Idea Learning Group

"custom-employee-training" Posts

Balancing Face-to-Face And Virtual Meetings

We rely on an amazing amount of technology to stay connected to our business partners and teams: phone, email, text messaging, social networking sites, and video conferencing. How do we choose the most appropriate mode for the situation?

A Time and Place for Face-to-Face

One of the obvious benefits of meeting in person is the ability to pick up on body language and other non-verbal cues. (Most agree that emoticons are a poor substitution.) Whenever possible, we try to meet with our clients face to face, especially for kick-off meetings. It’s part of our commitment to personalized customer service, and it helps us to get to know and bond with our clients.

According to a Forbes Insight survey of more than 750 businesses, 58% percent say they travel for business less today than they did at the start of the recession in 2008. And eight of ten executives say they prefer face-to-face to virtual meetings. Those surveyed who prefer face-to-face meetings cite social interaction, the ability to more easily persuade, greater accountability, and a better environment for decision-making as primary reasons for their preference.

The Value of Virtual Meetings

We acknowledge that face-to-face is best, but we’ve learned to take advantage of alternative ways to communicate when needed. Many companies rely on virtual meetings when face-to-face is not possible, too expensive, or too complicated to arrange. Without virtual technology, keeping in touch with international and opposite-coast clients would be much more complicated.

Last year, Shannon and I had the opportunity to travel to Germany and Denmark to meet with our clients at Vestas. After a single face-to-face kickoff meeting, we had spent several months meeting and collaborating virtually. When we finally did meet face to face we found that the relationship we had forged with the aid of technology was solid and it felt as if we had always had the advantage of face-to-face interactions.

Meeting virtually helps businesses accomplish certain tasks more efficiently without squeezing the budget. Virtual meetings can also enhance face-to-face communication. When we reserve the “less important” topics for video calls, we can make better use of time when we do have the chance to meet in person. Discussing project scope, timelines, or team roles, for example, can all be done online and then expanded upon during a face-to-face session.

When we plan a virtual meeting, we plan a succinct agenda send any materials ahead of time that may be relevant for our call. The Harvard Business Review has an excellent list of tips for making the most of virtual meetings.

So really it’s not an either/or question. Knowing when and how to use virtual communication helps to strengthen and enhance business relationships in new and exciting ways. What are some of your tips for balancing face-to-face and virtual communication?

By the way, we’re still waiting for someone to invent the “morning mask” for early-a.m. video call.

IdeaLearning Group Case Study: Northwest Community Credit Union

Northwest Community Credit Union was founded in 1949 and remains a member-owned, not-for-profit organization with branches throughout Oregon. Nearly everyone who lives or works in the state is eligible for membership and can benefit from a full range of financial products and services.

Northwest Community is a great example of IdeaLearning Group’s success in embedding ourselves in our clients’ workplace in order to produce the most effective, results-driven experiences for our clients and their learners. Since we began working with Northwest Community Credit Union in February 2012, IdeaLearning Group has managed a wide range of projects, including training courses focused on new employee orientation, software training, and management development. In just a short while, our team has become an integral part of the extended Northwest Community family.

And because we’ve spent time really getting to know the NW Community culture, values, and mission, we consistently make valuable recommendations to train staff members as they transform and roll out their new business model and supporting programs.

LoansPQ Training

Northwest Community Credit Union needed database training for the new LoansPQ system, which is a web-based consumer loan management application that allows effective cross-sell of loan products to consumers. The purpose of the training was to introduce the concept of computer-generated loans and to provide practice using the new loan system. The training program included two-hour webinar sessions with supporting materials. The timeline was aggressive—six weeks from concept to completion—and IdeaLearning Group partnered very closely with Northwest Community to ensure content integrity and a smooth roll-out.

The program manager for Northwest Community Credit Union reports great success with the program.

“The results have been phenomenal,” he said. “We initially set up a ‘war room’ to prepare for what we assumed would be a flood of support calls as our staff went live with the new system. But it was almost a non-event! We answered fewer than 20 calls a day, although we were prepared with four full-time help desk staff members. The training and the supporting materials provided were a key component to the success of our launch. We hit this one out of the park!”

eXperience Culture Training

Northwest Community Credit Union needed to roll out a new training program designed to empower employees to deliver consistently delightful experiences to members, have better conversations more often among branch staff and managers, and improve the effectiveness of their decisions. The training also focused on demystifying the complexity of bank regulation that is added to the industry—layer after layer, year after year—so that staff members can help customers feel more comfortable with the risk and regulation inherent in banking.

The training program involved a series of sessions with managers and assistant managers, who participated in the training and shared it with their staff members. The program manager describes the overwhelming success of the program.

How We Define Customer Service

Many companies claim they provide “great customer service.” But what does that mean in the learning and development industry?

As a small but rapidly growing business, IdeaLearning Group intently focuses on client satisfaction for every project. And no matter how large our business becomes, we intend to keep it that way. The key is not handing a client a product from our inventory that seems to meet most of the requirements, but instead building exactly what the client needs, from the ground up.

Here’s what customer service means to us:

We do the research. To us, research is more than just reading the given source materials. We immerse ourselves in the relevant topics, which often means having meetings with subject matter experts, learning a new software program, asking clarifying questions, and writing use cases based on what we discover. The result is a confident training plan that addresses the exact audience needs.

We maintain open communication. Instead of simply taking notes, giving a diagnosis, and writing a prescription for an off-the-shelf solution, we have multiple interviews to listen and determine the solution we’ll create. We make an effort to keep in touch with clients throughout the entire process.

We use an iterative design process. We build multiple opportunities for client review into every project. So instead of writing a script, letting the client review it once, and then posting it online and calling it “final,” we involve our clients in the entire process with many touch points and opportunities for feedback and revisions along the way.

We offer flexible solutions: We start every project with open minds. What our client thinks is needed at the beginning phase of the project might evolve in an unexpected direction once we get moving. For example, a client might think she wants classroom training. But when she engages us in the project, we uncover needs that lead to a different training approach, like eLearning or a blended learning program.

We sincerely love what we do. Finding the best training solution can be confusing and complex. All our team members share a passion for unraveling information and extracting the most important nuggets to create the best learning experience possible.

We ask for feedback. At the end of the project, we ask, “How did we do?” You’ll notice that companies that don’t value customer service rarely ask this question. Check here and here for some examples of our successes in providing excellent customer service.

How do you define customer service in your business? Tell us your story in the comments section below.

Register Now for IdeaLearning Group’s Train the Trainer on August 24th

Giving presentations produces fear and anxiety for many adults, and it can potentially hold you back professionally. There’s no need to give in to presentation paralysis. Engaging audiences during live presentations is a careful combination of art and science and can be easily learned through guidance and practice.

Jillian Douglas, Chief Creative Officer for IdeaLearning Group, is now offering a comprehensive Train the Trainer program that focuses on tried-and-true techniques for turning an inactive audience into a captive one. During this session, you’ll work in small groups and learn how to hook, engage with, surprise, and even mesmerize audiences during presentations. It’s the ideal session for those who have little or no experience giving presentations or who feel anxious when talking in front of a group!

In addition to the dynamic classroom session, Jillian also invites you to submit your own before-and-after filmed presentations. As part of your registration, Jillian will review the videos and meet with you for 30 minutes to provide custom one-on-one feedback.

During our four-hour Train the Trainer session at the IdeaLearning Group office in NW Portland, you’ll learn how to:

  • Demystify essential brain functions like attention, memory, vision, and pattern recognition.
  • Identify and connect with key audience profiles.
  • Discover practical tools to use when you feel stuck in front of an audience.
  • Use your voice, body movement, and visual aids to present on any topic.
  • Incorporate learning techniques such as chunking and repetition to drive home your messages.
  • Create smooth transitions between topics.

Register soon—only 20 spots available!

Date: Friday, August 24, 2012

Time: 8 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Location: Montgomery Park, 2701 NW Vaughn Street, St. Helens Room

Cost: $200 for this premiere session; existing IdeaLearning Group clients are eligible for the reduced rate of only $100!

How to Register: Contact or call (503) 208-3256 by Tuesday, August 21.

Session includes coffee, tea, and light breakfast options


Here are some highlights from feedback we’ve received from recent participants:

  • “The four hours went by really fast…which is something I never say about meetings!”
  • “She was able to answer our specific questions, she was engaging, and she willingly acknowledged every elephant in the room.”
  • “Really good—now I realize what I submitted for the sales meeting is not that great. It has really opened my eyes to how to make a presentation stick in somebody’s head and also how not to make the audience fall asleep or lose interest.”

NEW BUSINESS Contact us with business inquiries or to discuss your project needs and vision.
CAREERS We always enjoy connecting with talented professionals in the learning and development field.
CONNECT 503.208.3256
LOCATION 2701 NW Vaughn St #103
Portland, OR 97210

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