Session notes: Transform your live learning conference into an interactive virtual series

elearningYesterday, I sat in on a presentation by Cindy Gogets and Sheri Jeavons to see how they converted a live learning conference into an interactive virtual series. Jeavons outlined reasons why UnitedHealth Group moved from a live presentation to virtual series. Basically, they needed to save money and travel was difficult for attendees. However, they had concerns with a virtual environment; they did not want participants to multitask during presentations, they worried about developing boring courses, and they were concerned with technology issues.

There goal was to develop a leadership program for 5,000 leaders. The previous training lasted 2-4 days with 60 participants per session. The participants were from all over the world. With the new virtual program, the participants were vetted through an interview process and nominated by their manager. Being willing to engage was a key consideration.

They explored different options and settled on a virtual solution. The virtual solution consisted of three 3- hour sessions that were 3 to 4 weeks apart.

Not only did they create breakout sessions, but they also created virtual booths in an exhibit hall. These virtual booths had additional references participants could take with them. They also shared docs for the conference in a common area and referenced to them. Participants were also formed into cohorts and assigned a coach. These cohorts worked through discussions on material presented.

Lessons learned

  • Need to do more planning than typical face to face.
  • Cohort experience and coaches a must.
  • On demand feature critical for international.
  • Offer conferences monthly. Gives time to rest course materials and site.
  • Think about small learning bites.
  • Give presenters plenty of prep time.
  • Shorter sessions more often.
  • Facilitators are needed. A facilitator started off each session.

Gogets commented that the virtual conference was 1/10th of the cost of a face to face conference.

Jeavons concluded the presentation by discussing requirements for creating virtual content. Presenters must redesign curriculum to work for virtual environment. There must be both compelling content and interaction. Designers must include something visual every 30-90 seconds, and include physical interaction should occur every 3-5 minutes, or every 2-3 slides. This interaction may take the form of one of the following:

  • Poll
  • Open phone lines
  • Web cam
  • Raise hand
  • Allow to annotate
  • Chat
  • Share desktop or application.

Again, Jeavons stressed the principle of making more shorter sessions rather than longer sessions. You should be able to take an 8-hour training day and reduce it to 3 one-hour sessions.

Here is Jeavon’s strategy for developing content: Focus on the proper mindset or content to be included. Negotiate the content flow and edit. Include interaction elements and edit again. Finally, run through the program and test the timing, and edit accordingly. For a 30-minute presentation, you would have 15 minutes of content and 15 minutes of interaction. For a 45-minute presentation, include 30 minutes of content and 15 minutes of interaction. For an hour presentation, include 35 minutes of content and 25 minutes of interaction. Include more repetition in a virtual environment compared to a face-to-face environment.

I walked away with a number of good ideas that I would be willing to explore in a typical situation.