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5 tips for running a successful webinar course

Right now, the training industry is experiencing major disruption. Factors like Covid-19 and a rise in remote working have accelerated our desire for flexible learning. And while the concept of webinars to deliver training courses isn’t new, it is now more than ever that learners are choosing webinar courses as an alternative to face-to-face. Is your business moving with the market?

When you think of successful 21st century companies you think of the Ubers, Apples and Amazons of the world. The industry disruptors. 

Perhaps one of the most notable examples of industry disruption is the Netflix Blockbuster story. In 2000, Blockbuster CEO John Antioco was presented with the opportunity to buy Netflix for $50m and he turned it down. We all know how that story ends – Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy in 2010, and Netflix is now worth more than $32b.

This illustrates how important it is for businesses to recognize disruption and be willing to adapt to the changing needs of its customers.

For training providers, those customer needs come in the form of flexible and accessible learning. Think webinars, on-demand video, online resources and self-paced eLearning. 

Webinars are on the rise

Here at Arlo we’re seeing record numbers of registrations for live online, webinar-based courses, and Google Trends data shows that searches for terms such as “online learning”, “webinar”, “online course” and “eLearning” have more than tripled in popularity in recent months. This alone illustrates the increased demand for online courses – if you’re not offering webinar courses, you’re not keeping up with the market.

For traditional training providers used to delivering face-to-face courses, a move to online may be daunting. We know that navigating change isn’t easy. It takes grit, determination and hard work. And navigating the change required to deliver to a webinar format comes with its own challenges – from learning new software such as Zoom, to adapting existing classroom content to an online format, to training presenters on a new style of delivery.

To help you get started, we asked some of our most innovative training providers to share their tips for delivering training courses via webinar. 

5 tips for running a successful webinar:

  1. Know your software. IRI Australia encourages other training providers to do their research when it comes to choosing webinar software. Solutions Training & Adoption Manager Margarita Sanding advice is to see what each platform delivers and see how it fits with the training sessions that you intend to deliver, as each has its unique features. She stresses the importance of picking the right software, but more importantly says “really get to know the tool you’re using, so when you’re running a live online webinar, you are at the forefront of the platform you are using. This makes it easier for your clients to adapt to this new way of learning and see the value in it”.

    Margarita continuously works on expanding the technology skills of their tutors and has been running internal Zoom training sessions and dry-run webinars to up-skill. She stresses the importance of the tutors knowing their software well, so when they’re running a live online webinar they have a good handle of the tool and appear professional. The tutors also continuously meet to feedback on what they could adapt/change, and she’s created a shared document for all staff on virtual training tips.
  1. Support tutors in the transition to online. Selwyn Community Education and Education Programme Director Anne Cave worked hard on the change management required to make the organizational shift from entirely face-to-face courses, to introducing webinar delivery. She worked particularly closely with tutors to create a supportive environment for them in the transition to an online delivery, and worked with them to discuss which classes might be appropriate to transition to online, and which ones weren’t.

    A couple of tutors opted out of delivering their courses online, saying it is “not my way of teaching”, and Anne says SCE respected their decisions. The majority have been happy to adapt, and Anne has focused her time and energy on them. Tutors attended Zoom tutorials to up-skill on webinar software, and Anne set-up a WhatsApp group for continued support and engagement between herself and the tutors. “They’re building confidence with each other – sharing tips and tricks”, she says.
  1. Support your learners from the moment they register. For Parallel Project Training‘s students, from the moment they register they can access downloadable content including self-assessments and practice exams, as well as printed study guides. For live online webinars, to cultivate a successful online learning environment, Parallel provides information to attendees on how to get set-up. Co-founder Paul Naybour created a YouTube video on how to setup Adobe Connect. If all else fails, they’ll talk people through the set-up process over the phone to ensure that no one is left behind. 1:1 tutoring is also available for those who need additional learning support after the webinar course.
  1. Create a professional environment. Parallel Project Training has invested in good quality headsets, have set-up lighting from the side of the computer screen and ensure trainers are well presented. Tutors put their webcams at eye level and use a pop-up screen for the background. It’s also important to remove, or limit, any distractions from your environment, such as pets, posters and photos in the background, and loud noises outside. Turn your mobile phone off, and mute any desktop notifications such as emails and calendar reminders.
  1. Keep your audience engaged. The magic number from our training providers was 60 minutes. 60 minutes as the maximum length of a webinar before providing an activity or short break to spark engagement. IRI’s Margarita Sanding says “you will lose people beyond that”. Springhouse CEO Bruce Cooper says the typical model for a Springhouse course is explanation, demonstration and then a hands-on exercise. He says “that model for virtual delivery works well, because it provides a content break by allowing students to do something hands-on”.

    The best webinar software has built-in features to engage the audience – such as polls, breakout rooms, Q&A, quizzes and surveys and Paul, from Parallel Project Training, encourages training providers to do whatever they can to “make the subject come alive”, including using animation, video clips and live screen capture. “Don’t rely on a boring series of PowerPoint slides. And create a separate script to help you stay on topic and on time”, he says.

Is your business a Netflix or a Blockbuster? It’s up to you…

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