Modern digital culture can be a sensory overload. This barrage is one of the challenges faced by you in trying to get your customer’s attention. Microassist’s Dr. Kevin Gumienny, in his recent webinar, talked about how online training can be a powerful tool to help you cut through the clutter and make meaningful connections with your audience. I wanted to take this opportunity to summarize Kevin’s webinar and throw in a few thoughts of my own.
To see how online training can help, let’s take a look at the sensory overload problem from an audience member’s perspective. At any given moment, your audience is swamped with incoming requests for attention–email, Slack, Facebook, Twitter, ads on TV, ads in their web-browser, etc. Each piece is competing for their time and attention. They have to pick and choose what they want to pay attention to, or risk being overwhelmed by the wealth of offerings.
Online training is a tool we can use to get our audience’s attention by offering them engaging content. Training has the added benefit of leaving the user with new skills or knowledge. High value content is compelling and draws the audience to our message. In essence, this is the value of training as outreach.
Dr. Gumienny illustrated the training as outreach concept by using the example of training offered by many home improvement stores. Many home improvement stores offer a free classes in a useful skill, like re-tiling a bathroom. The class brings in motivated learners and teaches them the techniques to be successful. Once class is over, the students are already in the store and can buy the supplies to put their new skills to use. The store has the opportunity to convert the learners to customers.
You can achieve a similar level of engagement through an outreach training in your organization. How do you get started? First, It is important to insure that you pick the right method to deliver training. Check out Dr. Gumienny’s blog post on matching your topic to the best delivery method. If your students need to learn a hands-on skill, like first-aid, a live class where they can physically interact with the supplies might be the best way. Conversely, if you’re demonstrating something like software tools and techniques, an online class where students can have a close-up view of your screen and rewind the course might be an appropriate approach.
Next, you need to think about your audience:
- How will they access the training?
- What type of connectivity do they have?
- What devices should a learner be able to use: laptops, desktops, phone, tablet? All of them? A combination?
- Who is the audience and how can we can connect with them?
Here are a few of ideas to get you started:
- Video—video is an excellent way to engage your audience, but you don’t have to invest thousands of dollars into creating a slick, Hollywood-quality video. Sites like Vimeo, YouTube, and Vine have shown that audiences are very accepting of home-quality video. While Kevin didn’t address this in his presentation, here’s a pro tip: make sure your subject is well lit and the audio can be clearly heard and understood. A huge bonus with video is that a single video will work across all devices, so regardless if the view is on a phone, a laptop, or a desktop the technology will automatically scale it to fit their screen.
- Podcasts—podcasts are a great way to get into an audience member’s spare time. Whether showcasing a product or doing educational outreach, podcasts offer a clear path onto your audience’s devices. Texas Health Steps has a great example of this approach. They’ve developed a Continuing Medical Education (CME) podcast where healthcare professionals can listen to case studies as a podcast, and then take an online quiz to earn CME credits
- Self-paced learning—this is more typically what you think of as online training, and it can be very successful. In a project Microassist worked on for Rackspace, Rackspace replaced their traditional partner brochures with a series of online tutorials that educated the vendors on Rackspace’s offerings. This approach provided the vendors with more detailed knowledge of the available solutions.
Regardless of the project or audience, remember, make it valuable. Online training will allow to reach out to your audience, and provide them with something they want. They’ll thank you for it, and keep coming back for more.
Brandon Winston is an instructional designer at Microassist. He has a Master of Education (M.Ed.), Instructional Technology from San Francisco State University.