This post was originally written by Aaron Wolowiec for the CommPartners blog.
When it comes to identifying topics for face-to-face and digital presentations, there are generally two schools of thought:
Call for presentations; or
In a traditional call for presentations, a general invitation is released to an organization’s key constituents to submit topic ideas for a program. This call provides detailed instructions for submission of papers for assessment and selection by a review committee. Ultimately, constituent submissions are returned to the committee for review, scoring and selection.
In a content curation process, a committee comprised of a cross-section of the organization’s key constituents first identifies the topics of greatest interest or concern to the industry. In some instances, this committee may rely on a content outline such as the one created for the Certified Association Executive (CAE) exam.
If no outline is available, the committee will consider current trends, future trends (five to 10 years or more into the future) and other hot topics likely keeping the industry up at night. Once content is reviewed, ranked and confirmed, the result is a makeshift content outline the committee can use to disseminate speaker asks.
Ultimately, staff inherent speakers from one of these two methods. Via the call for presentations approach, speakers self-represent their content expertise and speaking prowess and are selected accordingly. Via the content curation approach, speaker asks may be more deliberate (e.g., based on credentials or demonstrated know-how); however, they are limited by the committee’s network.
Regardless of the method used, there really is no guarantee speakers will be successful. Your candidate may be an experienced and skilled face-to-face presenter, a 30-year industry veteran and a world-renowned practitioner, but still may not be ready to present utilizing a digital platform.
Before selecting a speaker for your next digital presentation, consider that individual’s digital presentation experience. Additionally, request evaluation data. Where possible, it’s best if the speaker has previously presented (successfully) using the same digital platform you intend to use. Remember, not all digital platforms are created equal.
And regardless of experience, speakers should be open to furthering their presentation skills. Following are 11 challenges and possible solutions you may use to coach your speakers in delivering quality digital presentations. Of course, practice is still the best strategy for mentoring speakers who have no previous digital presentation experience.
Challenge: Attendees seem disconnected from the speaker/learning experience.
Solution: Utilize a webcam to deliver the presentation; care should be taken to look directly into the camera throughout the program.
Challenge: With no facial expressions/body language to draw from, the speaker is uncertain attendees are “getting” the content.
Solution: Consider pausing the presentation periodically to ask an assessment question via the digital platform’s poll function.
Challenge: When joining remotely, participants are constantly distracted by email and other visual cues.
Solution: Set ground rules for participants early in the program and ask attendees to follow along in a pre-printed participant guide where they can complete assignments and take notes.
Challenge: Reflection activities cause a lot of dead space/air time during the program.
Solution: Convert the reflection activity into a pre- or post-program assignment.
Challenge: Practice activities facilitated during face-to-face programs don’t seem to translate into a digital environment.
Solution: Encourage multiple registrants from the same office or gather attendees at centralized locations to participate in the program together; arm them with a supplies list, directions and plenty of activity time.
Challenge: Four or more hours of content may be required to teach a particular skill.
Solution: Segment and sequence content into smaller modules. No more than 60 minutes is suggested, though even shorter is preferred.
Challenge: Learners want to share their experiences, but this is difficult to facilitate when all of the lines are muted for optimal sound quality.
Solution: Allow attendees to demonstrate their interest in speaking and then open up only their phone lines. Alternatively, gather attendee stories in advance of the program and have the moderator read them aloud.
Challenge: Participants are easily bored by digital presentations.
Solution: Incorporate different instructional strategies into the program beyond lecture (e.g., video, poll, chat).
Challenge: The chat function is difficult to moderate so it often goes unused/is turned off.
Solution: Participants crave interaction with their peers. They also learn a lot from these conversations. Utilize a separate chat moderator who can prompt discussion with attendees, respond to questions and pose trending questions to the speaker.
Challenge: The digital platform makes it difficult for the speaker to provide personalized attendee feedback.
Solution: Allow participants the opportunity within 30 days to follow-up with the speaker directly (e.g., ask a question, gain clarification).
Challenge: It’s challenging to ensure retention and job transfer post-program.
Solution: Encourage action planning to focus learner ideas and next steps; create a job aid to guide future performance; or schedule post-session touch points (e.g., 30, 60 and 90 days).