WebinarHero recently spoke with Kathleen Sexton, founder and CEO of Kairos Learning, a Northern California based consulting firm that provides Training, Organizational Development and Career Development services.
WH: It’s good to talk with you again Kathleen, thanks for making the time to visit with us. Please tell us the background on Kairos and why you founded the firm.
KS: I launched Kairos Learning in December of 2008 because I wanted to deliver webinar solutions to organizations (professional development webinar courses, train-the-trainer courses, hosting services for webinars and conferences, webinar instructional design) because it was a new and growing field. Now there are SO many folks delivering webinar services. It’s great to see the field is expanding.
Kairos is a Greek term signifying a time in between, a moment of undetermined period of time in which something special happens. What the special something is depends on who is using the word. Kairos Learning’s aim is to provide “kairos moments” of learning to people.
WH: Your firm uses the term “synchronous” training quite a bit. Share with us what you mean by “synchronous” and how it helps differentiate your services.
KS: Synchronous training typically means live, online training or a webinar. I like the term synchronous because it differentiates the type of courses we deliver from infomercial webinars or marketing webinars. Kairos Learning delivers training taught in a virtual, or synchronous, classroom.
WH: Are there any web conference platform features that you view as being critical to the delivery of a successful synchronous training?
KS: To achieve the level of interactivity for participant learning and engagement that I want in my training webinars, I need to have not only chat and polling features but also whiteboard annotation capabilities, web browsing, break out rooms, telephony via telephone, file transfer, feedback icons, and recording features.
WH: Can you share with us who your typical client is from an industry or demographic perspective?
KS: Typical clients seem to fall into 3 categories: 1) individual trainers who want to develop their webinar design and facilitation skills, and 2) organizations that are considering creating a webinar program to deliver services and need consulting on how to set one up, and 3) organizations that want to train their trainers on how to design and/or deliver webinars as a new delivery method for their training courses.
WH: What are the typical challenges your clients are facing prior to working with Kairos and how does a typical engagement work?
KS: A common client challenge is understanding how to translate in-person classroom training into an effective course in a virtual, live, online environment. It’s not as easy as putting up PowerPoint slides in a webinar platform and talking to your audience. But there isn’t a typically work engagement for Kairos Learning – each client’s training program (content, target audience, trainers) is different, so our solutions are customized for each client.
WH: What do you view are the top 3 most important factors to consider when using webinars to perform corporate training, organizational or career development?
- Does the organization support training by webinar? For example,
- Do they have the technology and tech support?
- Are their employees able to attend webinars without distractions from their work environment?
- Will managers consider a webinar as valuable training for their employees?
- Has the training been specifically designed for a live, online environment?
- Are the facilitators skilled in teaching webinars?
- Can I sneak in a 4th factor? What is the webinar platform and is it the best for delivering training programs?
WH: We’ve reached the shameless self promotion part of the interview. What should people absolutely know about the Kairos Learning?
KS: People should know that Kairos Learning provides webinar solutions that are tailored and customized to meet the needs of each client; we don’t have off-the-shelf solutions.
Our training programs are limited in participant size to provide an opportunity for plenty of hands-on practice and participation. The courses are designed for participants to really use and apply what they learn in the webinar sessions back to their own work back in their office.
Kairos Learning is offering webinar training courses geared specifically towards helping trainers, educators, presenters, marketing professionals and instructional designers understand the world of webinar training so they can effectively design and facilitate live, online classes. Classes in “Best Practices in Webinar Training Design”, “Facilitation Skills for the Live, Online, Classroom”, and “Strengthening Your Webinar Skills” start in early June & July.
WH: Thanks Kathleen. More information about Kairos and Kathleen can be found at http://www.kairoslearning.com/webinartrainingcourses.html.
WH: Thanks for taking the time Roger. Please tell us when and why you founded the 1080 Group.
Roger: My pleasure, Blaine. I’m an old-timer in the web conferencing industry, spending years in business selling web conferencing and webinar production services. The last company I co-founded, Corvent, was acquired by Intercall, and a partner and I were thinking ‘what’s next’ in the industry. As technologies mature, there’s an increased need for soft skills knowledge and skills, and as we quip, “Microsoft will teach you how to use Word, but they don’t teach you to be a writer.”
1080 Group sells no audio/web/video conferencing or production services as my previous companies…we focus exclusively on teaching people how to stand out through exceptional virtual presentation skills. We focus on is self-sufficiency…we’re not in the outsourced-services biz looking to have you hire us to do it for you or sell you our conferencing services…our goal is to equip you to grow professionally.
WH: You’ve written a book called The Virtual Presenter’s Handbook, give us the cliff notes on what we’ll find between the covers.
Roger: Experience. I wasn’t just helping other people produce webinars, I was making 50-100 presentations a year, year over year myself, and when I get an hour or a day with a client, I only get to share a fraction of what I know about how to deliver the goods.
Communications 101 teaches that the medium affects how a message is sent and received. The problem isn’t how to use a telephone and webinar solution, it’s how to effectively engage and delight an audience you can’t see. That’s not a “how to use technology” problem, it’s a skills problem.
I mentioned soft skills, and that’s what the book focuses on. For example, I’m not going to tell you “this is a poll,” but rather answer questions like, “What’s the best way to use one?” and “When should I NOT use one?” The book looks at every step of a webinar from planning to design to delivering from the perspective of “What is unique about really connecting with people in this environment, how can I avoid mistakes by learning from someone else’s mistakes, and how can I help people go “Wow! That was the most connected I’ve ever felt in a webinar!”
3) At a high level, can you share with us what constitutes virtual presenter best practices?
Roger: Well, I just got done saying I can’t cover it all in an hour and that’s why I wrote a book, but here goes.
Adapt to the Medium
Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is just “talking and PowerPoint.” This is an event and an experience. If you want a return on your efforts, give it due attention. Your audience can change the channel quickly, so if you don’t learn new skills in engaging them, you’ve just wasted your time and theirs.
Talk WITH, not AT, your Audience
As Garr Reynolds puts it in his latest book, “Death by PowerPoint is so common it’s just considered normal,” and I’m going to give you the webinar corollary to this: “Death by monotonous, one-sided webinars is so common it’s just considered normal.” The good news is the bar is low, and you have a great opportunity to distinguish yourself and build trust with your audience through authentically connecting with them.
Design an Experience
Bob Hanson at QLM Marketing and I JUST got done conducting a study about how to promote and deliver engaging webinars, and while I can’t divulge all the goodies here, suffice it to say that the results corroborate the elements of engagement I’ve been talking about. You’ve got to deliver value, you’ve got to think visually with your slides, and you’ve got to go beyond slides and monologue, taking advantage of the ‘liveness’ of the medium. Otherwise someone’s going to put you on speakerphone and do their email. Worse, they’ll change the channel. Unless you’re talking just to hear yourself talk, that’s a missed opportunity.
WH: Who are your typical clients and what do they typically want to achieve using web meetings?
Roger: My clients are mid-sized and larger organizations that call after seeing me present and say, “Wow, we’ve been doing webinars for four years and had no idea you could really connect with audiences like that.”
The buyer is the person responsible for teams who need to have something to gain from really connecting with an audience and who tailor presentations based on who their speaking to rather than someone just delivering a canned deck. More often than not this is sales and marketing crews in really competitive industries, and this means they both need to drive attendance (or nobody’s there to hear the presentation) and then achieve an outcome with their presentation (effectively getting the audience from Point A to Point B…some call to action).
WH: What are the typical challenges your clients are facing and how does the 1080 Group help them overcome those challenges?
Roger: The biggest challenge is that great presentations and webinars take time, and everybody has a day job. The minority of organizations can afford to outsource more help, meaning they’ve got to answer questions like, “How do I create more visually appealing decks and deliver more engaging webinars with limited time and money? And if I don’t have a Ph.D. in Photoshop?”
1080 Group helps them giving them pragmatic, ”Here’s what you can do right away” professional skills, applied in their own environment. By this I mean if they’re using Webex or Connect, we’re teaching them how to accomplish what they need to accomplish using those tools. If the marketing department has a style guide, we help you succeed within those parameters. The goal is to NOT share pie-in-the-sky ideas that everybody thinks are cool but nobody can do.
WH: What social media tools, if any, are your clients using to promote their web meetings?
Roger: Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are the biggies in general, but we also shouldn’t forget that blogs are part of the social landscape, too. What’s right for the client is very specific to them, their audience, and their goals. I’m a huge social media fan (@1080Group on Twitter), but I also encourage them to think more in terms of networking and overall connectedness than “promotion.” I believe I earn the right to tell you something promotionally by delivering value first, and that’s what I teach them to do. Otherwise you’re just more noise in a world with too much noise.
WH: If I’m a company with a virtual sales force of 25 or more people, how important is it have a virtual presentation strategy?
Roger: Web-based presentations hold a unique and irreplaceable place in the communications mix, and you’ll find a chart of how I think about it on my blog (http://bit.ly/a6lpd0). Viewed this way, it’s as important as any of your communication modalities. You don’t replace in-person communication, and you take advantage of what a live event can uniquely deliver versus a whitepaper or other static content. If you don’t have a strategy for how to exploit and optimize the opportunity, you’re missing out.
WH: This is the shameless self-promotion section of the interview. What should people absolutely know about the 1080 Group?
Roger: How about if I avoid the shameless self-promotion, Blaine? Service, including ours, is a relationship, not a data sheet, so I’ll just say what I’d say to someone if they gave me a call. There is science behind what we teach. We aren’t going to drown you in the stuff, but not only do we draw on experience that’s deeper than anywhere, but we conduct behavioral research into webinar audience engagement. For organizations who need to radically engage and delight audiences they can’t see, I trust our work stands as its own testimony to how we help people do this, and anybody can catch a lot of free info on my blog at www.TheVirtualPresenter.com.
And one final thought for your readers…the bar is low, and this makes it a great time to outshine your peers and your competitors with effective online presentations, whether 1080 Group is the crew to help you or not. Go for it!
Thanks, Blaine. WebinarHero.com is a great resource.
WH: Thank you for your time Roger. As always, its a pleasure speaking with you. More information about Roger Courville and the 1080 Group can be found at www.1080group.com.
Interesting post on Ars Technica about the bastardization of the english language. It seems that Lake Superior State University would like to banish the word “Twebinar”, a lingual mashup of “Tweet” and “Webinar”.
To Twebinar or not to Twebinar, that is the question.
Our first reaction is NOT to Twebinar….but it may grow on us just like “webinar” did. And in the long run, if the word “webinar” is really as “hideous” as LSSU would have you believe. We at WebinarHero have a ton of re-branding to do.
We leave it to the educated masses to decide. What say you?