Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Sound of Silence

The end of the year is always a great week to pause. It's the one time of year when the frenzy of life and work slow down just a bit, after the holidays have passed.  Silence, indeed, can be golden. 

Conversely, the sound of silence during a web conference may be uncomfortable, but that silence is important, and worth getting used to.  When you post a poll, type a question in the chat box or ask a question verbally, the facilitator should pause and give the audience time to respond. Some silence is okay and web conference facilitation doesn't mean the facilitator has a license to conduct an un-ending monologue - that's pure "sage on the stage".  Rather, when you ask a question your audience needs a few seconds to process the question and think of a response or review the poll response options to determine how they will respond. If respondents will be typing their response they will need even more time to respond. Resist the urge to jump in and break the silence - let your participants fill the pause instead.  The majority of the time you will be pleasantly surprised when your participants chime in with their ideas and thoughts.

During this holiday week I am also resisting the urge to break the silence - albeit weakly.  Hope you get some time to do the same.  Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Importance of a Second Computer

In two webinars over the last two weeks I heard the main speaker asking the technical person/producer of the event which slide was showing on the screen because the main speaker couldn't tell what he was seeing versus what his audience was seeing. This situtation is easily remedied by having the lead speaker log into a second computer as a participant. By having two computers side by side, the speaker can always see the presenter view and the participant view simultaneously.

If you are striving for flawless delivery of a webinar, try following this best practice. I've used this technique for years, and time and time again it has been a life-saver.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Web Conferencing is Good for the Environment

I attended a web conference today put on by Refined Data and Adobe which highlighted the environmental benefits of web conferencing. Refined Data sells an application that works in the Adobe Connect platform that provides real-time calculations of carbon savings for web conferences.

While I am not using this tool, I have been doing something more crude but effective at the beginning of each web conference for internal audiences. I include a slide that mentions the approximate carbon emissions that were saved by meeting online where no travel or paper is required. It's generally an "a-ha" moment for participants and many will comment in the evaluation form positively about this part of the web conference.

Friday, November 28, 2008

How to Sabatoge

I recently came across a humorous posting on the Boing Boing blog by Cory Doctorow on a 1944 CIA Simple Sabotage Field Manual with tips on how to sabotage the workplace. This resurfaced manual sounds eerily familiar to meetings I am in at work with tips such as

"- Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible."
"- Haggle over precise wordings of com­munications, minutes, resolutions."

I started working on my own list of tips to add some humor to the web conferencing planning process:

How to Sabotage a Web Conference
1. Send unclear meeting instructions to enrollees
2. Do not begin or end the session on time
3. Do not practice or rehearse your session prior to the actual live delivery
4. Speak for long periods of time and do not move your slides frequently
5. Do not engage participants via polling, chatting or other interactive features.

The list could go on and on, but I'll stop there. You get the idea!

Friday, November 14, 2008

ASTD TechKnowledge Conference 2009

The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) holds two conferences each year. One of the conferences, ASTD TechKnowledge, will take place in Las Vegas, Nevada this year and the conference program was recently posted online.

This year they are offering a track for attendees who are interested in Virtual Facilitation and Delivery. I have the honor of being one of the speakers in this track and I will be speaking about Facilitating Virtual Events: Success Factors from the World Bank Group. My presentation will be based on the best practices I've learned from facilitating web conferences over the past few years, with an emphasis on global delivery. If you plan to attend the conference, do let me know.

Friday, November 7, 2008

An Integrated Experience

I was reading a recent article by Jakob Neilsen, a web usability guru, on Aspects of Design Quality, and realized that his comments on the importance of total user experience apply directly to web conferencing. In the article Neilsen states, “We can liken a website's user experience to the metaphorical chain that's no stronger than its weakest link. If any one usability attribute fails, the overall user experience is compromised and many users will fail.”

The user experience in a web conference should be though of in an integrated manner as well. From the registration process, to the delivery of the content to the post-event evaluation, the user should expect a smooth progression. Looking at a web conference from a more holistic point of view, rather than just focusing on the material to be shared, will ensure a high quality web conference.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What Do Web Conferencing and the Presidential Election Have in Common?

Polling! Presidential election season is in full swing right now in the United States and that means the media reports on a myriad of poll results daily. If you look closely at the poll questions they are generally clear and unbiased, although every now and then a biased question surfaces.

Polling is one of my favorite features in a web conference. Well-designed polls can enhance a web conference and give a boost to your audience engagement. Poorly designed polls can frustrate your audience and have the opposite effect. To avoid such pitfalls, think of polls as ‘mini-surveys.’ We can apply best practices from surveys in a web-conference to maximize the results of polling: avoid leading questions, eliminate unclear language, limit answer choices, etc. I explored this topic in depth in an article on Best Practices for Polling in Web Conferences if you are interested in learning more.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

First Impressions

We’ve all heard the saying that you only get one chance to make a first impression. This seemed liked an appropriate topic my first blog entry on web conferencing. I have a passion for web conferencing and how to design and deliver first-rate sessions. Elliot Massie recently posted an article about the Reflections on the First Three Minutes of Learning, summarizing ideas from his readers about the power of the first three minutes. In a web conference, the first interactions with a participants are extremely influential. Participants will quickly decide whether or not your session is worth their time or if they should go back to their email.

Making those first three minutes as interesting and flawless as possible requires preparation and rehearsal. I like to get the participants to practice posting a chat message, changing their status icon and responding to a poll within the first three minutes. It sets the tone for a high level of interaction and gets new participants used to the technology quickly.