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Do You Have a Highly-Distracted, Disengaged Learner in the Room?

Speakers, coaches, trainesr and consultants taking their in-person presentations online often think, "My material works great on stage.  Let's bring in a video crew, record my presentations and put it online."


Let me go over that challenge every speaker faces when converting their in-person presentation material for use online.  You need to understand these or your program will fail miserably.

Challenge #1: Understanding Your Online Learner

Let's take a semester long college course.  They're typically scheduled as,

  • 3 - 50 minutes sessions a week,
  • 2 - 1 and a half minute sessions a week,
  • 1 - 3 hour session a week

If you present a one or two day event, you break the day up into 4 or 5 sessions.  You schedule presentations with activities to enforce the learning.  You schedule in a break in between the sessions with a lunch break in the middle of the day.

A key ingredient here with in-person presentations is you have control.  You may have students distracted by mobile devices or taking phone calls, but you can assume they will stay engaged to some extent.

Because your audience all grew up going to school, the ingrained social constraints provides some amount of order.  We take it for granted.  You shouldn't taking out loud to the person next to you.  If you fall asleep, people will likely make fun of you.  If someone does take a call, they will typically get up and leave the room.

In an online course, you have none of that.   You may possibly have a very focused student that needs to learn your material badly and they commit to turning off:

  • their phone,
  • email,
  • Slack,
  • Hangout,
  • Facebook,
  • Linkedin,
  • Skype and
  • all the other tools meant to keep us overly, hyper-connected.

Good luck finding one of these guys.

When teaching online, it's not realistic to to ask a student to watch an uninterrupted 30, 45 or 60 minute video.  They will quickly lose interest.  Online, you can expect your student to go for coffee, take a bathroom break or jump to something else.

One scenario you should welcome is student listening to your material while driving.  I connect my phone to the car via Bluetooth.  Unless it's a long drive, you lose a good amount of their real attention.  They have non of the visuals.  They are clearly a distracted learner.

When converting your in-person presentations, you must design and adapt.

How can you do this?  As cool as video is, and I highly recommend video for online courses, many students still want to read it.  Some students will ONLY use the written transcripts.  Go figure.  Keep in mind that for many of your students, English may NOT be their strongest language.  Reading along with a transcript is a big help.  Many students want to keep notes on the printed transcript if you make it available to them.

To help these distracted students, you should incorporate quizzing, interactive exercises or discussions with other students via a Facebook group or a forum s in order to re-enforce the learning.  These would work with these distracted learners to confirm they have grasped the concepts or at least realize they didn't understand it and they need to repeat it.

Challenge #2: Organizing Your Content for Online Learning

Top experts in the learning field recommend keeping your videos to under 15 minutes.  I recommend keeping them under 10 and shooting for 5 to 8 minutes.

That's going to mean you have cut up your in-person materials into bite-sized chunks.  You use it to highlight the learning objectives and review the resources that go along with each session.

We recommend organizing sessions within a course so they follow a consistent pattern.  For example, each session can consist of:

  • a list of written objectives,
  • a main video covering the topic more extensively,
  • a transcript of the videos,
  • additional resources, and
  • a comments sections where all students discuss and comment on that session's material.

They are other abbreviated or more involved possibilities. You have to come up with one that works for you.  What's important is that you be consistent.

Using a consistent format sets your student's expectations so they'll know what to expect.


Challenge #3: Presenting In-Person vs. On Camera

Many people that present well in-person struggle with the camera.  Presenting in front of an audience is something many of have done a lot.  Since we were young in school,  we presented in front of the class.

Until recently, few people had even a single opportunity to get in front of a camera.  So very few people have that experience.  To some, this transition to doing work on camera comes naturally.  For most of us, it's a learned skill.  You learn it by:

  • working with people that know video,
  • experimenting with simple presentations or
  • persistently doing it over and over again watching yourself picking up your errors and fixing them.

These are definitely challenges you need to address.  The average speaker / coach with content they want to move online can tap into the many available resources and services available today.  Fortunately, compared to just a few years back, getting your in-person materials online is so affordable.  These challenges are worth taking on so you have another avenue for getting your valuable content out to a wider audience.

Hope this helps.