Many years ago - can it really be nearly 20? - I was first learning to work in the virtual classroom. Back then, the tech was very new and still often wonky and unpredictable, so it was a given that this was a team endeavor, with the facilitator always working with a producer. I didn’t know at the time what a gift this would turn out to be: When I introduced virtual classroom events in my workplace, no one ever questioned the need for and the value of a producer, and no one ever asked me to try flying solo.
I consider producers as partners, and the best ones help make up for my own weaker areas. I enjoy presenting and I am a fun, energetic trainer -- and I often talk excitedly and fast. Having a good producer who can chime in helps me with pacing and provides participants with a different voice. I am short on patience in general, so having someone on deck who can work through “I can’t hear anything” or “Am I supposed to be seeing something?” helps preserve my good mood and lets me do what I do best without distracting from the class. This is also a huge timesaver, as everyone doesn’t have to sit and wait and watch while I (impatiently) troubleshoot an issue – a huge energy drain for all involved. Producers have done so much to help my sessions be successful, from suggesting design ideas to making sure videos run to helping breakout activities go smoothly.
I messaged some colleagues, also frequent virtual trainers/presenters, and asked, “Why do you value virtual producers?”
Here are some responses:
"I love working with virtual event producers. They project calm competence when behind the scenes, the technology is failing or things aren’t going as planned."
“The first five minutes of a virtual session are crucial. It's the time where you are trying to establish rapport with your audience and to engage them before they click off to another screen to go check their email. It's also the very time that tech things are likely to go wrong. A producer can manage that part of things for you so your work with your participants isn't interrupted.”
“I love working with virtual event producers because their deep expertise with the platforms means they can give me solid advice about how best to interact with the audience in the tool, what approaches I might want to steer clear of, and what functionality I might not know about yet that can help me make the experience more engaging for attendees.”
“I do a lot of work with one producer and rely on him for a number of reasons. He always logs in 20-30 minutes before each session and if I'm not logged in yet, he'll greet participants and make them feel welcomed. Even when he is producing multiple events at the same time, he monitors our chat for anyone having technical issues with the platform or audio connection and jumps right in to solve the issue. He'll respond to emails from participants during and after a workshop and sometimes I learn later that he's answered questions. He responds to this the way he does with so many other things: "I took care of it. I didn't want to bother you." I'm sure these examples are not surprising to any good producer worth their salt and they would all do the same. I've come to rely on him to take care of my participants when I can't.”
"What a good producer does is allow me to focus on the participants. It frees me to engage, interact and get into the flow of instruction. There is no stopping to help someone who can't hear or me trying to read a message or a question in the middle of an instructional point. A producer makes the instruction flow."
“I've often relied on my Virtual Producer for two key aspects. Often when we are walking through my plan, they have been helpful in suggesting an activity I didn't think of to engage the audience further, or to change up the way I was thinking of running something. They are the experts in knowing what works and translates well virtually and what sometimes does not. I also rely on them to monitor the chat for questions coming from participants. I try to do that as I talk, but when you are deep into your thinking, watching the chat and catching important comments or questions can be a challenge and distracting to a new virtual speaker. Your producer can often really help with finding these and capturing them for you.
I recently heard a podcast where the producer is fact checking as the 'casual' chat is going on. In this case, at the end of the show, the producer confirms or corrects some of the points that were brought up during the chat.”
“I run a lot of webinars, most without a producer, so I know the difference. It’s possible to run virtual sessions alone, but there’s nothing better than having that behind-the-scenes support, especially when you are not familiar with the fancier tools in the technology you are using. No need to fumble with polls and breakouts and switching views, all trying to stay engaged with your participants at the same time. Producers are also much more prepared to handle any glitches that come up for me or for the people attending. In short, producers are a godsend!”
Producers: While we may not always remember to say it, please know that you are valued and admired.
Happy Virtual Producer Day!