Imagine boarding an airplane with dozens of other people. After taking your seat and fastening your seat belt, you peek into the cockpit and realize that your flight will be piloted by one busy pilot, flying solo without a co-pilot.

You’d likely have second thoughts about continuing your journey. Yet, every day, thousands of virtual meetings and events take place with one frazzled trainer handling the myriad details that combine to create a successful virtual experience. Organizations that have rapidly embraced digital learning in 2020 are learning now why skilled virtual producers matter.

The role of a producer can bridge what happens before, during and after the virtual event, as he or she handles the technical side of the learning experience. Before the session begins, virtual producers may:

    • Test web cameras and equipment with all presenters.
    • Conduct rehearsals prior to the event.
    • Load materials, create polls and set up whiteboards.
    • Orient participants to the web conferencing platform.
    • Ensure all presenters download the latest software updates.
    • Provide sign-in information to participants and presenters.
    • Create a production guide with details about each segment of the session.

During the event, virtual producers can:

    • Log in 30 minutes early to catch last-minute technical issues.
    • Set participant permissions.
    • Record the event for later playback.
    • Troubleshoot audio and video issues.
    • Set up and launch breakout sessions.
    • Minimize the disruption of technical issues during the event.
    • Co-present with the facilitator, particularly if he or she is experiencing technical difficulties.
    • Activate back-up plans, if necessary, to complete the virtual event successfully.
    • Capture chat and poll results for post-event sharing.

After the virtual event, the producers might:

    • Check the quality of the recording before distributing the link.
    • Provide attendance and participation reports.
    • Consult web conferencing and teleconferencing vendors about unresolved technical issues.

Having a virtual producer perform these functions frees up the facilitator to focus on the content and the participants’ learning experience. Here are four benefits from adding a virtual producer to a digital training team:

Limit Wasted Time

Have novice participants arrive early and work with the producer to troubleshoot sign-in and audio issues before the session begins. This early orientation to the web platform makes it possible for well-run virtual events to start on time. If participants run into a technical difficulty during the virtual classroom session, they can chat with the producer instead of interrupting the facilitator to resolve the technical problem.

Producers can also set up breakout rooms up in the background while facilitators present content. In some platforms, the producer can go into “prepare” mode and reset polls and chats for the next virtual classroom activity without requiring participants to wait for those actions to happen. One minute wasted in the virtual classroom can feel like five minutes to participants.

Provide a Higher-quality Learning Experience

Facilitators and presenters benefit from keeping their focus on the learning experience. They can attend to interaction and engagement without becoming bogged down in technical challenges. If a participant chats, “My audio is cutting in and out,” they can refer that participant to the producer for help troubleshooting the issue.

While presenters need to be well-versed in the functionality of the web platform, they can lean on the producer throughout the session for help with layouts, polls, breakout sessions and Q&A windows. The producer might also serve as a scribe during whiteboard discussions, monitor the chat for questions and role-play a scenario to liven up the virtual classroom. A production checklist can ensure that facilitators and producers know which responsibilities they will have during a live virtual event.

Avoid Cancelling Virtual Events

When the producer signs in from a separate location, not the same room as the presenter, it increases the likelihood that he or she can pick up the ball if the presenter’s internet goes down. A producer who has prepared a solid production guide with a contingency plan can seamlessly continue the virtual program while the presenter reenters the virtual event. This partnership makes it much more likely that the virtual event can continue as planned without the need to end the event prematurely and reschedule it to another day. Busy participants appreciate this “show must go on!” mindset.

Create Variety and Interest

One presenter speaking about a topic at length can become boring. Hearing the voice of the producer contributing to a discussion, asking a question from the chat out loud or even playing a part in a role-play changes the dynamic in the virtual classroom. Participants report that they perk up when they hear a new voice contribute to the learning event. Savvy presenters incorporate producers into the flow of the virtual classroom experience rather than only using them to open and close the virtual session.

You can hire effective virtual producers for specific virtual events or train them from within your virtual training team. Consider partnering with an experienced training company to ensure that your virtual classroom experiences are the best they can be.