Organisations, associations and educators looking to offer training or continuous professional development (CPD) courses to employees and members have had new motivation this year to offer those courses online.
In fact, 37% of all digital events are held for educational or training purposes, according to our State of Webinar Marketing Report for 2020, released last month.
In addition, many people working remotely for the first time in the first half of 2020 have attended online events and meetings regularly over that period.
The good news is, they’re more familiar than ever with technology such as video conferencing and webinar platforms — and more positively predisposed towards using it to get the information they need.
The bad news is, they won’t tolerate a poor experience. Patchy sound, glitchy video, wordy slide decks and limited opportunities to interact won’t cut it, if they ever did.
So how can you ensure your online CPD activities have the engagement and communications cut-through needed to connect with a virtual audience?
We’ve put together some tips to help you make the switch from face-to-face teaching to effective online education.
1. Plan your interactive opportunities in advance
In a virtual learning situation, the opportunities for spontaneous verbal communication and questions from the audience are fewer and relatively far between.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t craft an engaging interactive experience for your audience.
Start during the registration process by asking your audience what they would like to learn about at your event to ensure you cover all the key topics your audience expects. You can also ask them to submit their questions in advance so you can prepare responses.
During your CPD event, plan to involve the audience at set times and utilise the interactive features of your online webinar platform to do so.
These may include online polls, or even things like interactive maps that show where your dispersed participants are physically located.
Mute your attendees during the event, but ensure they have an opportunity to ask questions either verbally at set times or throughout via the online chat functions in your webinar platform.
Also consider if you would like questions submitted during the event in private chats with the presenter or moderator, or via open chat, or both. Attendees may benefit from seeing the commentary, questions and experiences of their fellow attendees.
2. Adapt your content to your chosen online format
Whether you’re delivering a presentation, holding a seminar, participating in a panel discussion or facilitating a workshop, you will need to tailor your event format for online.
You may decide to offer a fully-online event or include some offline elements.
You may also need to shorten sessions if you’re adapting offline courses to an online environment. For example, many online CPD events only run to 45 minutes in length. If you run your event for significantly longer, make sure you schedule short breaks.
For interactive workshops, you may need to link out to online chat rooms or channels on sites such as Slack or Microsoft Teams to facilitate breakout sessions. Walk through the experience yourself before including it in your online event.
If you’re creating an online educational series, don’t keep changing the format — create a consistent experience for your attendees.
3. Face up to it
Consider the style of presentation carefully. Whether you choose to broadcast from a studio, remotely, using video and slides, or audio and slides, tailor your chosen presentation format to suit your material and personal style.
Studies show people like to look at the face of the person addressing them — and it aids recall — so if you’re comfortable appearing on video as well as slides, it’s definitely worth considering.
4. Make a connection
In face-to-face events we can chat while people enter the room and register, or make a coffee together. It’s much easier to read the mood of the room.
In a virtual event, strive to make a connection with your audience early on. Tell an interesting story, share a personal experience, or reveal a surprising fact.
To ensure engagement is high throughout, it’s crucial to ask your audience to participate. Launch an online poll early, or call a short break to enable everyone to submit questions — you can even create breakout rooms in online chats for small teams to collaborate and then bring work back to the broader forum.
The more participation you can build in, the more engaged your audience will be.
You can also create a short quiz or online assessment for people to complete, either in your webinar platform or via a link.
If you require participants to complete certain activities to qualify for any accreditations or CPD points on offer, just ensure those expectations are clear from the outset.
5. Include offline options
It’s a sad but true state of affairs that not all attendees’ internet connections are created equal. That means that live-streaming your education event may not work for attendees with a congested broadband connection.
Ensure you offer your event on-demand and include sufficient information in the associated resource pack of your event to enable attendees to complete any required assessments.
Transcripts of verbal Q&A sessions and online chats can be provided to on-demand attendees as an FAQ.
6. Pre-plan how to track engagement
Before your event, plan how to utilise the data in your technology platform to track audience attention and engagement.
Online polls throughout your event are a great way to assess your audience’s attention levels and engagement.
You can also track things like how many people watched live compared with on-demand, how much of the event they viewed, and whether there was a point at which people dropped off.
This can be a great indicator of the relevance of your educational or training content.
Use this information to improve the next online education, CPD or training event you hold!
For more information on the practicalities of taking your CPD program online, check out our eBook: The Dos and Don’ts of Taking your CPD Programs Online.
Redback Connect works with associations, not-for-profits and commercial organisations to run online events, education and training both remotely and from our broadcast studios. Contact one of our sales consultants for more information. Contact on – firstname.lastname@example.org