Thursday, December 31, 2009

Webinar Case Study: Meeting a Urgent Need in the Pharmaceutical Industry

I recently interviewed a colleague who designed and delivered a webinar to meet an urgent training need. She works for a Boston pharmaceutical start up of 20 employees and used GoTo Meeting to deliver training to nurses in a call center in Dallas.

The purpose of the webinar was to train the call center nurses to answer questions about a new cancer drug developed by my colleague’s company. If you’ve ever read the package insert on prescription medicine, you’ll notice a phone number to call with questions, which is required by the FDA of pharmaceutical companies. Small pharmaceutical companies typically outsource this work to a call center.

To help develop the training, my colleague interviewed the manager at the call center for two hours. Using this information she developed a 90-minute session with 25 slides. The slides included a large number of patient photos to illustrate before and after affects of the medicine. A journal article about the disease that the drug treats was sent as pre-reading to participants to help provide context for the presentation and maximize the time spent during the session. After the presentation the senior medical advisor from the pharmaceutical company (who is based in North Carolina and joined virtually) reviewed an FAQ and answered additional questions.

The result was an efficient training session delivered in real time, plus a recording made available to those who could not attend. Had this training been delivered the traditional way, my colleague and the senior medical advisor would have flown to Dallas to deliver two sessions (since some nurses needed to staff the call center). Additionally, a secondary audience in the Boston office (employees and contractors) attended the webinar and learned first-hand from company experts and from the questions raised by the nurses.

In total, 3 sessions (2 sessions for nurses and 1 for staff/contractors totaling 4.5 hours) were consolidated into 1 session (1.5 hours) and several hours of travel time were eliminated. In a small organization where resources are stretched thin and staff are in various locations, replacing face-to-face training with training delivered via web cast is a great way to save time and gain efficiencies.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

How to Keep Your Cool Online

Picture this: A project manager with a geographically dispersed team, who was somewhat new to conducting meetings via web conference, decided to facilitate a project kick-off meeting using a web conference. Her goal was to get the team on the same page and make a good first impression. As the meeting started, she lost her Internet connection and lost her virtual meeting room. In a panic, the project manager blurted out that “I guess we won’t have a meeting. Why do these things always happen to ME?” in an exasperated tone. Sound familiar?

A skilled online facilitator knows that from time to time, there will be technology glitches, and she knows how to keep her cool and deal with these issues with confidence. Ideally, you should partner with someone when facilitating an online meeting so that one person can run the meeting and a second person can handle technical issues. I also always make sure I can access the meeting agenda and handouts outside of the meeting room (either printed copies or a copy on my computer) so that I can continue the meeting on a phone line if needed. Even better if you can email all meeting documents to participants as a back-up.

In this case, the project manager was using a separate phone connection, and everyone was still connected to the audio bridge. She also had a second person helping with the technical issues. Instead of panicking she could have muted the phone, told her partner that she would start the meeting without the visual and request a signal or a note to her to let her know the status of the virtual meeting room. A comment such as “We are working to restore the meeting room and can actually start without it by introducing the agenda and first topic, etc.” would have appeased her audience.

As it turned out, in this meeting the internet connection was restored within minutes. The project manager lost credibility with her team by sounding the alarm bells and losing control of the situation. If she had been better prepared and planned with her co-facilitator, she could have seamlessly shifted from plan “a” to plan “b.” The participants would have certainly noticed that things weren’t going exactly as planned, but they would have also observed a professional who was well prepared, confident and kept her cool in a difficult situation.