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Use This Trainer’s Tips To Create the Ultimate Webinar Experience

Vicki Ziesemer graduated from UW-Milwaukee in 1984 with an education degree emphasizing computer-assisted instruction. She has more than 25 years experience in creating and delivering technical training. Her experience includes performance improvement, corporate training and training technology, eLearning, instructional design, and multimedia development. Vicki’s experience includes the insurance, manufacturing, and electronic financial transaction industries. She can be contacted at

Q. Are the web-based training classes your company offers for the employees, customers, or both?

Web-based classes (both self-paced and instructor-led) are designed for both, but are primarily used by our customers.

When we use an online instructor it is usually at the request of a single customer and is then scheduled accordingly between the instructor and the customer directly at their convenience. Most courses are broken out into 1 hour or shorter instructor-led segments, followed by “homework” the customer completes before the next session. In this way we can complete a training course in a topic such a report writing, and the end result is that the customer has created their reports with the aid of the instructor while attending class. We record the instructor-led portions and give those to the customer for reference (and we keep them here for internal reference).

When the class is scheduled as a public one where multiple customers attend, we advertise and post the dates and times for the instructor-led segments. Students register for class and either attend the session(s) live, or listen to a recorded session if they can’t attend. Then the instructor individually schedules one or two hours of private “one-on-one” time with each student between sessions to help them with “homework” portion of the class.

Q. Could you tell me about a webinar experience you have had?

Before we offered this “virtual” option, our publicly advertised/scheduled onsite classes were always cancelled due to lack of registrations. It meant we not only lost money, but could not provide the education our customers needed and wanted.

By providing the same content via webinar format, we not only have registrations and make money (profit margin is much greater for virtual classes), but our customers get the information they need at a lower cost than it would be to travel here for it. In addition, because we can record and replay the content, our internal staff and other customers can access it in the future.

Q. It seems like you have had a lot of experience with webinars. What are the top three things that every trainer using webinars should keep in mind?

1. Content has to be focused. People have a hard time paying attention for more than a few minutes- they need meaningful content, opportunity to interact, and to practice what they are learning as they go.

2. The WORST webinars are what you see most commonly – lectures, no interactions, full of drivel like “history” of the topic. All of that makes the students tune out, launch their browser or other work and you often can’t get them back.

3. Every 2-3 minutes they should be engaged in meaningful exchange with each other, instructor and or software (in my case anyway). And instructors have to start that right away when they have a webinar- students get “trained” when the sessions starts. If they are involved immediately- even if just sharing names and objective for the course- they know, “oh- this is one of those sessions where I have to respond.” Wait too long and you have trained them to be quiet. It is VERY hard to get them to interact if you do this.

Q. Are there any specific tricks you use to keep people engaged?

A few techniques…

1.) Early in- first 3-5 min, ask each person what is their name and the one thing they want to walk away from this session with

2.) Throughout session, ask open-ended questions like: “Rita, I think your environment is using this feature. Have you had any experience with it?” “Jerry, if you automated this process do you think that would help your team be more productive?” “Have any of you ever used this function before?” If the answer is no, follow up with “do you think you would? Why or why not?” If yes, “can you tell us how it worked for you?”

3.) Throughout the session I pass control to various students to let them “drive” (again, we teach software classes). So, I may say “Bill, I am going to give you control and walk you through this procedure. As we do, let’s use your data for an example….”

Q. In what ways has eLearning changed the way that students and instructors interact with each other and the course material?

The biggest change is the reduction of travel (for both our staff and customers). The shift has allowed both parties to enjoy very significant savings- in fact, in our case, that was a major factor in our ability to remain profitable through the recent economic storms.

The other big change is that often when a question arises, answers can often be quickly and easily found, right in the instant they are needed. That means that students and internal staff use the material more. It also means that the internal resources are more motivated to help provide information and/or content to us to be included in our eLearning collection.

As far as student/instructor interaction changes, we still conduct a lot of onsite work. But this is often more due to “habit” than necessity. Our newer Business Services Analysts are shifting to more “virtual” training and eLearning and away from onsite training. It is a changing paradigm, and as with all change, often takes time before it is fully utilized.

Q. What do you suggest our readers take a look at to keep current in your line of work?

I network with other professionals locally, and via Linked In, etc. I subscribe to Training Magazine, but I would say that I have been more inclined to poke around online than anything else- self-taught I guess. I have found that current information comes from MANY sources…including elementary education….and that no “expert” seems to stay on top of these things over time.

So, when I have time to poke around, I explore.

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