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Jan 24, 2012

Remote presentations and tutoring

I must confess that I am not really a great fan of remote viewers and the like on principle. The technology has been around quite a while, and about the time my friends in IT tech support developed enthusiasm for doing remote maintenance, I was running from tech support roles as fast as my legs could carry me. And while I appreciate a good webinar quite a lot, even the best cannot, in my opinion, match the value of personal delivery. When I deliver a lecture or workshop I like to see the faces of the participants, read their body language, ask them questions. And software just doesn't do that well in my opinion, even when the features are there.

But... I spend a lot of time on the phone explaining things to people who feel they are experiencing the inexplicable with the translation environment tools. And unfortunately not everyone uses the right descriptive terminology to give me a clear picture of the problem. So one day, while I was getting quite frustrated trying to picture what a user was doing on her screen, one of us thought of using TeamViewer (and it surely wasn't me). The quickie show & tell mutated into several hours of highly productive coaching, which was repeated on a few occasions with this person and others. I wasn't impressed with the quality of sound transmission via my UMTS data connection, but the visuals worked well. More recent tests with Netviewer left me very impressed by this platform's sound quality and features, so I may use this for coaching and remote group instruction.

I still prefer to deliver workshops of several hours in person, even if it means I have to travel across half the continent to do so. I really do believe that is most effective, and I learn a great deal from talking to the participants informally about their experience. That is really missing in the online medium. But I think now when calls for help come in or a colleague needs to see exactly how a particular procedure works, we might all save time and frustration with remote technology after all. That may sound a bit Jurassic, but I really don't like to use technology unless I see a clear benefit to it which cannot be achieved by better means.

Now that I have "the bug", of course, a number of useful possibilities are seeping into my mind. "Teaser demos" of presentations usually delivered in person in a longer format, for example. Whatever I end up doing with this, I am far more optimistic about the technology than I was. Have you used it as a presenter or participant? What advantages and drawbacks have you experienced?

1 comment:

  1. I fully agree with you Kevin regarding the value of face-to-face human interaction at workshops/presentations, despite the travel (or maybe thanks to the travel - it sometimes offers a welcome period of rest from information/work overload and a chance to catch up!).

    I also agree that TeamViewer or similar can be fantastically useful for software coaching (I've done quite a few problem-solving sessions with a Trados trainer in another continent).

    However, I do also like webinars and screencasts, even if they are a secondary option in terms of quality of interaction, simply because, as translators, time is so short, that at least it enables people to find out about things that they otherwise might not.

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