Associations are increasingly using virtual classrooms and webinars to develop volunteer leaders as a means for reducing costs and expanding access to geographically diverse memberships. Having designed and facilitated such programs for nearly a decade, I find that no matter how experienced we are in producing online webinars, stuff happens. Technical glitches can quickly negate all the time and energy we invest in creating the perfect learning environment. In this blog post, I share my recent experiences and lessons learned (and relearned) while producing the webinar from hell.
The challenging webinar was a 90-minute session delivered via Adobe Meeting I produced for a long-time client, a large professional association offering a formal leadership development program for its members. There were two leaders from the client organization as guest speakers based in the Metro DC area. I produced the webinar from my home office in Palm Springs, California.
20 minutes into the webinar, the network status indicator in the Adobe session turned red indicating I lost my internet connection. I immediately went into triage mode to assess what was happening and how to fix it. Ultimately, I discovered there was a widespread outage in my geographic area. Fortunately, I had an iPhone with an Internet hotspot, enabling me to sustain an audio connection so that the speakers were able to continue and eventually conclude the session.
What can you do to prevent potentially painful experiences when delivering webinars for your association's leadership development program?
Fortunately, I purchase Sprint cell phone service that included a hot spot to access the internet. Adobe Meeting requires that the webinar host maintain a live audio connection or the session ends automatically.
Sprint service does not allow access to the internet on a cell phone hotspot while also using the voice service. As a result, I was unable to manage the online Adobe meeting classroom and concurrently have audio access. Ultimately, I chose to use my cell phone to remain connected to the audio which allowed the guest speakers to continue their presentation.
Without an ability to manage the Adobe classroom experience, the session presenters were unable to advance the program slides. Because participants had access to the webinar handout before the session began, the speakers were able to refer to the detailed webinar guide as a backup.
During the webinar from hell, I was using my cell phone to keep the classroom live and therefore had no way to contact my internet service provider to find out the extent of the local outage. At one point, I used the cell phone feature to add a call to contact my local cable provider and determine whether the disruption was widespread. Unfortunately, when I ended the call to the cable provider, it also disconnected me from the Adobe Meeting classroom. I had to quickly scramble to dial back in lest the session end prematurely.
By having a second backup internet hotspot, I could have easily contacted my local cable provider through an online chat feature instead of calling. This would have prevented a potential disaster in abruptly ending the webinar session.
One factor that made a huge difference in completing the webinar despite major technical setbacks was an educated client. Two presenters from my client organization seamlessly continued the webinar when it became apparent that technical issues prevented the classroom from functioning. Both individuals had experience presenting via webinar and understood the need to be flexible and creative when faced with technology snafus.
Typically when I facilitate webinars, I have a co-presenter for the session. If we have issues, one of us can troubleshoot while the other can maintain interactions with participants in the virtual classroom. In the case of this webinar, I was flying solo and had to juggle multiple roles.
Virtual learning platforms, such as Adobe Meeting, offer significant advantages to associations that are interested in developing future leaders among geographically disperse members. In most cases, the technology works flawlessly. However, the rare instances of major technical glitches can have a negative impact on the quality of these programs. The likelihood of a webinar from hell can be diminished by anticipating the worst and having contingency plans in place.
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Dr. Kevin Nourse has more than 25 years of experience developing transformational change leaders in healthcare and other sectors. He is the founder of Nourse Leadership Strategies, a coaching and leadership development firm based in Southern California. For more information, contact Kevin at 310.715.8315 or firstname.lastname@example.org
(c) 2020 Kevin Nourse