Is it Live, or is it Memorex?
Is it Live, or is it Memorex?

Remember the commercials in the 1970s for Memorex? Fast-forward thirty years and the question today is, “Is it live, or is it webinars?” What are the benefits of virtual versus in-person training? How do you know when to use which? And how do you make either effective?

The ever-increasing virtual world we live in provides us with more options every day it seems for business, marketing and training. As an agent, your time is limited and like everyone, you are looking for ways to keep expenditures low and ROI

high. If one of your key value propositions is providing training to F&I managers inside your dealerships, what are your best options for doing so? Regardless of which method you choose, it’s important to remember that all of these tactics should emanate from your brand and should present a cohesive message.

When it comes to training, virtual vs. in-person meetings present some unique things to consider. Virtual training can be less expensive, as it alleviates the need for costly and time-consuming travel. In addition, it has scalability due to the fact that you can address multiple people across wide geographic regions at the same time. However, virtual training, while potentially less expensive, does create an environment where participants are more likely to multi-task and be distracted, therefore not process as much of the information as they would in a live training situation.

If you do decide to utilize webinars, development, design and technology usage are critical. Online presentations remove the benefit of interpersonal interactions and body language cues. Your information must be well thought out, concise and visually appealing in order to keep your audience’s attention. Simply trying to utilize a traditional style PowerPoint presentation in a webinar setting will prove to be a failure. Words on a screen do nothing to stimulate interest and it only further increases the risk for participants to engage in multi-task activities such as email, texting or surfing the web as well as an entire host of busy work, or they may leave the training all together.

Here are some quick tips and things to consider when it comes to webinars:

• Hone your message. Boil your message down to its most critical points. Webinars should not exceed 60 – 90 minutes; 90 only if it’s a training situation, 30 - 60 if it’s a sales function. Audiences will quickly lose focus. Stay on point.

• Prepare a dynamic presentation. Materials need to be well designed, and integrate a variety of content types (audio, video, slides, infographics, etc.). In a virtual environment it’s critical to overcome the void of personal interaction and utilizing varying content helps to keep the energy level and interest up.

• Practice. Rehearsal is vital to make sure you are familiar with the content so you are not simply reading slides (a big no-no) and that you can navigate the technology demands of this type of setting. Don’t over-rehearse though; you still want to have a personal and live feel, not a mechanical delivery.

• Utilize appropriate technology. There are many services that provide excellent webinar & virtual meeting technology such as GoToMeeting or WebEx. However, you will need to make sure that your internal technology, i.e. phone systems, Internet speed and audio devices, are up to par for delivering these presentations.

So what about good, old-fashioned in-person training? Is it a thing of the past? Certainly not! Regardless of the virtual world we live in, the value of a personal connection will never be replaced.

In-person works best in certain situations:

• When you want to capture attention & make an impact. This is especially true if you are launching something new. In-person allows you to engage all the senses and use the entire environment, such as meals, activities, etc., to create and cement an emotional connection between your client and your company.

• When you want to build networks & relationships. Research shows that relationships forged in person are stronger than those done virtually. Online tactics are great for sharing information, but in-person events are invaluable for creating networks and building relationships.

Training materials still need to be well designed, and content should be concise and well thought out in order to create a positive customer experience. Again, this is all part of your overall brand and should be evaluated to make sure that you are presenting the desired image.

In the end, I think the answer is that you need both. Utilizing webinars and online meetings adds value to your organization and shows that you are up on and embrace new business trends, but they must be well executed. However, you cannot and should not rely only on virtual technology to forge and cement relationships that are critical to customer loyalty and retention. Ideally, you should marry the use of virtual training or meetings with in-person contacts as part of your overall sales and support mix. Knowing the value of each will help you properly prioritize them in your sales and training continuum.

As a bonus, we tracked down a link to the Ella Fitzgerald Memorex commercials for a little nostalgia. Enjoy!