Four Ways Producers Make a Difference in the Virtual Classroom

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Four Ways Producers Make a Difference in the Virtual Classroom

At NetSpeed Learning, we are strong advocates of using a Producer (sometimes called a Host) to produce virtual events. While it may seem cost-effective to allow a trainer or facilitator to “fly solo”, the reality is that a bad experience with technology can ruin an event. Flustered facilitators may find their performance plummets. Instead of listening to technical troubleshooting questions, annoyed participants find more important tasks such as checking email or cruising a website. Technology will always present challenges, but a skilled virtual training producer can help navigate the difficulties.

Recently I was delivering a webinar for a client with 60 attendees. At the start of the event, the web platform (a recently updated version) crashed four times in the space of 20 minutes. Because I was collaborating with an experienced producer, the attendees had a seamless experience anyway. I was able to quickly reconnect each time. As my audio resumed, I could hear the producer calmly continuing the discussion, debriefing a chat, or analyzing poll responses. At one point, I could see the chat messages, but I could not advance the slides. I simply asked the producer to advance the slide and continued to present until things cleared up. My producer knew all about hosting a virtual event.

Here are four ways skilled a virtual training producer can make a difference in the digital world.

Limit Wasted Time

A single minute of wasted time online can feel like five to a remote audience. A virtual trainer who must stop the online experience to troubleshoot one individual participant’s audio or visual experience wastes time for everyone. The result? Participants begin multitasking or worse, sign off from the learning event and get on with their work.

Provide a Higher Quality Learning Experience

I have delivered thousands of web workshops and virtual events. I can say with certainty that I am a much better presenter and facilitator if I am not worried about all the technical details at the same time that I am delivering a virtual instructor-led training experience. I am free to engage, connect, inform, and motivate. Free your trainers to do their best work with participants and turn the technical problems over to a producer.

Avoid Cancelling Virtual Events

There is nothing worse than assembling an audience of eager participants who have booked a training event on their calendars, and then telling them you must reschedule due to technical difficulties. A producer for virtual training can back up the presenter whose computer has frozen or crashed. If the producer is in another location, they can continue hosting a virtual event, collaborating with the presenter who may be looking at their slide deck and guiding the event over a cell phone. Our motto is, “The show must go on!”

Creating Variety and Interest

We often call on our producers to do more than solve technical problems. We may ask them to read an example, roleplay with the virtual facilitator, or take turns debriefing chat discussions. Hearing a second voice can add variety and create engagement. Participants report that they perk up at the sound of a second voice. Give the producer permission to point out questions posed in chat that the facilitator may have missed, or to indicate that someone has raised their hand. This collaborative way of presenting is more interesting to participants and creates greater confidence in the virtual experience.


For more virtual facilitation best practices, download our ebook
Great Web Engagement: Connecting, Meeting and Training Online.

This ebook is for anyone who delivers virtual instructor-led training and wants to know more about how to facilitate virtual training.

Posted by Cynthia Clay at 2:51 pm

Prepare Your Learners to Participate Fully in the Virtual Classroom

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Prepare Your Learners to Participate Fully in the Virtual Classroom

by Cynthia Clay
Originally Published by Training Industry

A colleague shared a screen shot of a recent Zoom session he led for a client. In the center of the screen was a blissfully ignorant participant who had logged into the training session on one laptop (with the camera turned on). She had turned her back to that web camera and was using a second computer to check her email.

You could argue that if someone is going to pretend to participate in a virtual workshop, they should probably know whether their web camera is on or off! However, there is more going on in this example of poor participation. We’ve paid a lot of attention to whether the virtual facilitator or trainer is prepared to fully engage attention in the virtual classroom. This article, on the other hand, focuses how you can prepare virtual participants. When you invite them to attend a virtual meeting or training session, you can help them show up at their best in these four areas: goals and objectives, technical readiness, web camera use and full presence.

1.      Goals and Objectives

 

 

Posted by Cynthia Clay at 8:05 am

Good News ... with Prizes!

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Good News ... with Prizes!

We are celebrating two big events here at NetSpeed Learning, and we are tickled pink to share them with you. They come with prizes!

First, we have launched our new website. To thank you for taking a peek, the first three people who find the gift box icon on one of the web pages and email us will receive a $25 Amazon gift certificate.

Just email Cynthia Clay and provide a screen shot of the web page. Or you can copy and paste the URL for the web page into your email. We will announce our three winners in the June newsletter.

Second, we have just completed the third revision of the NetSpeed Leadership® management development program for new and emerging leaders. That’s right – all 24 topics for face-to-face and virtual delivery have been updated to reflect more inclusive language, updated case studies, and newer graphic images.

If you would like a preview of NetSpeed Leadership®, email Tim Jones, Senior Learning Consultant, and tell him which two modules you would like to preview.

We will reward you and your organization with a 20% discount on any program purchase made through September 30, 2021.


Posted by Cynthia Clay at 11:11 am

My Crystal Ball: What's Coming After the Pandemic?

Thursday, April 29, 2021

My Crystal Ball: What's Coming After the Pandemic?

Recently, I attended a virtual learning conference where I had the opportunity to network and connect with dozens of my colleagues who work in, or run, training and consulting companies. At one point we were assigned to breakout rooms to discuss this question: “Given that they produce additional anxiety and stress, how do we minimize the use of Zoom/Webex/Teams, etc. in delivering learning?”

This question is so loaded with the speaker’s assumptions and experiences. I believe it is exactly the wrong question to ask as we cautiously consider what is next in the virtual or hybrid workplace. It reveals that the questioner hopes to return to the old normal after the pandemic: training delivery in a physical classroom. I wanted to say out loud, “People, that ship has sailed!”

Some of my colleagues have concluded that people are tired of virtual meetings and virtual training. They cite research from the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab. But even the title of this article about their research does not support the conclusion that we should stop using video conferencing platforms: “Stanford researchers identify four causes for ‘Zoom fatigue’ and their simple fixes.” In other words, we can mitigate any perceived fatigue by taking some simple actions in our virtual meeting and training sessions. Here are their easy suggestions:

    • Take Zoom out of full screen mode so you are not staring at a larger-than-life speaker.
    • Use the “hide self-view” button to turn off your web camera so you stop looking at yourself.
    • Turn your video off periodically during a meeting to give yourself a rest.
    • To reduce the cognitive load, give yourself an “audio only” break at times by turning away from the computer monitor.

Ubiquitous video conferencing is unfamiliar, just as the use of elevators once challenged us to figure out new social norms. (Do I face everyone and stare at them or turn my back on people and face the elevator doors?) We worked through our discomfort with elevator use because we recognized the benefits of being whisked to the next floor of a building; we didn’t revert to taking the stairs. Similarly, we will determine new social norms with video and web conferencing and figure out how to leverage the benefits of connecting people across geographic distance. For example, just because participants can be on camera, does that mean they should all be on camera at the same time? Possibly not.

In my reading about what is coming next for the workplace after the pandemic, I found an article at the Pew Research Center, 

“How the Coronavirus Outbreak Has – and Hasn’t – Changed the Way Americans Work”. It indicates that most people who work from home now would prefer to continue to work from home at least part of the time in the future. Their findings also reveal that most workers feel positive about the use of video and web conferencing to meet and connect. You know who is most likely to report being tired of these meeting tools? Supervisors! That makes sense, as supervisors and managers are probably charged with facilitating online meetings, while their colleagues are merely attending them.

Let’s get back to that “wrong” question. Instead of asking how to minimize the use of video and web conferencing platforms in training, perhaps we should ask, “How can we leverage the strengths of these platforms to create dynamic, effective learning experiences for our employees?” and “How can we reduce the stress of keeping people on web camera throughout the virtual meeting or training?” Looking into my crystal ball, I predict many organizations that sent workers home for the pandemic will allow them to continue working from home at least part time if they prefer it. Because hybrid workplaces are becoming more common, video and web conferencing are here to stay, both to allow for regular meetings and as components of a robust training strategy.

Download our newest ebook, It's an Inside Job: Leading with Respect and Heart. This ebook describes common mistakes new managers make, and offers useful insights about how to approach management challenges. And in this ebook I share personal examples and experiences of leadership challenges faced over my 40 years of management practice, working inside corporations and non-profit organizations.


Posted by Cynthia Clay at 12:31 pm

Made You Look! Trainer Tips from Cynthia Clay

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Made You Look! Trainer Tips from Cynthia Clay

If we are all going to be on camera during our meetings (Microsoft Teams and Zoom), then plan to capitalize on that fact in your virtual meetings and training experiences. Design simple ice breakers to get everyone to come on camera and see everyone else.

For example, try Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down, a fast and fun way to get people’s opinions on silly topics. "Thumbs Up or Thumbs down: Who likes cilantro?" Then have everyone look to find the cilantro lovers or haters. Ask a follow up question that requires people to chat: "What does cilantro taste like to you?"

"Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down: Who is looking forward to sending the kids back to school?" Have everyone check the distribution of happy and sad parents. Then ask a follow up question using chat: What does your student most miss about being at school with their peers?

"Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down: Who felt particularly productive today?" Have people celebrate the productive people by giving them applause. Then ask a follow up question using chat: "What accomplishment are you most proud of?"

This is a simple activity to help your attendees leverage the visual aspects of video conferencing. It also reinforces the need for everyone to be on camera.

You can also offer everyone the opportunity for people to be off camera for sections of your meeting or training. For example, if groups are reporting back from a breakout session, you might have everyone besides the group reporting out to turn off their web cameras.

Instead of leaving everyone on web camera all of the time which can be exhausting, use web cameras with purpose and intention.

More Resources for Creating Engaging Web Meetings

My ebook, Great Web Engagement: Connecting, Meeting, and Training Online, includes a chapter titled “The Key to Engagement” which includes helpful tips for what actually creates engagement online. 

This ebook is for anyone who delivers training and facilitates meetings in virtual environments.

Don’t miss it!



Posted by Cynthia Clay at 1:13 pm

Bring Your V Game to the Digital World: The 6 Ps of Virtual Success (Part 2)

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Bring Your V Game to the Digital World: The 6 Ps of Virtual Success (Part 2)

Originally Published by Training Industry

Organizations that successfully master the digital environment for meetings, conversations, training and events attend to six elements: people, platforms, processes, programs, preparation and prowess. The first article in this series explored the first of these three elements: people, platforms and processes.

    1. People: Consider the differing needs and experience levels of your constituents.
    2. Platforms: Choose the best platform for each use or application (i.e., meeting, training or large event).
    3. Processes: Document roles and responsibilities, and identify simple processes to streamline adoption and application.

Part 2 focuses on the final three elements: programs, preparation and prowess.

Bringing your V game to the virtual environment requires learning how to capture and manage attention; engage participants in deeper discussions; reinforce learning; and build a comfortable, collaborative learning environment.






Posted by Cynthia Clay at 11:26 am

Bring Your V Game to the Digital World: The 6 Ps of Virtual Success (Part 1)

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Bring Your V Game to the Digital World: The 6 Ps of Virtual Success (Part 1)

Originally Published by Training Industry

2020 may go down in history as the year most organizations fully embraced the value of working and meeting virtually. While some companies had already adopted the technology and training to support strong collaboration online, this year, others found themselves suddenly plunged into the virtual workplace unprepared.

Many organizations are making thoughtful decisions about how to succeed in these new working, meeting and training environments. They are bringing their virtual competence to the actions needed to master the virtual world. I call it their V Game.

What follows, in two articles (parts one and two), are recommendations for success based on over a decade of success in the virtual environment. These tips are organized in six categories: people, platforms, processes, programs, preparation and prowess. This article focuses on their first three categories: people, platforms and processes.

 




Posted by Cynthia Clay at 10:11 am

Creating Warm Connections

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Creating Warm Connections

I am a fan of self-development, so I am taking a four- session web workshop series on Saturdays with a group of fellow life travelers. Because I have delivered virtual training for over a decade, I do not always enjoy the delivery style and methods employed by other trainers and facilitators. Truth be told, I can be a teensy bit critical.

So, imagine my delight to be in a three-hour Zoom workshop led by a wonderful facilitator. What this facilitator accomplishes is a personal, warm, safe learning space. Before the pandemic, he led face-to-face retreats. He clearly desires to create similar warm connections in the virtual space. 

Here is what I have noticed about his virtual delivery style:

    • He facilitates in front of a simple chest with items displayed that have personal meaning for him.
    • His face is well lit by natural light.
    • He is positioned in his web camera so that you can see his facial expressions and his body language.
    • When people share their experiences aloud, he looks right into the camera lens, with acceptance, acknowledgement, and compassion.
    • His follow-up questions and comments demonstrate that he has really heard what the participant was expressing.
    • He asks challenging, thought-provoking questions.
    • He incorporates opportunities for pairs and small groups to work in breakout rooms and gives them enough time to have deeper conversations.
    • He leverages the fact that we are all on camera with activities that require us to look at each other and connect.
    • Every person in the session feels like they contribute to the experience that is being created with their peers.
    • He is fully present – nothing feels like he is presenting rote information.
    • It feels like he knows each of us personally and cares about our development.

I have heard countless times that the virtual space can be cold and impersonal. And yet, here we are creating the warmest of connections with a skilled facilitator in Zoom. It makes me happy.

More Resources for Creating Warm Connections

My newest ebook, Great Web Engagement: Connecting, Meeting, and Training Online, includes a chapter titled “Strengthening Connections & Building Relationships Online.”

This ebook is for anyone who delivers training and facilitates meetings in virtual environments.

Don’t miss it!



Posted by Cynthia Clay at 10:51 am

SHINE ONLINE: Create Compelling Virtual Classroom Experiences

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

SHINE ONLINE: Create Compelling Virtual Classroom Experiences

This blog is a chapter from my new ebook Great Web Engagement: Connecting, Meeting and Training Online

SHINE ONLINE!

You're scheduled to deliver a web training session next week. You've got 60 minutes to command their attention, captivate interest, engage participation, and solidify knowledge. Whether you're delivering this learning program in WebEx, Adobe Connect, Zoom, or another platform, you want them to be dazzled by the experience. Your objective is to ensure that they learn practical tools that they can apply on the job. You don't want to bore the socks off them (like the last webinar you watched). You don't want their attention to drift away to their email or the latest project calling from their computer.

How do stellar virtual trainers activate learning in the virtual classroom? Simply put, they go beyond the basics of reviewing content in a PowerPoint presentation, hitting people with an occasional polling question, or posing a generic question in chat. Presenting masterfully in the virtual classroom requires you to develop both technical and delivery skills in a modality that is quite different than the face-to-face classroom.

It is Time to SHINE

Use this mnemonic to describe and remember what separates pedestrian online training from stellar virtual learning.

Stream Your Video

Put yourself on camera so that people can see your facial expressions and connect with you as a live trainer. Make sure that your face is well lit, and your background is uncluttered yet personal. Practice web camera techniques to give participants the illusion of eye contact. The old advice to "turn off the camera so you don't distract people" is no longer valid. (I'm not sure it was ever valid, frankly, but low bandwidth used to be a common issue). Your intention now should be to create a lively virtual classroom experience, one that commands their attention and participation.

Harness the Technology

If you are presenting in a virtual platform for the first time, you may be feeling some anxiety. How do you build a poll and open it? What do you do if the audio drops? How do you activate the annotation tools so people can type on the slide? It might be tempting to leave all of that to the host/producer and just present your content. But trust me, you will feel less anxious if you know how the web conference platform works. You will have a greater sense of control and ease combined with a reduced sense of anxiety.

Interact and Connect

Yes, you are sitting at a computer in another room, probably miles away from your participants. But how they yearn for you to bridge that distance! Use people's names and invite them to chat or speak aloud. Applaud their contributions. Weave their insights into your objectives. Notice what individuals are thinking, feeling, and sharing. Link previous points they have made to current points you are making. Remember specific examples and who stated them. Allow yourself to be delighted by their ideas and suggestions. The goal should be for every person in the session to feel seen, heard, and validated.

Notice What’s New

Theater professionals know that no matter how many times they have performed in a production, the audience should experience it like it is the first time. Begin to notice what’s new by adopting beginner's mind. That means that you are fully present in the moment, open to the input from participants, and engaging with everyone to deliver the web training together. If you are fully present with everyone, you will co-create the learning experience. And participants will recognize that they are contributing to a collaborative learning experience. That is a powerful way to keep their attention!

Energize Your Delivery

Masterful virtual trainers love their topic, love the technology, love the opportunity to connect, and love the learners. You need to be lit up from the inside with energy, as well as commitment to the topic and the participants' learning. Spend a few minutes before the web session reviewing your objectives. Remind yourself of the impact that this training will have on your participants' on-the-job performance. Close your eyes and visualize a high energy, focused training session. Make sure that the opening of your virtual session is warm, welcoming, and enthusiastic.

These five techniques can help you elevate your performance in the virtual classroom. They are the foundation of a magical learning experience. 

Download Our New Ebook!  Great Web Engagement: Connecting, Meeting and Training Online is for anyone who delivers training and facilitates meetings in virtual environments.

And register for our complimentary webinar, SHINE! Five Secrets of Stellar Virtual Trainers, to be presented on Wednesday, March 17, 2021 at 1:00 pm ET / 10:00 am PT.

Posted by Cynthia Clay at 10:08 am

Resilience and Renewal in 2021

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Resilience and Renewal in 2021

As we begin a new year, I am reflecting back on the challenges and unexpected opportunities of 2020. The word I am carrying in my heart and mind is resilience. One definition of resilience is, “the ability to be happy and successful again after something difficult or bad has happened.” When we are resilient, we spring back after being pushed. Many people and organizations have had to make rapid, sometimes dramatic, changes to survive in this past year. Many of us are in grief over the people we have lost through layoffs or illness.

I am inspired by a local company, Savor Seattle, that used to lead tourists on personal tours all over downtown Seattle, where they could sample beverages, snacks, and local history at various restaurants. When the pandemic hit, the owner, Angela Shen, realized that not only would a restaurant closure due to COVID restrictions scuttle her business, but it would also damage the local small businesses and farmers in Pike Place Market. From adversity, Angela realized opportunity. She pivoted from her original business model to keep her employees working in a new venture. Now they create locally sourced boxes filled with delicious treats, flowers, and gifts from a variety of farmers, craftsmen, and restaurateurs in the Seattle area. If you can’t come to Seattle, they will bring Seattle to you! Due to her efforts, the company doubled in business revenue in 2020. On their journey, they donated a portion of their profits to benefit small businesses. Amazingly, Angela just sold Savor Seattle to a new owner who will continue to serve their mission. I love this story because it embodies what it means to be resilient during adversity. They are great models for thriving no matter what.

In the NetSpeed Leadership® program, Meeting Change with Resilience, we explore a Cycle of Change model for understanding the four phases of change: Stability, Change, Instability and Rebalancing. We look at how we can increase our resilience in each phase of the change process. As you read through these four phases, I invite you to think of a change you have experienced recently and see if your experience maps to this cycle.

Stability

In the Stability phase, before a change occurs, we feel that we are in control of familiar circumstances. We may feel enthusiastic and committed. We may believe we have mastered a job or that we are masters of our destiny. Many people are quite pleased to remain in this phase because it is safe and familiar. But life often surprises us in the form of unexpected changes.

To be resilient in the Stability phase: Let go of the illusion that this phase is permanent. Prepare for change. Document processes and procedures. Visualize opportunities in the future and prepare to capitalize on them. Put contingency plans in place. Get educated and develop your skills now before change requires it.

Change

In this phase, a change takes place. Change can be driven by our own choices (getting married) or be imposed from outside (being laid off). But no matter how the change happens, it drives us out of the Stability phase. It is common to feel a sense of denial (this cannot be happening, or this won’t impact me) followed by a feeling of disillusionment or disappointment. For larger changes, we may experience the grief that comes with a great loss.

To be resilient in the Change phase: Get as much information as possible about why the change is happening. Allow yourself to feel sad and disappointed. Intentionally, say goodbye to the old ways of doing things. Have a memorial service for the way things used to be so you can celebrate what you have created with others. And get ready to let go of the past.

Instability

In the previous Change phase, we start to come to terms with the strong emotions tied to loss. In the Instability phase, the external structures and forms that we once depended on begin to fall apart. Unfortunately, we may react out of fear in this phase, feeling confused or untethered. We may experience anger and direct it “those people” who caused our discomfort. These feelings can lead us to resist the change and may even result in resistance or sabotage both at work and in our relationships. We may actively refuse to do what is being required of us, digging in our heels, crossing our arms, and attempting to block the change.

To be resilient in the Instability phase: Get with the program or get out. It is not uncommon for people to quit teams or organizations at this phase of the change cycle. Honestly, that may be best for all concerned if they cannot accept what change is calling them to do—that is, expand and develop. Look ahead to the future by getting as much information as possible about where the organization is headed, including what opportunities may be possible for you. The discomfort of the Instability phase may also require that we take care of ourselves by finding a coach, counselor, or mentor who can help us work through our reactions and choices. Take small steps in this phase to begin to move forward. Give up whining, complaining, finger-pointing, and blaming.

Rebalancing

In the Rebalancing phase, the small steps we took toward the new future in the Instability phase now reveal possibilities we may not have seen before. This phase is characterized by words like rediscover, refocus, replan, and redirect. We get to this phase by taking action to move forward. The renewal of this phase happens because we have honored (not ignored) our emotional reactions, moved through those difficult feelings, and started to act on new goals and possibilities.

To be resilient in the Rebalancing phase: Notice and celebrate new opportunities. Applaud yourself and others for progress. Focus on what you want to achieve or build, not on what you have lost or given up. Notice feelings of optimism, and pat yourself on the back for surviving the challenging change you just moved through. Mine the whole experience for lessons learned that will serve you in the next change cycle.

This Change Cycle applies to large and small changes in all aspects of our lives: personal, professional, governmental, and familial. We can be resilient no matter what is happening around us. We are not the victim of circumstances.

If you would like to increase your resilience in the virtual workplace, download our ebook, Rocking the Digital Workplace - Communicating and Leading Virtually. This ebook addresses how to approach the dramatic changes involved in moving to a digital workplace, using cloud-based applications and document management, and covers issues around virtual leadership, digital communication practices, and how to resolve conflict that often emerges in these disconnected settings.



Posted by Cynthia Clay at 2:11 pm

Web Recordings to Kick Start Your Development in 2021

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Web Recordings to Kick Start Your Development in 2021

We love developing and delivering interactive, engaging webinars and web workshops for our training community. Each month Cynthia Clay delivers a lively one-hour session demonstrating both content and delivery practices for the virtual environment.

Did you miss one in 2020? Access our recording links to these popular topics:

    • SHINE! Five Secrets of Stellar Virtual Trainers
    • Become a Jedi Master: Producing Webinars in the Virtual Classroom
    • Preparing New Leaders for Frontline Management
    • Going Virtual: We've Got to Start Meeting Like This!
    • The Five Common Mistakes of Remote Leaders
    • Rocking the Digital Workplace: Leading High-Impact Virtual Teams

Note: Each of the interactive webinar workshops offered in 2020 may be customized and expanded to 90-minutes with hands-on activities to help your virtual learning team develop new skills and behaviors. We'd love to help you get a jump on 2021 with a customized web workshop.

 

Posted by Cynthia Clay at 10:42 am

Picking the Right Web Conference Platform

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Picking the Right Web Conference Platform

Many of our clients are evaluating the best web conference platforms for their training and meeting needs. As you make this important decision, consider these factors:

Audience Size:  What is the smallest and largest audience you want to support? How well does the platform handle the larger audiences compared to the smaller audiences?

Interaction Options: What tools are available to increase interaction and engagement? The most common tools to access include polling, chat (to everyone), chat (privately), annotation tools, emoticons or emojis, whiteboards, breakout rooms, web cameras, and the ability to play video or audio.

Producing Functions: How many producers need to have access to the complete meeting functionality from creating meeting room links to building polls?

Security: Does the web conference platform pass the security tests of your IT department? Can you password-protect meeting links? Can you boot unwelcome people out of a session?

Audio: Does the platform allow you to dial in on a telephone bridge as well as stream audio using VolP (Voice-over Internet Protocol)? Are the costs of either or both reasonable?

Ease of Use: How simple is the interface for first-time users?

Sophistication of Engagement : While ease of use is important, it is also important to be able to build more sophisticated learning experiences and activities that keep participants engaged.

Tutorials: How helpful are the tutorials produced by the platform vendor? Are they short and focused on specific functions? Would it be possible for your training team to view a tutorial and then immediately apply the function?

Support:  How easy is it to access technical support before, during, and after the web event?

In a recent webinar I delivered for Training Magazine, I polled the 750 attendees to determine which web conference platforms their organizations were using. The top three platforms were Zoom, Webex (at around 32% each) and Adobe Connect (at about 15%). We have developed a platform comparison document that compares the features and functionality of these three web conferencing platforms. If you are making a decision about web conference platforms and would like a copy of this comparison document, please email us .

And download our ebook That's Using Your Noggin! Brain-based Principles in the Virtual Classroom.  This ebook describes brain-based learning principles you can apply in order to engage learners and help them retain information. No matter what web conferencing platform you use, you are sure to discover some tactics and tools here that will help you uplevel your virtual learning game in your next web workshop.


Posted by Cynthia Clay at 11:54 am

Start the New Year Wholeheartedly

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Start the New Year Wholeheartedly

To kick off the New Year with a positive tone, last year I attended a four-day meditation retreat at a beautiful lodge in the Cascade Mountains. The first two days were spent in complete silence. We meditated, journaled, read inspiring literature, hiked through the woods, ate meals in silence, and allowed ourselves to focus on what was most important to us.

I had assumed that during the retreat, I would be contemplating my company goals and projects for the year. I was surprised to find that I spent very little time thinking about what we want to accomplish. Instead I was almost entirely focused on how I want the year to unfold.

As I slowed down, I felt a call to love my work and my life - to live wholeheartedly. A phrase that ran through my head was "the four-chambered heart." What could that phrase tell me about living in a more wholehearted way? Not being an expert on anatomy, I searched online and discovered that one chamber receives oxygen-poor blood, another pumps it to the lungs, another receives oxygen-rich blood, and the last pumps it back to the body. My new understanding of the partnership between my lungs and my heart triggered an "aha" moment. I realized that my four-chambered heart allows me to:

    • Give Love (support and contribute my talents)
    • Receive Love (ask for and accept support when I need it)
    • Be Inspired by Love (read inspiring literature that uplifts my thinking)
    • Rest in Love (take care of myself by resting)

As we embark on 2021, I invite you to ask yourself these wholehearted questions (or ones that resonate with you) as you prepare for a fabulous year.

Give Love: Am I contributing my talents with passion and love? Am I showing up wholeheartedly for my clients and my family? Is there any area of my life where I'm procrastinating or holding myself back? Do I put aside distractions and focus on people speaking to me? What if I keep a Love List instead of a Task List? Do I apologize when I've unintentionally harmed someone?

Receive Love: Do I ask for help when I need it? Am I asking for help early enough that people can really collaborate with me? Am I willing to delegate and develop people I work with? Do I accept people's support even though they may do it differently than I would? Do I express my gratitude to those who help me?

Be Inspired by Love: Do I take time every day to recharge myself? Do I give myself time to meditate? Am I reading inspiring literature for ten minutes every day? Do I seek out good news stories and share them with others? Do I allow creativity to flourish through music, art, and poetry?

Rest in Love: Do I take time for myself in nature? Do I allow myself down time though it may appear I'm doing nothing productive? Am I getting enough sleep (7-9 hours each night)? Do I take a good nap when I need it?

I will be applying these principles to our first webinar of the year on January 13th, which I will be facilitating wholeheartedly. Please join me to learn how to describe the underlying needs of virtual team members, improve outcomes in the areas of relationship, reliability, results, and recognition; leverage key leader behaviors to gain commitment and high impact; implement a program to build the new breed of digital-ready leaders. The webinar, titled Rocking the Digital Workplace: Leading High-Impact Virtual Teams, will be presented live on Wednesday, January 13th, 1:00 pm ET / 10:00 am PT.

Ebook Download

Download our ebook, Rocking the Digital Workplace - Communicating and Leading Virtually.  This ebook addresses how to approach the dramatic changes involved in moving to a digital workplace, using cloud-based applications and document management. As Millennials flow into the workplace with their technological savvy, we’re going to continue to experience the drive toward more virtual workplaces. This ebook covers issues around virtual leadership, digital communication practices, and how to resolve conflict often emerge in these disconnected settings.


Posted by Cynthia Clay at 9:38 am

Supercharge Your Virtual Meetings

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Supercharge Your Virtual Meetings

At NetSpeed Learning Solutions, we’ve worked with hundreds of training facilitators and instructional designers who want to learn how to design and facilitate interactive, engaging online learning. As web conference technology has improved over the years, we have also found that virtual managers and meeting facilitators need to know how to lead dynamic, effective virtual meetings.

Whether you are preparing to lead your first virtual meeting or you’re a seasoned meeting facilitator, there are likely questions running through your mind:

    • How do I design a meeting agenda for a virtual meeting?
    • What do I do to keep people from multi-tasking the whole time?
    • How can we reach consensus when I can’t see whether people are in agreement?
    • What can I do to harness the brain power of everyone in the virtual room?
    • How do I reduce those long, uncomfortable silences and keep the energy up?
    • How do I make sure they want to come to my next virtual meeting?

You’ll be a superhero when you learn how to supercharge your virtual meetings. To describe the practical techniques for the most effective virtual meetings, use this mnemonic:

V    Visually engage their attention with well-designed slides

I      Interact every three minutes

R      Record decisions and actions visually

T       Test agreements and commitments with status icons or emoticons

U       Use all the interaction tools in your web platform to increase collaboration

A       Amplify your virtual presence

L       Leave the meeting on a high note 

Our ebook, Supercharge Your Virtual Meetings, was written to provide basic tips and tricks to help online meeting facilitators supercharge their virtual meetings. We walk our talk here at NetSpeed Learning Solutions and put into practice many of the techniques this ebook describes. In addition, we’ve worked closely with corporate clients who want to get the best out of their virtual meetings.

No matter what web conference platform you adopt, you have the ability to design and facilitate an interactive, engaging virtual meeting based on the practices described here.



Posted by Cynthia Clay at 10:02 am

Virtual Trainer Tips: Engage! Interact!

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Virtual Trainer Tips: Engage! Interact!

Last year I had the privilege of delivering a virtual keynote for a Canadian client with 400 virtual leaders who attended a full-day, digital conference. My topic was Leading Collaborative Virtual Teams, a 90-minute web workshop that I have delivered from my desktop using our web conference platform for previous clients.

Our client, however, had never held a virtual conference for their remote leaders. They wanted to ensure their conference was a success, so they hired a webcasting company and decided to broadcast the two keynotes from a television studio in their city (they flew me to Toronto). I was informed that I would be standing in front of a black wall, speaking to a video camera while the presentation was streamed to a live audience, watching the conference from their desktops or conference rooms in locations throughout Canada.

"I can't do it that way," I told them, with a little hesitation, thinking they would find me very high maintenance. Thankfully, the webcasting company collaborated with me to make my session as interactive and engaging as I wanted. No talking head presentations for me! We determined how we could rely on a chat stream (I watched a large monitor streaming the chat from the web conference platform), how we could build polls into the interaction (we opened four different polls with results displayed on a second monitor with my slides), and how I could create a more relaxed, warm environment (I perched on a bar stool so I could relate to the camera comfortably and move my arms expressively, instead of standing still in one spot).

The first keynote speaker delivered his presentation, standing before that black backdrop. He talked to the video camera, showed a few videos, and gave people five minutes to complete a couple of activities. He repeatedly asked for questions from the audience (read aloud by the moderator), and, while, he did get a few questions here and there, it was clear that he didn't require much interaction. He was an expert on his topic; I'm sure people took away some useful content. It's the style of virtual presentation that many clients request and many speakers provide.

After lunch, it was my turn. In the opening two minutes, I posed a polling question, and asked an open-ended question that encouraged people to share their thoughts in chat. Within minutes, I had engaged their interest and attention. Together, we created an informal, interactive, collaborative keynote experience that was a joy to facilitate. I was on camera for 90 minutes, fully present, enthusiastic, and totally connected to the audience. I used their names, read many of their chat messages aloud, answered their questions on the spot, and praised their ideas and opinions, weaving them throughout my facilitated presentation. They had the opportunity to interact with me and with each other.

As we wrapped up, one of the attendees proposed the formation of an online collaboration group where they could continue learning from one another. I was in heaven. It was demonstrable proof that learning occurred and would continue.

At NetSpeed Learning Solutions, we’ve worked with hundreds of training facilitators and instructional designers who want to learn how to design and facilitate interactive, engaging online learning. As web conference technology has improved over the years, we have also found that virtual managers and meeting facilitators need to know how to lead dynamic, effective virtual meetings.

Please join me in raising the bar for virtual conferences and keynotes. They can be interactive, engaging, collaborative, dynamic, and effective.

To help you raise the bar for virtual conferences, download our ebook Supercharge Your Virtual Meetings.  This ebook was written to provide basic tips and tricks to help online meeting facilitators supercharge their virtual meetings.

Posted by Cynthia Clay at 2:33 pm

Four Ways Producers Make a Difference in the Virtual Classroom

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Four Ways Producers Make a Difference in the Virtual Classroom

Recently I wrote an article for Training Industry titled Why Producers Matter in the Virtual Classroom. In the article, I look at the tasks performed by a skilled producer, and explore the advantages of partnering with one in the virtual classroom.

At NetSpeed Learning, we are strong advocates of using a Producer (sometimes called a Host) in the virtual classroom. While it may seem cost-effective to allow a trainer or facilitator to “fly solo”, the reality is that a bad experience with technology can ruin an event. Flustered facilitators may find their performance plummets. Instead of listening to technical troubleshooting questions, annoyed participants find more important tasks such as checking email or cruising a website. Technology will always present challenges, but a skilled producer can help navigate the difficulties.

Recently I was delivering a webinar for a client with 60 attendees. At the start of the event, the web platform (a recently updated version) crashed four times in the space of 20 minutes. Because I was collaborating with an experienced producer, the attendees had a seamless experience anyway. I was able to quickly reconnect each time. As my audio resumed, I could hear the producer calmly continuing the discussion, debriefing a chat, or analyzing poll responses. At one point, I could see the chat messages, but I could not advance the slides. I simply asked the producer to advance the slide and continued to present until things cleared up.

Here are four ways skilled producers make a difference in the digital world.

Limit Wasted Time

A single minute of wasted time online can feel like five to a remote audience. A virtual trainer who must stop the online experience to troubleshoot one individual participant’s audio or visual experience wastes time for everyone. The result? Participants begin multitasking or worse, sign off from the learning event and get on with their work.

Provide a Higher Quality Learning Experience

I have delivered thousands of web workshops and virtual events. I can say with certainty that I am a much better presenter and facilitator if I am not worried about all the technical details at the same time that I am delivering a remote training experience. I am free to engage, connect, inform, and motivate. Free your trainers to do their best work with participants and turn the technical problems over to a producer.

Avoid Cancelling Virtual Events

There is nothing worse than assembling an audience of eager participants who have booked a training event on their calendars, and then telling them you must reschedule due to technical difficulties. A producer can back up the presenter whose computer has frozen or crashed. If the producer is in another location, they can continue the digital event, collaborating with the presenter who may be looking at their slide deck and guiding the event over a cell phone. Our motto is, “The show must go on!”

Creating Variety and Interest

We often call on our producers to do more than solve technical problems. We may ask them to read an example, roleplay with the virtual facilitator, or take turns debriefing chat discussions. Hearing a second voice can add variety and create engagement. Participants report that they perk up at the sound of a second voice. Give the producer permission to point out questions posed in chat that the facilitator may have missed, or to indicate that someone has raised their hand. This collaborative way of presenting is more interesting to participants and creates greater confidence in the virtual experience.

More Resources

Download our complimentary ebook Bring Your Mojo to Virtual Learning which includes a chapter titled Partner With A Host/Producer For Seamless Virtual Events, This ebook is packed with more tips and insights to help you transform your virtual classroom delivery to engaging, interactive learning that makes multi-tasking impossible.


Posted by Cynthia Clay at 10:45 am

Moving into Management in the Midst of Volatility

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Moving into Management in the Midst of Volatility

People moving into their first manager role usually encounter common challenges: supervising former colleagues, holding people accountable without micromanaging them, learning to handle conflict proactively, and developing a positive management style. However, the year 2020 has also heightened the sense of chaos and volatility as new managers take on increased responsibility during a global pandemic. What is always important is the emerging leader’s ability to motivate, communicate with, and inspire their employees. With so much anxiety about what might happen next, new leaders must also foster a sense of belonging to the team and the organization. In this chaotic time, connection is more important than correction.

Frontline managers comprise 50% of any organization’s management team; however, they supervise 80% of the workforce. Organizations that view these crucial frontline leaders as a strategic advantage choose to invest in their development through training and mentoring rather than expecting them to learn how to manage “on the fly.” As Millennials now comprise over 50% of the workforce, these purpose-driven workers are moving into management roles, eager to lead and contribute inside their companies.

At the heart of the NetSpeed Leadership program for emerging leaders are these five Leadership Guidelines:

    1. Create an Optimistic Climate   
    2. Promote Collaborative Relationships
    3. Encourage Exceptional Performance
    4. Focus for High Impact
    5. Cultivate Trust

Now, as never before, leaders who embrace these guidelines will make a difference inside their organizations.

To create an optimistic climate, leaders must acknowledge the uncertainty and chaos we are experiencing, while at the same time encouraging positive, constructive action. To promote collaborative relationships, leaders must consciously build teamwork even though some individuals may be working from home away from their colleagues. To encourage exceptional performance, leaders need to review goals set earlier in the year, to confirm or change these targets in response to changes in the external environment. To keep everyone focused for high impact, leaders may need to hold more frequent virtual huddles to check in with everyone and check out their progress on projects and tasks. To cultivate trust, first-level leaders need to increase communication and transparency, answering questions to the best of their ability and admitting when they simply do not know the answers and need to consult others.

NetSpeed Learning Solutions has updated its flagship leadership skills development program, NetSpeed Leadership™, to help frontline leaders meet the challenges of managing employees in a complex, demanding, often virtual, world. With 24 customizable modules which you may license and deliver in the face-to-face or virtual classrooms, NetSpeed Leadership equips your organization to meet the needs of these emerging frontline leaders.

Download our ebook, The Other Side of the Desk: Five Leadership Guidelines for New Managers, to dive into 25 leader behaviors that can help your managers transition effectively to leading others.

And take our leadership self-assessment to explore your leadership type. We are happy to aggregate the responses of up to 25 managers in your organization.

 

 

Posted by Cynthia Clay at 9:30 am

Virtual Trainer Tips: Assume Goodwill and Positive Intent

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Virtual Trainer Tips: Assume Goodwill and Positive Intent

When I develop and deliver web workshops, I build in opportunities for people to use chat to encourage interaction with me and other participants. There are many reasons to encourage active chatting in webinars, including to:

    • Engage participants
    • Stimulate creative thinking
    • Draw out context from the group
    • Increase learning retention

It's challenging to rely on text comments, though, because the underlying subtext or intention is missing. Reading between the lines while scanning ambiguous comments, it can be easy to jump to conclusions about what people mean. On occasion, my reaction to seeing someone's chat message has been negative. I have sometimes been annoyed by what seems to be criticism or sarcasm.

What I've learned over many years of delivering webinars is that, in the stream of chat messages, I may not always know exactly what someone's intended impact might be. However I will always be a better facilitator - more focused, more kind, and more competent - if I assume that everyone in my web training sessions has positive intent.

The simple assumption that participants are taking my web workshop with goodwill has served me well in some awkward situations. Even if I'm wrong about a snarky comment, most participants appreciate that I'm positive and upbeat. I can either ignore the critical comment or rephrase it in a more positive way to reinforce a key point.

More Resources

This blog post is from a chapter in our ebook That's Using Your Noggin! Brain-based Principles in the Virtual Classroom.  This ebook describes brain-based learning principles you can apply in order to engage learners and help them retain information. No matter what web conferencing platform you use, you are sure to discover some tactics and tools here that will help you uplevel your virtual learning game in your next web workshop.



Posted by Cynthia Clay at 8:28 am

Leadership on the Loose

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Leadership on the Loose

Organizations often promote top technicians or strong individual contributors into leadership roles because they've mastered unrelated skills in a specific discipline. The assumption, of course, is that the new leader will bring the same focus to their new role managing others. And Voila! Leadership!

It's odd. People seem to believe that leadership is one of the few skill sets that can be mastered through osmosis. (One definition of osmosis is the gradual or unconscious assimilation of ideas.) Imagine a soccer team that never learns to play specific positions on the field, is never coached, and never practices. Picture yourself attending a concert in which the conductor never studied music.

Leadership is a discipline. Like any other discipline, leadership can be taught, practiced, coached, and mastered. The research consistently demonstrates that unskilled leaders create low morale and high turnover. (The Gallup Organization and the Conference Board are just two sources that have published studies to this effect.) Turning leaders loose without the skills to manage, coach, give feedback, and develop their teams is certainly misguided. So why do organizations fall into this trap?

The reasons we encounter include:

    • It costs too much money to send them to management training.
    • It takes too much time to send them to management training.
    • Our managers are also individual contributors and they're too busy contributing.
    • Other priorities are more important this year.
    • It's hard to quantify the benefit of developing our managers' skills.

All of these conditions are probably true:

    • Funds need to be invested to offer practical, relevant training.
    • Time away from work is required to develop skills.
    • Managers usually handle projects, tasks, and other assignments besides managing others.
    • Pressing priorities can certainly compete for dollars and time.
    • It is difficult to demonstrate the positive impact of management training.

However, none of these truths should prevent an organization from supporting the development of skilled managers and leaders. NetSpeed Leadership's management training and supervisory training is designed to meet the learning needs of managers, supervisors and individuals in fast-paced organizations. Using interactive instruction coupled with powerful, easy-to-use web-based tools for online reinforcement and for measuring impact, the NetSpeed Leadership system successfully ensures learning transfer, holds participants accountable and empowers them to apply new skills on the job.

    • Develop leadership skills for first and second level managers
    • Improve your work culture
    • Build stronger teams
    • Develop a common language and common practices
    • Improve morale, turnover, and attendance

NetSpeed Leadership Includes:

    • Online training needs assessment
    • A curriculum of 24 three-hour classroom or 90-minute web workshop courses
    • Trainer certification workshop (face-to-face or virtual)
    • Take-away Job Aid card (to reinforce key learning principles)
    • E-magazine (accessed online after training)
    • NetSpeed On the Job™ (web-based performance support)
    • NetSpeed Coach™ (web-based testing and coaching with built-in assessment tools)
    • NetSpeed Administrator™ (for tracking and reporting)

Onsite or Virtual Workshops: A certified NetSpeed Leadership facilitator can deliver the NetSpeed Leadership program on a pre-established time-table that meets your needs, both in the classroom OR virtually utilizing a web conference platform.

In-house Trainers: Certify your own internal trainer(s) to deliver the program to your employees. Trainer certification workshops are available on premise or virtually.

Learn more about the 24 courses in the NetSpeed Leadership training program.

More Resources

The NetSpeed Leadership Program Resource Kit is a collection of resources to help organizations with their leadership development planning. It includes:

    • Six questions to help you summarize your organization's current business objectives and connect that information to the objectives for the NetSpeed Leadership program.
    • A Training Impact Map, which you can use to link the skills developed in the 24-module NetSpeed Leadership 2 training program to your important business outcomes
    • A Leadership Self-Assessment, which includes 25 leader behaviors linked to five critical leadership guidelines that help leaders stay balanced and on track in the face of shifting priorities and unpredictable challenges.
    • An overview of the 24 NetSpeed Leadership 2 training modules, including the learning goals for each module
    • Resource Kit Promotional Discount.

Posted by Cynthia Clay at 9:20 am

Trainer Tips: Add Producers to Your Virtual Classrooms

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Trainer Tips: Add Producers to Your Virtual Classrooms

The rapid adoption of virtual meeting and training has led to an explosion of courses offered in the virtual classroom. Adding a producer (also known as a host) to a virtual event ensures that facilitators and trainers can stay focused on their content, the learning experience, and their participants while the producers focus on the technology.

Here are several advantages of using a producer instead of expecting a facilitator or trainer to “fly solo” in the virtual classroom. The producer can:

    • Set up the event, load slides, and build polls
    • Conduct rehearsals or dry runs prior to the virtual classroom session
    • Help participants sign into the event, while the trainer greets people calmly
    • Address audio and web issues behind the scenes
    • Take control of the event if the facilitator loses Internet access
    • Monitor the Q & A pod or respond to chat messages
    • Set up and launch breakout rooms
    • Serve as a “scribe” during whiteboard discussions
    • Troubleshoot technical issues before, during, and after the event

NetSpeed Learning Solutions can assist you in adding skilled producers to the virtual classroom. Members of our trained staff have successfully produced virtual classroom sessions in Adobe Connect, Webex, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business, Citrix, and Saba Central.

We also offer a Virtual Producer/Host Course to help train people on your team to handle this important role. We can help you get the best technical experience in the virtual classroom.

More Resources

Download our complimentary ebook Bring Your Mojo to Virtual Learning which includes a chapter titled Partner With A Host/Producer For Seamless Virtual Events, This ebook is packed with more tips and insights to help you transform your virtual classroom delivery to engaging, interactive learning that makes multi-tasking impossible.

Posted by Cynthia Clay at 11:56 am

The Virtual Leader's Style and Conflict in the Virtual Workplace

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

The Virtual Leader's Style and Conflict in the Virtual Workplace

In the 1960s, Douglas McGregor, a professor at MIT's Sloan School of Management, put forth two theories of management. Theory X managers assume that employees have an inherent dislike of work and need to be managed closely to achieve productivity and high performance. He called this style of management "authoritarian." Theory Y managers believe that employees are internally motivated and want to contribute at work, without the need for close supervision. He called this style of management "participative."

Theory X and Theory Y, freshly applied to the virtual workplace, lead to interesting discussions about the nature of virtual leadership. Do virtual workers require closer supervision because the remote leader can no longer see what they're up to? A remote leader with these beliefs might make the mistake of micromanaging, checking up on their remote teams, and requiring unnecessary checkpoints and extraneous communication. In our research, this is one of the most annoying aspects of working virtually for many employees who find constant micromanagement to be demotivating.

Do virtual workers require little or no supervision, preferring instead to manage their priorities and their time without the manager's input? A remote leader with Theory Y beliefs might make the mistake of providing little structure and support, instead leaving their remote workers to feel as if they must "sink or swim." Virtual workers report that the feeling of being abandoned and the lack of visibility are also demotivating.

In both of these examples, managers may be making assumptions about what their virtual workers want and need to be successful. Micromanagement might be an extreme form of a Theory X (authoritarian) management style, while abandonment might be an extreme form of a Theory Y (participative) management style. In both cases, virtual leaders might not be meeting the external (environmental) needs or the internal (motivational) needs of their remote employees.

When I reflect on my own tendencies as the leader of a virtual company, I realize that I sometimes swing between these two extremes, micromanaging at times, and leaving people to "sink or swim" at times when I'm feeling swamped. I need to remind myself often that people who are working virtually require both structure and autonomy. As a virtual leader, I must make sure my expectations are clear and also allow people the freedom to succeed with my positive support and feedback. As I pay attention to my leadership style, I can take ownership of my impact on the talented people who work with me. That, in turn, helps to reduce misunderstandings, disagreements, and conflict.

NetSpeed Learning Solutions offers two engaging programs for leaders and teams that address these issues: the Virtual Leader program and Managing Workplace Conflict.


Posted by Cynthia Clay at 10:28 am

Achieving Flawless Training Implementation

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Achieving Flawless Training Implementation

Beth was a Training Director for a large real estate company with multiple regions. She was tasked by her boss with rolling out a leadership development program to improve the skills of first-level leaders. She selected a tested program, trained internal trainers, and carefully planned the training rollout, scheduling workshops in all five regions. As she communicated the leadership training plan, she began to have some concerns about two of the regional directors. They didn't take the process seriously, complained that the training would eat into their supervisors' valuable time, and indicated that they saw the leadership training initiative as a low priority in the coming year. Convinced that they would come around because the leadership training initiative was sponsored by her boss in Human Resources, Beth proceeded with her plans. The training workshops in these regions were poorly attended and roundly criticized.

As she reviewed the course evaluations at the end of the year, it became increasingly clear that in the three regions that had regional director support, the supervisors attended eagerly, participated actively, completed follow-up assignments, and reported substantial behavior change. In the regions with uncommitted regional directors, the training initiative was widely viewed as a failure - a waste of time and resources.

Unable to regain the support of these regional directors, Beth left the organization the following year.

Lesson Learned:

A flawless implementation must include actively gaining the support of senior management who recognize the positive impact that specific, practical training will achieve. Beth and her boss, the Human Resources Administrator, needed to build a business case demonstrating the value of building the skills of those first-level leaders. As the first step in planning the launch of the program, they should have gained the buy-in of the CEO based on the impact that skilled leaders would have on achieving the organization's strategic objectives.

For the Next Training Initiative:

    1. Identify the business reasons driving the need for training.
    2. Ensure that skills and behaviors developed by training directly support on-the-job performance.
    3. Build an impact map to communicate the link between these skills and behaviors, improved on-the-job performance, and valued business results.
    4. Identify key indicators. Gather evidence to report the positive impact of training on key indicators that affect business results.
    5. Communicate the impact of these business results on the organization's strategic priorities.

Download Our Whitepaper: Flawless Implementation: Five Keys for Successful Training

The best-intended training programs often fizzle after launch. It takes more than a fire-and-forget approach to ensure that your program's guidance system stays on track. How can you ensure that your training program ends up truly meeting your organization's strategic objectives? Download this whitepaper to learn how to implement a flawless training program that produces the strategic results you demand.

Posted by Cynthia Clay at 10:55 am

Preparation and Practice in the Hybrid World

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Preparation and Practice in the Hybrid World

Recently I delivered a Train-the-Trainer workshop for an enthusiastic group of five facilitators working for a new client who has licensed our NetSpeed Leadership program (for new supervisors and managers). I enjoyed the experience because I love to learn, explore, and try out new solutions.

We decided that we would conduct the TTT workshop virtually rather than having me travel onsite. No problem, I'm very comfortable in the virtual classroom. I prepared two sessions, each two and a half hours long, and led them on two consecutive days. The trainers met together in a conference room in Louisiana and I attended virtually from Seattle. I was on web camera in an Adobe Connect meeting. They were not. They were dialed in on one phone bridge which was broadcast so we could all hear each other. If we'd had more time to prepare before the first two virtual sessions, I would have made sure that they could be on camera too. It was awkward for me to train such a small group for five hours but not be able to see them. Lesson learned. I knew we needed to do it differently for the final step in the process.

In our trainer certification workshops, we ask trainers to deliver a 30-minute training segment (a trainback) from one of our programs. They engage their colleagues and receive feedback on their delivery. When we are certifying trainers to deliver in the face-to-face classroom, one of our Master Trainers is usually onsite to work with them and give feedback. But in this situation, we wanted to accomplish the same result without anyone of us travelling to them.

Our client set up a video camera in the training room that could be focused both on the front of the room where each trainer would present, as well as turned to record the trainers when they were giving feedback. We hooked the video camera up so that it could be played through Adobe Connect. That way I could be on web camera and they could see me. And I would be able to conduct the trainback session remotely. They displayed the Adobe Connect meeting room with the presenter's PowerPoint slide deck on the screen behind them. Each presenter used the forward and back keys to keep us on the right slide in their presentation. I quickly realized that I needed to freeze my camera when the trainer was presenting. My image was right over their shoulder looking down on them from the projection screen. That was distracting for everyone, including me!

When I wanted to add my two cents as a participant in the trainback session, I would unfreeze my camera and raise my hand. After 30 minutes of delivery time, each trainer then received 15 minutes of feedback from their colleagues. At that point, we turned the camera to face the conference room, so all the trainers could be seen in the video pod in Adobe Connect, with me on camera as well. While it wasn't a perfect solution (I would hear what they were saying a split second before their lips would move which was a tad bit disconcerting), it was a successful hybrid experience.

One of the keys to success of this hybrid session was that we conducted a dry run the day before the trainback experience and tested everything we could think of. Do you see a theme to this newsletter? Our motto in the face-to-face, virtual, and hybrid classrooms is, "Leave nothing to chance." If you ever think to yourself, "What could possibly go wrong?" remember that the technology gremlins are a clever bunch. Don't give them a chance to get the upper hand!

Ebook Download:

For useful tips on facilitating in the virtual classroom, download our complimentary ebook, You've Got This! Tips for Better Virtual Facilitation.  Packed with tips and insights to help you transform your virtual classroom delivery to engaging, interactive learning that makes multi-tasking impossible, this ebook contains a selection of articles on how to bring your best facilitation skills to the challenge of leading interactive, engaging online training as well as facilitating productive, effective virtual meetings.

No matter what web conference platform you use, you’ll find the mindset and the tactical tools described here will help you get better results in your next web event.

Posted by Cynthia Clay at 9:13 am

Going Virtual: Let's Make It a Great Web Meeting

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Going Virtual: Let's Make It a Great Web Meeting

In the past few months, I have participated in many virtual meetings led in Zoom, Adobe Connect, Citrix, Whereby, and other software platforms, so many that I've lost count. The whole world has suddenly gone virtual. If you are now working from home (WFH) and dealing with the issues that come with online meetings, you may have these questions: 

    • Is my web camera on or off when I first click that virtual meeting link?
    • How do I mute myself when my dog starts barking?
    • Is the cat walking across my keyboard cute or annoying?
    • How do I know whether to dial in on my phone or use the computer audio?
    • Where can I see people chatting? How can I chat myself? Why can't anyone see my chat comment?
    • Why is the camera flipping to people as they sip their coffee or rattle their papers?
    • Why am I silhouetted against my window when I'm on camera? No one can see my face!
    • Is this a formal meeting or an informal meeting? Do I have to dress up?

If you have concluded that virtual meetings are both a blessing and a curse, you're not alone. Here are some ideas I wish I could convey to virtual meeting leaders everywhere:

Tell people what to expect when they click the link to join a meeting.

There are a few basics that people need to know. For example, will people automatically join on web camera? Do you prefer that they dial in on a telephone bridge or use the audio through their computers or mobile devices? Do you intend to record the web meeting for later review? Be specific when you send out the meeting invitation. Note that with the demands being made right now on bandwidth given all these virtual meetings taking place, you may need to adjust standard operating procedures.

Review the technology basics prior to the meeting start time. Do a quick review for everyone when the meeting begins.

Invite people who are unfamiliar with the meeting platform to log in 15 minutes early so that you can trouble shoot technology issues before the meeting starts. Make sure everyone knows how to use the chat function, how to use the emoticons, how to mute and unmute their audio, and how to turn their web cameras on and off. Some platforms allow participants to change the way video is displayed (for example, web camera images can be displayed in grid mode, or only the video of the primary speaker may be displayed.) Let people know how they can manage those video displays.

Indicate to everyone what kind of virtual meeting you've planned (formal to informal).

The nature of the experience and the expectations of participation may be very different, depending on the type of meeting you are hosting. It makes sense to communicate how formal or informal the virtual meeting will be. A formal meeting might include senior management speakers, hundreds of employees, and limited opportunity for people to chat (though there may be a Q & A function provided). You may limit the use of web cameras to a few speakers or panelists.

Another kind of formal meeting might include your clients or prospective clients. In that case, you might expect your virtual team members to be dressed professionally with lighting on their face when they come on web camera. An informal meeting might be a weekly team call in which you expect everyone to participate fully on web camera, the chat feature is in active use, and you don't care whether children, cats, or dogs wander through the background. The point is to be clear about the type of meeting you're inviting them to join.

Pay attention to the need for connection, relationship, and inspiration.

These are challenging times with much stress and anxiety. Some people are now working from home while their children are expected to learn from home. They are struggling to keep their work environment professional while juggling family demands. Some of your co-workers may have the opposite set of circumstances: working alone and physically isolated from their colleagues, they may feel depressed and anxious. What can you do in your regular team meetings to help people connect? How can you encourage virtual relationship-building? Look for videos that make you laugh, inspire you, or motivate you. Share them at virtual team meetings. Create opportunities for people to thank each other and share good news. Close each meeting with celebration and inspiration so they go back to work on a high note.

If you've ever daydreamed, dozed, or multitasked your way through an online meeting, you will appreciate this infographic, Great Web Meetings: We’ve Got to Keep Meeting Like This!, which depicts 15 techniques for planning and facilitating productive, engaging web meetings.

You also might like to learn about our Virtual Facilitator Trainer Certification course. It is specifically designed to help experienced classroom trainers acquire the skills to deliver world class engaging virtual classroom experiences and present virtual meetings that people actually look forward to attending.



Posted by Cynthia Clay at 11:07 am

Getting The Attention of a Drive-by Boss

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Getting The Attention of a Drive-by Boss

Drive-by bosses come in many shapes and forms. What they have in common is the neglect of their employees' needs. One drive-by boss might run poorly planned meetings that waste everyone's time. Another might neglect to complete performance evaluations, convinced that his other tasks have priority. A third might be juggling so many competing priorities that she often cancels meetings with the individuals on her team.

A Drive-by Boss' Story 

Meet Beng, a high-energy, fast-moving sales manager. Beng is on the fast track, having been rapidly promoted from account manager to sales specialist to senior sales specialist in the past two years. His track record as a salesperson is stellar--he's one of the highest producers in the division. At the end of last year, Beng received a promotion and is now the manager of a team of ten sales reps. His days are a blur of management team meetings, marketing sessions, sales forecasting meetings, and conferences with the senior executive committee. He often travels globally to Singapore, Russia, Denmark, and Portugal to meet with corporate clients.

When team members try to schedule time with Beng, he often tells them, "Have my assistant book time on my calendar." However, these meetings, while scheduled on Beng's calendar, often never happen. Something else always surfaces that drags Beng away. Denise, a new sales rep on the team, is particularly frustrated by her lack of communication with Beng. She has challenging sales goals but she doesn't have the depth of product knowledge she needs to meet them. Denise has set up three meetings with Beng and he has cancelled all of them due to other priorities that have surfaced.

Let's look at a few clues that identify the drive-by boss. He may often:

    • Miss meetings or hold them infrequently or without planning
    • Fail to provide you with clear expectations or assignments
    • Pay very little attention to or have unrealistic expectations about your work or workload
    • Fail to respond to messages
    • Avoid conducting performance appraisals or providing regular feedback
    • Fail to keep you informed on important developments
    • Provide insufficient resources
    • Ignore performance problems and team conflicts
    • Seem stressed and harried
    • Lack the respect of his colleagues

Drive-by Bosses may lack key management skills, may be overwhelmed by competing priorities, may expect their team to sink or swim, or may not enjoy the requirements of managing others.  To hear a drive-by boss in action, watch this short video at NetSpeed Fast Tracks.

There are three principles that can help you work with drive-by bosses to encourage greater engagement: Take Responsibility, Extend Respect, and Be Real.

Take Responsibility

    • Look at your contribution to the situation.
    • Focus on what you can do about the drive-by boss. Help him and educate him.
    • Communicate. Keep your boss informed.
    • Perform well (so your boss will want to help you).

Extend Respect

    • Listen carefully to his reasons for delaying actions.
    • Respect the organization's structure and culture.
    • Honor differences in style or work method.

Be Real

    • Bring up issues that are on your mind.

Many drive-by bosses need their employees to organize their requests, carefully plan their interactions, and focus on reducing how much time is required to present situations, questions, and recommendations. Rather than complaining about the boss, you will work more constructively by taking responsibility for getting what you need from him.

The Rest of the Story

Denise realized that Beng was drowning in a sea of outside demands. She decided to make it easier for Beng to give her what she needed: clear goals and expectations, regular feedback, and recognition for her successful efforts at getting ramped up on products and services, leading to her first closed sales. Instead of trying to pin him down for meetings, she put together a one-page, weekly status report with four sections. At the top she listed her weekly goals (with space for Beng to add his performance expectations). In the second section, she listed ongoing tasks followed by 2 - 3 bullet points updating Beng on their status. In the third section, she listed new product knowledge gained as well as sales she had closed. At the bottom, she listed the week's accomplishments that she wanted to flag for Beng, and any outstanding questions or concerns she had.

As Denise organized the information she shared with Beng, he found he could quickly scan her status report and focus only on her immediate needs. He began to shoot short emails back to her acknowledging her accomplishments and making suggestions for the upcoming week. After a few weeks, he suggested they meet face-to-face so he could support her continued development.

Listen to the audio recording (at the very bottom of the web page) to hear how to respond constructively when a drive-by boss is leaving you in the dust.  

This article is based on Peer Power: Transforming Workplace Relationships by Cynthia Clay and Ray Olitt. Read a sample chapter to learn about the mistakes they've made in their past communication practices.



Posted by Cynthia Clay at 12:52 pm

Working Well with a Faux-smart Boss

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Working Well with a Faux-smart Boss

The faux-smart boss has great confidence in his own skills, knowledge and abilities, likely based on some past successes. What makes this a difficult pattern to handle at work is that faux-smart bosses are often blind to their lack of knowledge or skill regarding current problems or issues. Buoyed by his track record, he may mistrust the skills of his employees and demand that they comply with his directives.

A Faux-smart Boss's Story

Meet John, a faux-smart boss who has just assumed a new role with authority over several work teams. Convinced that he understands the division's priorities and issues, John immediately sets about "cleaning house," dismissing processes and procedures he considers to be unnecessary, and putting a new organizational structure in place. His direct reports (all managers) have many years of combined experience but now find that their boss never consults them or asks their input. They often learn of the latest directive after John has announced the change at a staff meeting. Frustrated by John's over-confidence and his unwillingness to listen to other viewpoints, they are also concerned that key employees with years of experience are ready to bolt.

Let's look at a few clues that indicate the presence of a faux-smart boss. From his position of power and leadership, he:

    • Argues when others give input  
    • Insists upon doing things his way  
    • Makes impulsive and unwise decisions  
    • Micromanages his employees  
    • Asks his employees to ignore company policies or procedures  
    • Takes back tasks once delegated  
    • Rates his employees too critically  
    • Hires employees who tend to agree with him  
    • Shows favoritism to people who agree with him  
    • Refuses to acknowledge mistakes

It's possible that John, in his attempt to prove himself in his new role, may:

    • Feel humiliated when he is exposed as unknowledgeable  
    • Be insecure about his job or himself  
    • Feel uncomfortable with change  
    • Base his self-esteem on a display of expertise  
    • Feel pressured by a work culture that rewards the wrong priorities

Because a faux-smart boss may define himself by the work he does and the opinions he holds, it's important not to undermine them or diminish their self-esteem.

To hear a faux-smart boss in action, watch this short video at NetSpeed Fast Tracks.

There are three principles that can help you work with a faux-smart boss to help him develop into a knowledgeable leader: Take Responsibility, Extend Respect, and Be Real.

Take Responsibility

    • Focus on what you can do. Don't become a whiner.  
    • Communicate frequently with your boss. Ask his opinions.  
    • Help your boss succeed.  
    • Respect your needs. Honor your own accomplishments.  
    • Perform well (so your boss will have confidence in you).  
    • Prepare thoroughly when presenting your ideas.

 Extend Respect 

    • Honor differences. Adapt to your boss's style.
    • Listen to clarify your boss's expectations.
    • Be loyal. Correct misinformation but don't undermine.
    • Respect the organization's culture.

Be Real

    • Express what is on your mind.

It is possible to have a productive, satisfying working relationship with a faux-smart boss. It may require that you partner with him, providing useful articles, assuring him of your support, and asking questions to help him probe more deeply before coming to a conclusion.


The Rest of the Story

John was surprised by the resignation of two key employees who left to work with a competitor of the company. Pauline, one of his direct reports, encouraged him to call a management team meeting to explore some avenues to increase employee satisfaction in the division. She offered to research employee satisfaction issues and presented John and the management team with a report summarizing key satisfiers that increase employee retention.

In the meeting, Pauline was careful not to confront John on his management directives. Instead she asked probing questions, such as, "What do we do particularly well in this division compared to the recommendations I discovered in this research?" and "What improvements might we make to increase employee retention here?" John spoke aloud several observations about the impact of moving so quickly to restructure the division. While he didn't directly acknowledge that he might have made any leadership mistakes, he asked the management team to prepare a plan to increase employee satisfaction and retention.

Listen to the audio recording to hear how to respond constructively when working with a faux-smart boss who has jumped to a conclusion. (Click on the link above and scroll down to the bottom of the page to listen to the short audio recording.)

This article is based on Peer Power: Transforming Workplace Relationships by Cynthia Clay and Ray Olitt. Read a sample chapter to learn about the mistakes they've made in their past communication practices.



Posted by Cynthia Clay at 11:03 am