Webinar questions… and my answers

On LinkedIn there was a questions asking for feedback on webinars. Typically I’ve responded fairly fully and exceeded the word limit, so I’m posting my answers here in case they help anyone else.

Original post: https://t.co/ooHJx0t83k

Original question:

I’m looking for some feedback on #webinars if you either deliver them as part of your marketing strategy, or attend them as part of your (informal) L&D or for personal interest… (No need to respond to all questions – all feedback appreciated!)

1. How useful they are to you?
2. How often you attend/run them?
3. What topics that appeal to you the most/work best?
4. What you normally do once you’ve attended/run them?
5. What would be the one thing that you’d do differently (as a facilitator)?
6. What would be the one thing that you wish was done differently (as a participant)? Thanks in advance!

My answers:

1) Very! Depending on subject, facilitator, company, quality, tech use, participants and so on. Best for me is a subject that is relevant, with a quality speaker, appropriate interaction to help me with the subject, an open chat area to ask/learn from and network with others. I also host a great number of webinars, in some different formats, and they are useful for me to learn the topics even if I might not normally have attended them.

2) Attend, when I can. One a week on average maybe.
Run, one a month for the Training Journal #TJwow discussion webinars, one a month for the LPO Exploring Design of Virtual Classrooms webinar, ad hoc for others as I’m needed as a host or producer or speaker.

3) For my development, it’s what I’m focusing on for personal/professional development or for my business, so it’s very subjective.
Good for audiences will depend on your company, the products/services you offer and your key audiences. Either way you need to be focused on what can reasonably be achieved within the time frame of your webinar and allowing for discussion/interaction. It needs to be succinct and to the point.

4) For TJ: Publish a page with the recording link, image of the lessons learned, link to register for future webinars. Others are similar – it’s getting the recording and materials out and dealing with follow up questions. Thanking the speakers privately and publicly on social media.

5) As part of #4 I now include some of the thank you comments to highlight why people should attend. I keep an ongoing list of registrations, attendees and percentages against industry standards to show progress.
As a facilitator it’s always about improving your skills, technology, understanding, the setup, working with the speakers etc.

Hope that helps, feel free to reach out for further discussion as I’m interested in hearing more about your project.

Sparking my creativity

I love helping people. I guess it’s why I naturally fit into Learning and Development so well and why I felt at home the first time I was delivering in a classroom. It’s why my business is called Lightbulb Moment and on Twitter I’m @LightbulbJo – it’s the moment of learning, of independence, of insight. I love it.

Why do I help people? I’m not sure. It’s my nature I guess, something that’s in me. My mother helps people. Gosh does she. She’s always been a mother hen, taking in people under her wings. An awesome inspiration to see how much she helped and supported people just by being herself, by doing what she was good at and without really realising it. It’s only when she retired and there was a massive, grateful party did she have any inkling as to the impact she had on people’s lives. That’s quite a role model.

Is there some deep psychological issue at play in helping people? Maybe. There is an argument that humans never do anything that is truly altruistic, that there is always some kind of pay-off somewhere. I like to think that I’m doing it out of the goodness of my heart, truly not for myself. But I get something out of it too. There’s the psychological payback immediately of “oh, I know the answer to this” or “I can contribute to this conversation” which, ultimately must mean “I’m good”.

I’ve been helping Sarah with her travel blog. She’s a great natural writer, who needs a bit of experience to hone her skills. She went off on an extensive travelling adventure this year. There were beautiful photo’s on Facebook and lovely insights and stories when we caught up on Messenger Video. It seemed natural, at least to me, that she should share those stories for other people’s entertainment and to inform them from what she had learned.

I help Sarah a bit with editing some of her posts, giving her the insight that I have about writing, structure, delivering a message. I might not be the best expert in the world, but as Con Sotidis said to me yesterday, “you just need to be one step ahead” of who you are helping. I’ve helped (pushed!?) Sarah into setting up a Twitter account to publicise her blog and she’s getting great at using hashtags. It’s lovely to help someone with what, to me, is relatively easy, and to Sarah is a step into the unknown.

I’m also encouraging Sarah to write some more about her work experiences, as she’s going into a new industry and new role. I can see the richness in what we talk about and how much that could help other people if she shares the story, if she “works out loud”. She’s beginning to write some of that and shared with me a first draft yesterday. That draft was great. Even as someone with a couple of decades in the industry, I was captivated by what she was writing and saw great potential in some of her observations. I’ve fanned that flame and I look forward to it growing.

Sarah is also a very grateful and self-effacing young woman who always wants to give back, to ensure that the balance of give and take are there. It’s this point that struck me this morning. She might feel that she is taking more than she’s giving, with the support that I’m providing. What she probably doesn’t realise is how much I enjoy it. How I love to edit her work and see something fresh and different from my normal L&D focused work. I get something from it too, from working outside of my own industry.

And then there are the fireworks. I get to reflect on what Sarah has written, our conversation, our joint meaning-making. I think about it. It sparks something in me. That creativity is hard to manufacture. That comes when given the right context.

I have my own company and, largely, I work at home, alone. I love it. I can write this blog at 9.42 in the morning and not have a boss breathing down my neck. I can spend time chatting with people on Skype to advise them or just share my own experiences. It’s fine, as long as I hit my client’s deadlines and quality expectations, they don’t mind how I get there.

Yes, I have Skype, Twitter and obviously lots of online sessions I deliver to keep in touch with people during the day. Whilst I might be alone I’m rarely lonely.

The creative spark comes from connecting with people. The wonderful Michelle Parry-Slater has written recently on this topic, about the face to face connection that many people seek out. I agree with her, we need that time. This is a different type of connection though. With Sarah, it’s been largely Facebook Messenger chats, effectively working remotely with each other, and some phone/video calling. It’s been interwoven in our friendship, which, equally, could be a good colleague relationship.

Do I get something out of helping Sarah? Of course, she’s a delightful and positive person and tells me how awesome I am. We can all do with a bit of that! More than that is the curiosity she brings to topics, the questions and search for meaning and understanding. That’s what sparks something in me. That’s just one good reason to help people.

Plot a destination and set sail

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I’ve just been having a conversation with a colleague from a previous role who is making the jump and going freelance. It’s an awesome decision to make, right for some, not for all. As I have my own company and work for a variety of clients in a different roles, my friend was asking about how do you know what to charge, how do you have the conversation, how do you work it out and so on. There was more to the questions though. It wasn’t about maths or market rates. I could see the angst on my friend’s face, the way breathing and posture changed, the way their voice was different and the way they interpreted my questions… My friend was struggling with self confidence, professionally and personally. They were certainly out of their comfort zone and really feeling it!

Focusing to build confidence

The obviousness of breathing aside, it was about hearing the real issue of self confidence and addressing that. I know my friend has knowledge, skills and experience. They were my colleague before my friend so I know what they can achieve. But if they don’t know it, it will be a struggle.

The first point we discussed is that they are out of their comfort zone, it’s new, and it’s ok. It’s ok to feel a bit lost. I suggested that you have to give yourself permission to feel that way, then focus on what you can do.

Another point we addressed is that my friend wanted to “be ready” for the work. That’s understandable and commendable, we want to make sure our clients and employers get what they need from us. However we don’t all know everything, so it’s about taking the experience and knowledge we have and going from there. In part of the conversation my friend asked “how do I work out x for a client, is that a normal process?” When I thought about it, there is no normal process. Every client is individual and you go with how they want to work, within the remit of your own expertise and consultancy. Having both worked with the same company, I reminded my friend of their experience and the experience of the people, which is all valuable and valid.

A smooth sea never made a skilled mariner

There were lots of other detail in our conversation, including about how to scope out charges for work, by the hour or day, what’s an acceptable amount and so on. The biggest thing that I saw was someone who, in their own words, felt “overwhelmed” – with information, opportunity, choices and decisions. I used an analogy in this conversations that I use quite a lot in sharing my own experience. I’ve never been a great one for planning out my career path, rightly or wrongly. I’ve tended to ‘see an island I like and set sail for it‘.

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Sometimes I don’t get out of the marina, because it’s stormy out there or I’m all tangled up in the ropes. Other times it’s a nice sunny day and I’m relaxing on deck. When I get out of the marina and onto the high seas and the wind blows, I put the sails up and go with the opportunity that has presented itself. Sometimes I get nearer that island and I see it’s not so good as it was from afar, so it’s time to pick a new island. There are islands I stay at for a while, others I only visit for a short time. The point is, I’m always pondering the next island. If it’s a way off, what can I visit on the way? Perhaps some islands I take a scenic route and get to much later than I thought. But, hey, the journey is pretty cool!

sail3

Outstanding MOOC – wrangling with my content design

I’m not ‘wrangling’ on the How to Create an Outstanding MOOC in the way that Craig Taylor, Sam Burrough and Martin Couzins are, meaning that they are facilitating the course. However I am wrangling with how to plan the content. On Friday I posted a blog post about using Action Mapping to help plan my content. Over the weekend I’ve been thinking about this and reflecting upon it.

Activities for the attendee

One of the key differences in a MOOC or online course like this, compared to traditional lecturing or presenting of knowledge, is that this is all about the content and the attendees. It’s about asking them questions, to get them to think, reflect, engage in and maybe produce something. The something could be video, audio, blog post or less scary things like just adding a comment to a question or piece of content. Either way, it’s about them, not me.

I think pretty much all training should be handled this way. The knowledge elements, whilst they might need to be delivered in some fashion, should always lead to activity for experiential learning. There should always be reference material to then back this up and help people in the workplace, in any manner that’s appropriate.

Questions for the MOOC

The other difference that I noticed I had done and briefly commented on in my blog post, was that the activities I was naturally designing (or brainstorming, which is what it felt more like) where largely based on questions. Again to help that deeper thinking and reflective thought.

One of the pieces of content I’ve put on my MOOC about PowerPoint slide design is an article saying that PowerPoint is bad for learning and should be banned. I want people to have some contrasting viewpoints in order to see different angles on the subject and make up their own mind. I wanted a question following this, to allow for some reflective thought. It was a small challenge to come up with something that felt right. I went through some iterations such as:

  • Do you agree with this? [Erk, this is a closed question]
  • What do you think? [Nice and open, but no direction]
  • Would this work in your organisation [Probably just lots of ‘no’s as people are here to learn it better]
  • …And a few others I can’t remember now but didn’t like!

I ended up with this as my question:

What insight do you gain from this perspective on banning PowerPoint?

I thought it was open enough to get a thoughtful discursive answer, and maybe a hint of the curiosity of deeper learning, but not so much as to scare people off at the beginning of the MOOC.

This way of using questions, rather than the more traditional activities I might do in a group with face to face or live online delivery, was quite different. In some ways, it’s quite liberating as I can rely on the good quality content that I have curated (or gathered) and asking questions. I don’t necessarily have to come up with different activities, as the social element will do some of that.

I will still have some other activities, probably as the “end of level gate” to get people to DO something that’s real to them – such as finding resources to share, or critiquing their own slide deck and sharing with others. Not sure yet!

Final reflection (for now!)

Designing a MOOC or online course in this manner is about the structure of what people will do at each stage (or level) and the overall end result (assuming they work all the way through – yes I know that’s another discussion). It’s about questions for stimulating thought and some activities to generate action. Will I develop the whole MOOC in this online course? Maybe, if I have time (I certainly have inclination). Maybe not, as it does take time. The most important thing in me doing this, is to apply the principles we’ve been discussing and to share this learning with others in the future.

Top Tips Webinar – technical reflection

Earlier today I delivered a webinar for HR Zone, sponsored by Saba Software, entitled Top Tips for Successful Online Learning.

One of the things I’ve thought about this evening was the slight technical hitch there was with my audio. As it’s such an important part of the online learning event it can be stressful when it goes wrong.

Obviously I had those momentary thoughts of “oh no, what’s happened?“, “I don’t want to let everyone down” and “crikey, I’m supposed to be the expert here“.

However there were three important things that meant this wasn’t a big deal and the show carried on well:

  1. I had a good facilitator/co-host in Jamie Lawrence, editor of HR Zone. When it was obvious something wasn’t working he took over the reigns for a moment.
  2. I had noticed in the chat window that people were commenting on my sound. At the first comment I was aware and kept going. After several comments of ‘lost sound’ I paused and asked for “green check marks if you can hear me” to be clicked in the webinar software. With none forthcoming I knew I had to deal with something.
  3. I didn’t panic. 

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By not panicking everything else went ok.

I had a certain amount of trust in my technology set up – the hardware is the same I use for every other online event, whether classroom, producing webinar or online meeting in any software.

Through five online meetings/runs of the webinar there were no problems! This was what I did:

  • Double checked all my extraneous software was closed and not causing an issue.
  • Good old fashioned plug the headset into another USB port
  • Reconnect audio and hey presto, no more problems.

As many of the webinar attendees said, “Murphy’s Law”.

You need to be prepared by knowing the software, having good quality hardware and set up and then it’s about keeping calm enough to engage brain to fix things.

Luckily today I managed to practice what I preach and it all turned out OK!

What about you? Share in the comments 😀

Debunking the Learning Style

A few articles have dripped into my Twitter feed and Inbox recently around the lack of science to back up common learning theories and personality quizzes. The lack of rigorous scientific evidence, in my discussions with others, either doesn’t surprise at all or is incomprehensible – with people often commenting “but that’s what I learnt in my teacher training!”

One of the problems is that these ideas make some kind of sense to the individual. Donald Clark, on his blog, wrote “they have an intuitive appeal but, given the proliferation of these theories, with success based more on marketing than evidence, it is a largely discredited field”.

I remember using and recommending learning styles myself. It just seemed right. I knew how much I understood ‘visually’ from completing the questionnaires myself. To this day I struggle to drive round my home town without a picture in my head of how the roads and areas connect; when writing some of my blog posts I want the images and visuals to hand for me to be able to think creatively – hence the screen grab below of a guest blog I was drafting at the time about rock climbing.

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What did I do with this knowledge about learning styles? To be fair, it made me question and evaluate some of my training methods and strive to deliver in a variety of ways. What I didn’t do though was know the learning styles of my attendees. Even if I did, would I have done anything? As Don Clark points out, “no sooner is the questionnaire complete than the PowerPoint is out”.

I do recall questioning learning styles a number of years later when doing my degree. A lot of the lectures I went to I wasn’t making notes – I was concentrating on listening and involving myself with the content, delivery and discussions. There are all sorts of arguments here about my attention focus versus note taking and embedding this into long term memory in my own words… I just knew what was right for me at the time. So was I now a visual learner, or an auditory learner? Or was this just not quite right..?

There’s all sorts of interesting blogs and articles on the web on this topic, which broadens out to Myers-Briggs and the like. I’ve collected a few of them on a Scoop It page for your delight and delectation. Do let me know if you find more, or opposing views!