Although you might think of webinars as the mode of choice for synchronous training events, you may be forgetting about a simpler but equally valuable approach—the teleseminar. This low-tech format has some real advantages over webinars, depending on many factors, including your audience and your content.
After meeting several people who use teleseminars for training, I was inspired to speak to someone in the field. Doug Hoyt, teleseminar expert, agreed to an interview. I hope you find it useful in your world.
COACH: Let’s start with the basics. What exactly is a teleseminar?
DOUG: The way I like to describe teleseminars, is that they are virtual seminars. As with seminars you have the speakers or trainers and the attendees. What you don’t have is the expense of travel, hotels, restaurants, and for the speakers or trainers, the expense of the seminar room and the setup costs. The speakers or trainers facilitate the virtual event through a teleconferencing service, so attendees only require a phone.
COACH: What do you see as the advantages to training with a teleseminar rather than a webinar?
DOUG: There are actually quite a few advantages. You don’t need a solid broadband connection and you don’t have to worry about spotty Internet service ruining your training. In addition, some people—either the trainers or audience members—aren’t comfortable with technology. Teleseminars use a more familiar technology, which brings a certain level of comfort. And don’t forget that costs are lower with teleseminars.
COACH: What kind of equipment and services does a teleseminar host need to pull this off?
DOUG: Here’s what I recommend, though some of these items are optional, which I included in parenthesis:
- Teleconferencing service: There are free services with fewer options and paid services that record the call and have other options that are fairly low-cost.
- A decent corded phone: I’d recommend against a cell phone unless you are traveling and have no other alternative. (Doug uses an Aastra 9120 and says it sounds great.)
- A headset (optional): Your headset would preferably be one with an amp powered by an AC adapter. A headset will give you hands-free ability and the amp makes the sound quality better. (Doug uses a Plantronics S12 Corded Headset.)
- Autoresponder service (optional): If you give frequent teleseminars, consider this service to promote your teleseminar online and to automate the process of updating your audience. A respected autoresponder service, like aWeber or iContact, helps your emails reach a person’s Inbox rather than ending up in a spam folder.
- A computer and connection for the leader: Although your attendees only need a phone, you need to access the control panel of your teleconferencing software. Even if you have somebody running your teleseminar for you, you should be able to see who’s on your call and see the questions coming in during Q&A.
COACH: How should someone prepare for giving a teleseminar?
DOUG: Let’s assume you’ve already done the setup steps and created an outline for your talk. Here’s a list of preparation steps to complete before your live call:
- Do a practice run using your outline. This way you can get a sense of how long your teleseminar is going to run.
- Create handouts for attendees. This might consist of fill-in-the blank style workbooks or key points from the material you will be covering along with helpful resources and possibly an action guide.
- Send out the call-in details. Make sure your attendees have the correct information, which includes the correct access code. It’s a good idea to send a reminder email including the call-in details the day of your teleseminar, which can be automated through an autoresponder.
- Verify the leader’s teleconferencing software is up & running (participants will not need this). Check at least a couple hours in advance to make sure there are no problems and leave time to resolve any issues.
COACH: What kind of coaching and backup does a teleseminar leader need prior to and during the event?
DOUG: Typically, it’s good to work with experts when first starting out with teleseminars for training, just to make sure things go smoothly. A professional will run the technical side of your teleseminars, freeing you up to focus on your content and giving your attendees the most value for their training dollar.
COACH: What is one of the biggest mistakes you’ve seen a teleseminar leader make?
DOUG: In one case, an experienced trainer gave his attendees the wrong access code. When the attendees called in for the training, they all had moderator access. As s result, the call got a little out of control so the training had to be postponed.
COACH: What are some techniques that work well when giving a teleseminar?
DOUG: Here are a few tips I pass on to those that I’m coaching. First, solicit your attendees for questions when they sign up for the event. You’ll improve attendance to your teleseminar because people will listen in to see if you answered their question, and you’ll be covering topics the attendees are interested in. Also, save an interesting topic for the end of your teleseminar. Throughout your talk, mention a few times that they need to stay on the call until the end to get this information.
Great tips, Doug. Thanks for answering all of my questions.