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103 - Anatomy of an On-Line Lecture

1. Anatomy of an On-Line Lecture: From New York to Singapore - Last evening at 10:45 pm, I found myself giving a speech in an empty office. I was delivering the keynote address to a conference of 500 senior military and government officials attending a conference on learning in Singapore. People have often asked about the logistics and planning process for a video-conference keynote, so I thought that I would share a few observations from this speech.

* Preparation: The level of preparation for a speech like this is a lot higher than most in-person sessions. First, one has to make sure that the technology will work. We used dial up Video-Conference, bonding 3 ISDN lines from Singapore to our lab in Saratoga Springs, New York. This gave us a very acceptable 30 frames per second connection. Even though we use video-conferencing several times a month for such events, there is always the fear that the network will not work. (A good fear, given some of the problems we have encountered over the years.) In fact, we made a 20 minute back-up videotape and sent it to our hosts, in case the lines could not connect. Ironically, the lines worked perfectly, but the courier service didn't deliver the emergency videotape.

* Briefing: Next, we had to deal with everyone's visualization of how things would work. There always seems to be more anxiety about these segments than a normal in-person speech. It was great working with our hosts in Singapore. And, we found ourselves having lots of email, phone and video rehearsals to get everything lined up and focused. As I was presenting to a different cultural group, our hosts did a great job of suggesting elements of my presentations that might work or not work outside of the United States. We had a great level of honesty with each other and were able to hone in the presentation to the needs and interests of the group. I had to remember that you never have enough time to cover EVERYTHING and deleted about 40% of my slides to make it more interesting and interactive.

* Getting Pumped: Normally, I get psyched up for a presentation when I start to see the audience come into the room. Here I had to handle the psyche up differently. I actually decided to load up my brain with the setting. Went to dinner at a local Asian restaurant, looked a collection of pictures from a previous visit to Singapore and even went on the internet and looked up the weather and local news from the destination city. Then, I saw a link to a Real Audio live feed from Singapore's radio stations and listened to the Mandarin Top 20 music countdown over the net.

* Instructional Design: I had done my scope and sequence of topics to discuss. Now, the really important aspect of instructional design - selecting the mix of learning activities and supporting technologies to make this a high energy vs.. boring lecture distance learning experience. My goal was to have a different visual every 3 minutes and to change the format of my presentation several times during the presentation. Here were some of the items we used during the speech:

- 5 PowerPoint Slides, each with only 2 sentences on each one. I try to DECREASE the amount of text to use the slides as a PROMPT rather than a content delivery tool.
- Two camera shots of myself. We get spoiled during professional sports, where the camera angle switches every few seconds. While I could not handle that level of diversity, I did set two pre-set camera zoom levels, to give the audience some diversity viewing.
- Three hand raising polls. I love to ask audiences to vote quickly, with their hands, on a number of topics. Since we were focusing on distance learning, I asked a question about how long they would stay on a web page that loaded slowly or was boring. As you might suspect, there was great agreement and laughter about how learners in the digital age are only one mouse click away from leaving.
- Two discussion moments. Twice, I asked the audience to turn to their neighbor and have a 30 second discussion. While most folks don't think this will work over video-conferencing, it has always given a great sense of energy to my keynotes delivered over a distance.
- Still Picture. I used a picture of General Colin Powell from our recent TechLearn Conference to help tell a story about his stint as a trainer in the military. It gave a 30 second view of another person and helped with the power of that story.
- Resources on Web. I built a specialized website for this speech, with hundreds of links and resources. This lets folks relax about the time limitation and even reduces their need to take notes. It allows the video portion to be more relaxed and serve to launch a larger set of learnings on-line.
- Web Content. I decided to play 30 seconds of the Singapore Radio Station that I had been listening to prior to the speech. When they heard the Mandarin announcer from 93.3 FM, the audience felt a connection and a lightness was added to the air.
- Questions. Our hosts did a great job of positioning microphones and camera angles to allow for audience questions. We reserved about 15 minutes after the speech for audience questions and it added a great deal to the sense of being able to "drill down" to the content that was hot for the learners.

* Decisions Made: Trainers are always making decisions. In this instance, decisions were made prior to the presentation and I made several adjustments right before my segment. My hosts in Singapore did a great job of letting me listen and watch 2 speakers before my keynote. I tied them into the presentation and even changed one of my slides at the last minute to not replicate a speaker that had done a great job of covering a topic I was planning to address. Cut! That gave more time for the remainder of the presentation. During the presentation, I looked at how the audience was responding and added a number of last minute points and even one activity, based on their positive response to the more interactive elements.

* Learnings: I am always struck by how much energy it takes to do a presentation over distance. You put out a large amount of energy to project your excitement about content. In addition, I was producing my own presentation, by selecting buttons and clicking the mouse on my laptop. This added another element of focus. Yet, it always pays off. I saved 28 hours of travel for a 40 minute speech, I saved our hosts a lot of money and it actually helped us to "walk the talk" about the power of technology assisted learning. If you are going to give a speech using these technologies remember that it will take lots of prep and keep your sense of humor about the process. We are all breaking new ground as we create a model of accessing expertise from afar....we better keep our humanity and lexibility in the process.

If you are interested in how they are using learning and technology, the URL for the Ministry of Defence, Singapore is and their IT department is

2. Impressions from the Training Marketplace: I just returned from the latest training trade show in Chicago and had a number of impressions of what's hot and what's emerging in the marketplace:

- Tools Galore: There were dozens of new tools for delivering on-line learning. These ranged from large scale enterprise wide systems to smaller training delivery packages. The blend of synchronous and asynchronous methods is seen emerging in the tool marketplace.
- Content Coming Slower: While there were a few new content companies on the trade show floor, there is still a gap between the buyer's demands for lots of off-the-shelf on-line learning training content and the size of the offerings. Only the IT space has emerging competition, while the other content silos are still pretty empty. Watch for more by time we get to TechLearn in late October.
- Strategic Relationships Everywhere: There were so many strategic relationships that it felt almost overwhelming to track. Everyone is working with everyone to show that they can do everything and anything. As we get more standards, the interoperability of content may be easier to track.
- Technology New to Training: It was a bit sad to see a number of technology groups that were coming into the training marketplace quite unprepared. I went to one new vendor and asked them about instructional design issues and they said they outsourced all of their design to leading edge programmers. The sales person didn't have a clue! Training is seen as a hot vertical market for technology players...but let's help them remember to do their homework about the art and science of learning.
- What's Missing?: I didn't see many exciting approaches to "Community Building". I know there are a number of projects in the pipeline, but there weren't any knock your socks off models of learner engagement. Also, didn't see many templates aimed at the high volume topics, such as Employee Orientation or Effective Selling. Templates will allow localization of 3rd party content.

If you are a supplier or developer in this marketplace, be sure to check out our upcoming Business of On-Line Learning Conference in Seattle in early March. Go to for details.

3. Asymetrix Releases New Tool. Last week I was briefed by the folks from Asymetrix on their new authoring tool, Toolbook II 7.0 This upgrade makes a shift to the use of DHTML (Dynamic HTML) and Javascript even for the non-programmer. There are new templates and instructional format assistance embedded in this tool. It is in beta now and will be released in the weeks ahead. Check it out at

4. More Strategic Relationships in the Field. Talking of strategic relationships, two major partnerships were announced in the last 10 days by big players in the virtual classroom marketplace. Centra Software and PricewaterhouseCoopers announced a deployment alliance. ILINC and ExecuTrain announced a partnership to delivery IT training via on-line learning. Check out or for more details.

5. Skills for On-Line Trainers Class to Chicago in April. The MASIE Center is proud to announce that we are bringing our popular Skills for On-Line Trainers to the Chicago area on April 26 and 27, 1999. Check for details.

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