At the e-Learning Guild Learning Solution Conference this week, I facilitated a discussion on Challenges and Solutions for Global Web Conferences. Here are the 9 tips I discussed with the group to ensure a successful global web conference:
1. Logistics: Select a date and time that is convenient for participants. In addition to determining time zone conversions, you’ll also want to check international holidays and the work week of your target countries (hint: it’s not always Monday –Friday).
2. Language: Select the language you will use during the web conference. If English, use international English that is free from cultural connotations.
3. Images: Select images that reflect the cultural and ethnic identity of the audience. If your audience does not wear business suits and work in an office, then remove images of Western office workers from your materials.
4. Colors: Review the colors used in your web conference materials and check for color symbolism alignment.
5. Content: Use culturally appropriate content and examples. Be careful with references to sports, politics and jokes that may not be meaningful to your global audience.
6. Learning Styles: Select exercises that are aligned with the culture of the audience. A review of Geert Hofstede’s dimensions of national cultures is a good starting point.
7. Facilitation: Speak clearly and enunciate. It’s more difficult to follow spoken language when you cannot see the person speaking, and this is especially true in the person is speaking a language that is not your native language.
8. Rehearsal: Rehearse with someone from target country. By taking the time to rehearse, you will be much more likely to catch potential problems highlighted in the previous seven tips. If you cannot find someone from the target country, rehearse with someone who is not from your native country who will also be able to point out cultural references in your materials that are appropriate and those that need adjusting.
9. Learner Support: If you have a second person helping to ‘produce’ your web conference, use chat to reiterate key learning points as facilitator speaks. These key points should be determined ahead of time and prepared in a Word document from which the producer cuts and pastes. This is not to say that the producer should transcribe the facilitator’s script into the chat area. Instead, the chat area is used to highlight key learning points only.