Traditionally, training is either performed for remote audience or local audience. However, in recent times, I am getting frequent requests to deliver remote and local training simultaneously.
I recently conducted a large training program where we covered 2000+ people in just one day. Only 300 people present in the room, rest on Skype for Business, across 6 countries! I learnt many best practices during this session. Here are the best practices.
Why do we need Remote and Local Training
In person training is always more effective. We know that already. However webinars for remote audiences are also popular for geographically distributed audiences.
What is new is the evolving need for conducting Remote and Local Training simultaneously. The reasons behind this evolving trend are not so obvious.
- Experienced and effective trainers are rare. Therefore, their delivery effectiveness needs to be maximized. I never charge by number of attendees. Combining local and remote audiences is the only way to maximize coverage.
- Remote users often feel left out
This may be another important reason. Bigger offices receive more live training and remote offices are usually consuming recorded content. More often than not, business generation and revenue happens at remote locations (branches, dealers, retail, etc.)
- Bandwidth is improving
Earlier it was technically impossible to conduct a simultaneous Remote and Local Training due to severe delay in remote webinar content delivery. Nowadays (Jul 2016), the bandwidth availability even in remote sites has improved making this scenario feasible.
- Better interaction and Customer Focus
This is not an obvious benefit. But I have observed this frequently. People in remote locations are usually nearer to the customers compared to regional or headquarter staff. Therefore, the queries and interaction elicited by remote users benefits other remote users and, more importantly, the local users.
- Due to new fads like workplace modernization and digital transformation, more people are looking at maximizing the reach of their training programs without increasing the cost. Conducting Remote and Local Training together is a good way of maximizing the spread of such transformational activities.
Find out exactly what remote audience means
Remote users can attend individually using their laptop or they can attend in groups. You need to be aware of this and you need to find out for each session, what is the proportion of individual vs group attendees.
This knowledge will help you refine your vocabulary, the way you elicit responses, the method you use to capture feedback and so on.
For example, in the session I mentioned above, 2000+ remote users attended from only 85 – 120 Skype connections.
Understanding Delayed Speech
When any remote webinar tool is used, the presenter speaks and shows either a pre-uploaded presentation or shares the full desktop to show live demos. In either case, the remote users always face a delay between audio they hear and the visuals they see. Usually the delay ranges from 4 seconds to as many as 20 seconds. Of course, if the remote user connectivity is poor, the delay can be unacceptably long.
We need to compensate for this delay. The only way is to take the visual action a few seconds earlier and talk about it later. This type of early demo and delayed speech requires practice to execute well.
This delay is helpful for the remote audience. However, the local audience may get disturbed or confused due to this lag. Therefore, it is better to explain to them that you are going to speak in a delayed manner. Action first and then explanation… after a few minutes the local audience gets used to it.
Monitoring the actual delay in real-time
The delay also varies from time to time. Therefore monitoring the delay is important. The only way to do that is to have another laptop in front of you. This laptop (or tablet), should be using a lower bandwidth independent network ( like mobile 3G, instead of corporate LAN or WiFi). This device is your remote user simulator.
Keep the device in such a way that you should be able to see it clearly without moving your neck too much. I keep it directly behind the primary laptop. That way, I just need to change the angle of my glance vertically to monitor the remote display.
You must practice to ensure that you are monitoring this laptop after every visual action you perform. Otherwise you will pay attention to it initially and then forget about it!
Speak more emphatically and delineate each word
Remote users do not hear your exact voice. They hear a compressed and degraded voice. We need to keep the remote users engaged. The most effective way to do that is to talk more forcefully and with more variations in intonations – much more than what you would do for a local audience.
In this case, local audience is also present. They may think you are too emphatic and melodramatic. Avoid that by adjusting the distance between your mouth and the speaker. Adjust the equalizer in the local sound system to subdue your sound a little.
Make the local audience aware of the remote audience issues
Explain to the local audience what you are trying to do and help them appreciate the effort you are putting in to make the delivery as perfect as possible. This way, they will adjust to your slower and staggered speech. They may also invite their friends and colleague to attend your session and increase the total audience size.
Remote audience monitoring assistant
Webinar tools often have configuration issues , firewall problems, audio failure and other glitches. They will keep complaining about it while you are delivering the training. If their problems are not resolved, they will just drop off.
Therefore, you must have another person monitoring the chat. This person has a dual responsibility: Handle technical issues and also monitor Q&A or comments.
Minimize screen movement
Mouse cursor movement, zoom, next page scroll, window resizing, changing slides, annotation, any visual activity needs to be broadcast to all remote users. That takes time and bandwidth. Therefore, you must learn to make your demos more precise with minimal movement of mouse cursor and minimal changes to screen elements.
This will improve performance of remote display, minimize the audio-video delay and make the overall experience more natural.
Do not use unnecessary gradients
Gradients are great visual elements. Often gradients are used as a part of the presentation template you use. However, from a remote presentation point of view, gradients increase the data which need to be sent across the wire. Therefore, try to avoid gradients as aesthetic elements.
Of course, you should use gradients if they are a part of the content. Even there, minimize the number of colors used to create the gradients.
DO NOT use animation
Animation makes things on the screen move or change too fast for transferring to the remote users. They will see few frames of the animation in a discontinuous, interrupted manner. Therefore, minimize the situations where you need to use animation.
If you do use any animation, use the simplest one – Appear animation. DO NOT use artistic animations like Fade. Those do not translate well for remote audiences.
Explicitly mention to the audience that remote users will not be able to see animation clearly. This way you can set the right expectations.
Videos do not get displayed well for remote users. Avoid videos. If it is a must, create another time lapse version of the video using static screen-shots if possible. That way, the key message is delivered without running a video.
If video is critical for your display, try sending it earlier to remote users. Ask them to play it along with you and explain. This works better if it is a long video of some complex operation which you are explaining.
When you conduct a Remote and Local Training simultaneously, handling audience queries becomes more complex. Here is what you should do.
We usually request the users to type the questions in the chat window. Unfortunately, this is NOT the best way. Skype for Business has a nice Q&A panel. Most remote webinar tools like GoTo Meeting or WebEx and others have a structured Q&A system. Try to use it if you can. But it does require users to be more compliant. Remember, that some questions will still be typed in the chat window.
Do not rely just on the assistant. While answering some question, you scroll the chat window as well to check for any omissions. Q&A panel is easier to manage. It allows you to choose the question to address. Once handled, you can mark it as complete and move over to another question.
Explain the question before answering
Everyone other than the person who asked the question does not know the question. Therefore, you must repeat (and often rephrase) the question before answering it. This is an important but often ignored best practice.
When you need a vote, there are three categories to address.
- Local attendees
- Remote individual attendees
- Remote group attendees
Local feedback is easy. Just ask people to raise hands and get an approximate count.
For remote individual users, Skype provides a nice Polling system. Remember to show the results to the audience as well. That way your polling activity becomes more democratic and transparent.
For remote group attendees, ask them to do a local vote by raising hands and type the number in chat window.
Finally, you can combine the results of these three to get the overall picture.
Even in today’s age of mobility and internet, real feedback can only be captured on paper. However, that is only for local users.
If you want a uniform method which automatically combines the results, use Excel or Google Survey. Publish the shortened link and ask people to respond quickly.
You can make the process more exciting by connecting to that Excel sheet using Power BI and showing live results to people. Nobody has ever seen something like that ever before. This is one impressive demo you should not miss delivering.
Record the session
The idea behind simultaneous Remote and Local Training is to maximize reach. You can take this one step further by recording the entire session using Skype recording or using SnagIT (which is what I use).
Many trainers do not allow recording of their session. However, I have found that sharing your content helps you more in the long run. It also establishes a more open customer connect and positions you as a natural trainer rather than a revenue centric, over-protective, concerned businessman.