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Why you shouldn’t busk your web-workshops: five things my pilot sessions have taught me 4 May 2020

If you’re a fan of the TV News, you may have wondered whether presenters and reporters actually rehearse any of those more complicated bits of their bulletins.

You know, the bit where the presenter says “well, I’m joined now by our reporter Simon Smith” — and Simon then talks for a bit in front of a big screen with lots of numbers on it to illustrate this really complicated story, and then introduces a soundbite recorded earlier from an expert commenting on the complicated story, before Simon moves to another screen with more numbers about the complicated story …

The answer is: yes, we do rehearse, and even though it’s often only minutes before we go on air with the news bulletin itself, we’re normally very glad we have. We don’t busk TV news.

I’ve spent a lot of time this past month rehearsing the new Web-workshops I’ve been delivering on Zoom. I’ve delivered four free pilot sessions, and have a fifth planned this week. That’s because I want my workshops to be as fun, as stimulating and as effective as if I were standing in the room. That’s only going to happen once I’ve mastered the tech. I don’t busk my workshops.

Let’s face it, I’m running a business here, so I want my web-workshops to stand out from the tangle of webinars now tumbling through cyberspace. I want participants to think “that was really, really effective” rather than “I’m really, really glad that’s over” as they click Leave Meeting.

So here are five things I’ve learnt under lockdown, that may help you if you do any form of consultancy or training, and are frantically shoving your stuff online.

  1. Your Wi-Fi just might not cut it.  My first pilot revealed that the news clip videos I play to illustrate various points I’m making soak up a fair bit of bandwidth. My domestic Wi-Fi was just about okay for participants to hear audio clips from radio bulletins, but the TV clips I played barely staggered to life. Solution: I tethered my phone to my laptop to use 4G. To my relief, a 35 minute workshop didn’t appear to significantly dent my monthly data allowance.
  2. People might like to network too. Delivering material online, marketed on Linked In, provides an opportunity for complete strangers to meet for the first time and learn together. But starting bang on time ( something I pride myself in – blame my background in bulletins with non-negotiable start times) means strangers won’t have had a time to get a sense of each other. Solution: I’m considering saying we gather from, say, 11am for ‘getting to know you’ chat … with the web-workshop beginning at 11.10am … running til 11.45am … with ten more minutes for networking.
  3. There are Apps out there that make the interactivity even better than Zoom’s poll and meeting room functions. menti.com, for example, allows participants to write answers to questions you may pose, and those answers appear magically in a word cloud. Or you can create a poll (just like in Zoom), but the answers can appear in a vivid chart.
  4.  If you’re going to use these Apps, it’s worth sending the link in advance. menti.com, for example, proved blissfully easy to set up in seconds for 7 of the 8 people on a recent workshop … but one person struggled, which killed off the pace, a bit, to be honest. If you send the link in advance, you should have everyone up and running when you need them to be.
  5. Use your family to rehearse.  It dawned on me that I have a supportive partner, and between us we have five siblings, six late-teenage nephews and three mid-teenage neices. A perfect opportunity for a fun-filled family quiz, with Uncle John behind the wheel playing video clips, switching screens, launching polls, opening and closing meeting rooms. Wine was involved, too — a drink/drive experience I’d highly recommend that’ll boost your confidence in a good way.  It’s legal, too.

At the end of each free pilot, I ran a quick poll asking, amongst other things, what price bracket participants felt would be fair for a glitch-free version of the web-worskhop they’d just experienced.

I’m pleased that they appear to have felt it was worth charging a reasonable sum for.  And I’m pleased that I now have confidence that when I do charge, I won’t be busking it.

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