Well, 2020 is behind us and let’s face it, it was not the best year ever. However as much as it was stressful, challenging and unpredictable there were some wins and good things that came out of it.
In celebration of 2020 here’s my (mainly) positive view of this turbulent year. Of webcams and webinars a song of 2020! (I don't sing, don't worry).
2020 Started Fairly Normally
January 2020 was the start of my 2nd year of self-employment. I’d built some very good relationships with some fantastic organisations and work was now flowing very nicely. March was an exceptional month, which saw me present a Google Digital Garage event on the main stage of the ExCel in London at the Hotel, Catering and Restaurant Expo.
March saw my best month financially since I’d started 15 months earlier. I hit and exceeded my target turnover. April was already 80% full, May 50% and I had courses in for June as well. Considering that much of my work comes in with 7 to 10 days notice I was looking at a very financially rewarding couple of months.
Then on March 23rd (here’s the negative bit) Lockdown hit and all that work disappeared within 48hrs. April and May were empty I had no income for 2 months and that was not survivable.
As a freelancer, I was not entitled to any of the Government support. When support was announced for self-employed I had not been trading long enough to take advantage of it.
Adapt or Die!
So what to do? Adapt or die! On the 23rd March I researched online training platforms, I looked at Teams, Facebook Live, YouTube Live, Skype and Zoom. I very quickly settled on Zoom and by 2 pm that afternoon had the £15 pro version that allowed me up to 100 candidates for an unlimited time. I then logged back into my Eventbrite account (over a year since I last used it) and popped out a suite of 4 digital marketing courses. 2 per day every day starting on the 25th March.
I ran my first ever webinar on the 25th March, 2 days after lockdown was announced. I only had 1 attendee and the same number for the following 9 courses. However, despite the disappointing numbers, I was ahead of the game. I immediately had more experience of webinars than other trainers who had been slower to adapt. As a result, when organisations I’d worked with started doing their own online courses I was well placed to be of value.
Getting Online and Embracing the Webcam
One fabulous example was Media Training Ltd, a brilliant company with beautiful premises overlooking London Bridge. I’d been delivering courses at their centre since September. When they asked for volunteers to help adapt their 100 courses to work online, I got in there immediately. I was able to offer insight into the online systems out there and as a result of my involvement started getting work delivering their courses again.
UpSkill Digital, who I had delivered Google Digital Garage for, had the new Lloyds Bank Academy account. I started delivering seminars and webinars for Lloyds, as well as recording training videos for their website.
This lead to recording training videos for Herts Growth Hub and Ambition Broxbourne. A steep learning curve for someone who up till then had popped up the occasional YouTube video. I learned how to use OSB to add real-time scenes and transitions for the courses, dusted off my green screen and studio lights to make a professional impression and upgraded my editing suite and skills. I also learned the hard lesson to thoroughly proofread your slides! After a few minor alterations, the videos were up and the job was done.
Webcams and Webinars
Webinars are a very different beast to face to face courses, they are very tiring (here’s a link to my blog ‘why are online courses so exhausting’). Your relationship is with a webcam, not a person. To maintain eye contact and engagement you can’t look at the person, you have to look at the webcam. So as the title of this blog suggests 2020 has been all about webcams and webinars.
Drawing from the Past to Preserve the Future
I’d mainly trained digital marketing for the last 10 years, but I needed to expand my repertoire to maximise courses. I drew on my former (or reformed as I prefer to put it) managerial background. Remote management and leadership were added to my roster along with remote project management and interview skills. I was a recruiting manager and had trained employability before, so that was also added. Finally, in a very ironic twist of fate, considering I’d never delivered a webinar before the 25th March, I now deliver courses on how to present and train effectively online. Who’d have thought it?
I was also very fortunate to have built a solid foundation and reputation, a fair amount of work has come from referrals and recommendations from friends, colleagues and people who have simply enjoyed my courses over the years.
Things to Takeaway from 2020
My takeaways from 2020 are, as Ross Gellar would say, PIVOT. I am not doing what I was before lockdown, I’ve taken my existing skills and pointed them in a new direction. I’ve drawn on previous experience to broaden my offering to get more work and I have learned new skills to enable me to continue to function and earn. I’ll let you into a little secret, I love training it is my favourite thing in the world to do, but if I never do another webinar, I will not miss it.
Trainers train so they can interact directly with people (no lag, no forgetting to come off mute, no virtual background to cover up how messy your house is) that’s what I want to get back to. But right now… pivot, adapt, learn. I’m fortunate that I still get to do something I love and earn money doing so. Many others have not been so fortunate.
Looking Ahead to a Brighter 2021
What does 2021 bring, I honestly don't know. I think webinars will continue to be a huge feature of my working life for the remainder of this year. However, I hope that before we get to 2022 at least once I have the opportunity to stand on a big stage in front of a big crowd rather than staring fixedly at a webcam.