Friday, July 22, 2011

Interview with webcast superstar James Hillyard

We recently interviewed webcast superstar, James Hillyard, to find out more about his experiences in the virtual classroom realm. We thought you'd enjoy some of his thoughts.

Question: What were some of the craziest experiences you've had while conducting webinars?

One time the host of a webinar got his time zones mixed up and found himself in an airport at the time the class was going to start.  He snuck into an airport lounge (to which he didn't belong) to get an internet connection and he began the session. After about 10 minutes the airport security found him and manhandled him out of the lounge, much to the dismay of the webinar participants.

Another time an executive at a Fortune 50 company blew off all of the preparation calls to teach him how to run the webinar software -- telling his staff he knew what he was doing. During the webinar he missed his cues, forgot to activate polls, and became very flustered rushing through his slides. After handing over the controls to the moderator (James), the executive thought he put his phone on mute, instead he put it on speaker-phone and started yelling at his assistant for a full 45 seconds. "Why didn't you ever teach me how to do this," he bellowed! James had to try and speak over him because he didn't have the ability to mute him out.

Question: What do you are think the top best practices when it comes to webinars?

1) Practice...out loud. It will take longer that just reading the slides to yourself, but it gives you a better opportunity to hear yourself present.
2) Practice...with the technology. It's important to understand the technology at more than a superficial level.  When something goes wrong, and it probably will, you need to know what to do in an instant.
3) Deliver what you promise. If you are going to give a sales pitch, that's fine. Just make sure the attendees are expecting it.  If you promote that you'll have Q&A at the end, be sure to leave enough time to do so. People aren't that forgiving -- especially if you waste their time.
4) Don't read every bullet point in your presentation. People are educated and know how to read. Even more important is to give them something to look at in place of a lot of bullet points. Bullets have their place, but it gets really boring if that's all you have.
5) Be sure to turn off all instant messages and other applications that may pop up on the screen. You don't want an embarrassing or career-limiting message to appear inadvertently for the whole audience to read.

A bit about James:
James is the founder and president of Hilly Productions. He began covering the latest technology trends and business developments as a reporter in 1999 with ZDTV, then to CNET and ultimately at top broadcast news and talk radio station in the San Francisco area.
Since 2005 James has hosted/moderated 1000 plus virtual events and Hilly Productions has become a trusted partner for companies such as AT&T, Oracle, Sophos, Intel, McAfee, CBSi and PC Connection.

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