual platform is as easy as streaming your program or presenting that same presentation on screen but sharing it through the webinar tool, right?

Wrong.

According to Learning Solutions Magazine, “simply moving the content and lecture portions to an electronic means of delivery is what leads to eLearning at its worst: slide after slide of bulleted information and loss of engaging activities and the contributions of individual instructors.”

They suggest looking for ways to capture what a good instructor brings to the classroom, such as responsiveness, interesting stories and examples, a sense of humor and immediate feedback.

To accomplish this, content needs to be repackaged into smaller pieces (perhaps as a PDF or PowerPoint), delivered in short segments and interspersed with questions to promote interactivity says speaker, writer and training consultant Cathy Moore. She suggests that presenters leverage webinar technology like “chat” to further promote participation and make the session more of an activity than a presentation.

“This one change – your commitment to ask a ton of thought-provoking, open-ended questions – means that you’ll design a series of mini-activities instead of an information dump. Your participants will stay with you, thinking and participating, instead of clicking away to plan their Bali trip while you talk to an empty room.”

This SHIFT blog maps out five steps for converting classroom instruction into an eLearning course where webinars are just one means of distribution. Readytalk.com offers additional and insightful best practices pre-event, during the event, and post-event, guiding you through content preparation, engaging delivery and follow-through to get the most out of your program. They give common sense advice – like designing your program for your audience – but also provide tips on webinar promotion, ideas for interactivity and ways to get value from the recorded event.

Here are some of the better content tips picked up from these and other sources:

  • After welcoming attendees, explain how the technology works – including how (and when) to ask a question or participate in a poll – and what you intend to cover.
  • Make any handouts available at the beginning or shortly before the presentation, so participants can use it to take notes.
  • Stop talking and listen on occasion (explain why so it doesn’t feel awkward to participants) to catch up with chat and respond to it.
  • If you’re recording the session and the chat won’t be recorded, read chat items aloud so the recording makes sense to someone who wasn’t there. Just as you do when presenting to a big group, repeat the question aloud before you answer it.
  • Share applications or your desktop as a good way to engage attendees. Rather than show a screen shot of a website via PDF or PowerPoint, go to the website and navigate through the content you are discussing.
  • Use slides to illustrate your points but don’t simply read content from the deck.
  • Conduct a post-event meeting for all the presenters, to get feedback on their experience of the technology, the content and the audience reaction. Keep track of what worked and what didn’t.
  • Within 24 hours, provide attendees with any materials you offered, such as whitepapers, the event recording or a copy of the presentation.

What additional tips do you have? If you or your programs are already being presented in a virtual format, please use the Comments section below to share your thoughts on this article as well as any best practices or ideas that work well for you.

If you would like to know more about the value of having registration software that integrates with webinars – or just want to know more about ABC Signup or registration software in general – contact us by phone (866.791.8268 ext. 0) or email at your convenience.

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