Part 3: Soft Skills and Technical Skills
By William Murillo
Manager, CES Provider Training
Over the past couple of months, I’ve set out to identify the variety of presentation techniques and opportunities available for online platforms. By now, I hope I have imparted the knowledge and consideration necessary to take your educational product/brand to the next level. Let’s revisit what we know:
In the first installment of this series, we began with the theory behind the “push for digital” and why online education is becoming crucial in efforts to reach a wider audience as well as architect learners who are unable to sacrifice billable hours in the office for face to face instruction. We initially addressed online presentation formats through the scope of preparation and content and the importance of generating vibrant, dynamic “whole brain content.” We also covered the importance of turning a standard presentation into relatable content through the use of anecdote and analogy.
Last month in part 2, I asked you all to consider the notion of “quality education” and the discrepancy between how content is presented and the results we expect from that content. We elaborated on this by looking at techniques to facilitate engagement and how new modes of learning and social technologies are helping to expand learner capabilities as well as quality in education. We also examined the presence and possibilities of social media on education through Peter Norvig’s 100,000 Student Classroom and similar phenomena through programs like Coursera, Udacity, and Khan Academy.
So what’s left? Well, while an online method of presentation or the use of social media provides many advantages for networking possibilities, these new developments [though powerful] are simply tools. Believe it or not there is still a wide variety of skills learned through face to face instruction and traditional presentation that will always be valuable. Here are some of the things you will still need when presenting despite technological advancement:
It seems trite, but a smile goes a long way and effectively humanizes an otherwise “intimidating” and “all-knowing” presenter. For your learners, a smile serves as a non-verbal cue that can assist in creating a positive impression. It also becomes a precursor to how relatable you become throughout your presentation. Smiling and having a sense of humor throughout a presentation is an invaluable skill and asset that also extends to digital or online presentation.
Let your learners know that they, not your PowerPoint, are the focus. Like smiling, eye contact is one of those small things that have a heavy impact on the engagement of your audience with your material. In instances of live streaming or webcast, you can make eye contact through the camera lens. Often during a live stream, a presenter will forget about the virtual audience and focus only on the live audience. This is a traditional soft skill that has piggy-backed into our foray with new social technologies. For the virtual attendee, it is important to feel like a participant rather than a spectator.
Much like relating your material to a story, an analogy, or a problem, keeping a presentation casual encourages a relaxed environment and not only a greater connection with a live audience but a virtual audience as well. Remember, learners joining you online or accessing your archived courses online are surely multi-tasking. Maintaining the human element in presentation style is very important in the long run on how many of your learners you reach and retain.
This outlook on presentation is something that easily carries over into a digital environment. By involving your online audience in the discussion and prompting them with questions you can guarantee that they will become and remain a part of the atmosphere and thought process of the presentation. Due to the phenomenon of anonymity available through social media, what you will discover is that during a blended learning event (a simultaneous virtual/live audience event made possible through live stream) learners who are readily capable with Twitter, Facebook, or other chat platforms will be more vocal than your live audience.
Again, I will stress this point. For all the advantages that social media and online education bring us whether that be reaching a new community of firms across the country, we cannot forget or replace those traditional skills that ensure the human element - that whenever possible an architect learner can engage with a presenter, provider, or company before, during, or after a presentation. The ability to connect with another professional and their ideas will always be the most powerful skill at your disposal – everything else is simply a vessel by which you facilitate that connection.
Having said that let’s continue the plunge into social media and all things “online.” For now, let’s outline some basic strategies for the use of social media. Recall some questions from last month:
Why do I want to use social media?
It’s easy. No, really it is. By simply creating a login, a password, and a profile, you will have access to the very active and very vocal social communities of services like Facebook and Twitter. Instantly, you can add companies, firms, and architects in the form of “friends” or “followers.” Once you’ve built yourself a community/following you can begin “posting” or “tweeting” about what’s new in your company, what courses are recently available, or which of your products is being hailed amongst your society of industry professionals. Think of it as the ultimate bulletin board and what comes next is great - feedback, questions, answers, thoughts, concerns, discussion, discussions about questions, and feedback about thoughts. In short, there will be a self-sustaining near infinite dialogue. These ideas are then propagated and shared over and over until finally (and hopefully) you have reached an entirely new audience, learner, or client from the comfort of your home or office. And it’s free.
How does it fit in with my business or ideas on quality education?
In all honesty it may not at this point – if you, as a provider or company, are at a point where you want to explore venues for expansion, then social media may be the right fit. However, if you find that you are operating comfortably within your current status then maybe a more passive approach is in order. For all of us at AIA CES, the importance of quality in education continues to be a priority. So the best answer to this question may come from considering a stance on quality over quantity. Maybe the approach you take is centered on retention rather than recruitment, vice versa, or both.
Can I offer incentives to those who become a part of my social media strategy?
This is arguably one of the more enjoyable aspects of putting together a social media plan for your business and one with which you can start to explore social media more creatively. Some basic promotions that have worked through other businesses include `Like’ campaigns and lucky number campaigns. Simply put in order to generate a highly visible brand online you direct as much traffic as possible to your site or profile by offering incentives or promotional material. For example:
“Share our business with your friends and colleagues. If we reach 1,000 friends (likes) we will buy you all a car!”
Is there something better out there for what I am trying to achieve?
Products like Facebook and Twitter are the most accessible, user friendly, and well known. However, according to our distance education policies found in your provider manual we openly review content published through YouTube, podcasts, and other multimedia drivers. These formats represent new forms of packaging for your educational material making it more accessible to a larger more distinct audience (i.e. emerging professionals).
Ultimately, the answers to these questions serve a two-fold purpose – they can start to solidify your stance and outline what you may be looking for in implementing a social media strategy. If you decide to take part in the “social media experience,” then I ask you all to remember that these services are simply resources that can assist in delivering a more engaging experience as well as connect you to otherwise unreachable areas. Also, remember that the greatest resource in marketing yourself and connecting with other professionals lies in the quality of your ideas and how they are presented. Whether old technology or new technology, no one will ever question the importance in the quality and development of a single idea and the way in which it can spread.