By Mark Samuel –
Being an in-person experienced trainer and facilitator, I know it’s important to prep before every engagement.
Usually, I take about 45 minutes prior to the event to prep my materials, equipment, etc.
But as we headed into the testing of our first online program, David, my senior consultant who was leading the online initiative asked me to set aside an hour to go over program details, including tech functions.
My reaction: “I can’t afford to take that much time to prep the program. Let’s do 45 minutes.”
I figured the tech was his job, not mine.
I just wanted to get in front of the screen and deliver the program like I’d done hundreds of times before.
Our 45-minute run through turned into 2 ½ hours of pure frustration!
Nothing worked the way I thought it would.
Coordination was so awkward and completely threw off my flow.
And with each problem, my anxiety grew.
We were nowhere near ready to implement our new online version with a real audience, much less a test audience.
Luckily, David talked me off the ledge, and offered to do another 2-hour rehearsal to get prepared.
OMG—another 2 hours to prepare—I couldn’t believe it was taking so much time!
Do you think I was prepared after the second two-hour session? Not even close!
We spent a total of TEN HOURS in preparing for an online workshop that would have taken only 45 minutes if it had been a typical in-person event.
I was completely exhausted at the end of it, but at least I felt we’d worked out all the bugs and were ready for our first test run with an audience of 10 teammates, colleagues and friends.
The morning of the event, I was excited, confident, and ready to wow the participants with my first online workshop.
Within the first 2 hours, we discovered that what we thought would be great, didn’t work at all.
Activities that had always been winners, fell flat.
Tech that we thought would be so easy was confusing and challenging for the participants.
And the list went on…
Our test audience was gracious, but the event was a disaster.
I was so embarrassed at delivering a train wreck that was far below my standards.
If I hadn’t told my clients that I was pivoting to online programs, I would have quit right then and there.
But I couldn’t go back on my word and let them down.
For the second go around, I enrolled all of the participants in the test group to support us in making more changes.
We redesigned, tested; redesigned and continued making changes and improvements for the next 2 months and literally hundreds of hours.
This time, when David asked for time to rehearse, I had no issue scheduling three 2-hour sessions to prepare for the program.
My experience had taught me a valuable lesson.
Lesson #1: Designing and preparing to deliver online workshops takes longer than prepping for in-person programs.
I was humbled by our first event.
What I had previously thought was a strength—my ability to effectively prepare for a training quickly—had become a deficit in this new environment.
I changed my mindset and placed cooperation as more valuable than comparing my in-person and online experience of preparation.
Our next online training was fast approaching. Unlike the first test event, this online workshop was with a real group that had paid several thousand dollars and held high expectations.
This time I was confident that we had a solid program:
- We had resolved the major bugs.
- Our coordination between different segments and activities was now smooth and seamless.
- We had developed all of the electronic workbooks, forms, and templates for participants to gain the most from the program.
But one big question remained…
Could online be a viable substitute for my high quality in-person workshops?
I had attended highly professional online workshops that were boring, broke promises associated with their deliverables and experience, and felt stale, even though their content was good.
They hadn’t delivered the positive impact that their in-person counterparts had.
Would my online offering do the same?
Or, would it support deep connection and inspire real engagement?
Would it (and would I as the facilitator) deliver on the promise of real breakthrough results?
No surprise that I didn’t get much sleep the night before.
In the early morning hours, I prepared myself to give everyone their money back if it flopped.
Regardless, I gathered my courage and delivered the online workshop.
And the results couldn’t have been more surprising – even shocking!
The participants LOVED the program!
Participants were even MORE engaged by the session activities than similar in-person workshops.
They made in-depth connections with one other and stayed connected even after the workshop.
The participant feedback was extraordinary. They found the sessions more engaging, more fun, more participative, and easier to implement than the in-person workshops we had delivered the year before.
While it took 100’s of hours to create successful online workshops and team building programs, it was more than worth it.
I had only planned to offer one public workshop for the year, but based on the success of the first program, we offered two more online programs.
And many other online trainings and programs.
With this suite of online offerings, I was able to generate all $500,000 that I thought I was lost.
Client satisfaction rose significantly with lower costs due to the elimination of travel and administrative support during the training program.
And, I was no longer dealing with the stress of airports, commuting in cities using GPS, and dealing with the wasted time of travel.
If I had only had someone guide me in developing stellar programs to begin with, I could have saved so many hours of trial and error.
That thought led to what still feels like a miracle moment for me.
It’s actually why I’m here sharing my story with you.
And why I can now offer a way that you can learn directly from me what has been the secret sauce of my success.
If you’d like to learn more of what I did and how I did it…