Virtual Producer, Part 1 – Preparing your SME or Presenter

This is part one of a three-part series on the Virtual Learning Event Producer. The distinction between the facilitator and producer (though one person might cover both roles) is that the producer is mainly behind-the-scenes running the technical side of the learning event. The producer may be responsible for the following:

  • Planning the event with the facilitator/subject matter expert (SME)
  • Performing a “makeover” on the materials to make them more appropriate for a virtual adult learning environment
  • Preforming a similar role to a radio producer on a live talk program

This first post will focus on planning the event.

I produce a monthly learning session for R&D managers at McAfee. We usually have facilitators scheduled out a year in advance, so my first step is to check in with them one month before the event. This quick check in reminds them of their commitment. It’s also a good time to make sure it’s still on their radar—and their calendar—before things get too booked up. If the facilitator is a senior manager with a busy calendar, I may even check in two months before (and make sure their admin knows about it). I let them know to expect to spend one to two hours with me over 2-3 sessions that month to prepare. The timing all depends on how much work we have to do to focus the content. Most people try to squeeze too much material into a one-hour slot.



This is my first official meeting with the facilitator and usually happens 3-4 weeks before the learning event. It lasts about an hour if materials are ready and we can do the content review in this first session. It might be split into two 30-minute sessions to review the content later. The purpose of this session is to discuss the needs of the target audience, review the facilitator’s goals, and identify opportunities for participant engagement. I use the following sets of questions to accomplish this:

Identify the Needs of the Target Audience

  • Who is the target audience?
  • What will they do with the information?
  • What do participants already know about your topic? Are they novices? Experienced? Expert? A range?

I use the answers to focus the learning goals in the next step.


Review Facilitator Goals and Set the Learning Goals/Objectives

  • Why do we need this session? Are we taking advantage of an opportunity? Avoiding a painful consequence? Something else?
  • What behavior change are we looking for?
  • What do you want participants to be able to do after the session? (Not just know, but be able to do and how?)
  • How will we know if we were successful?

I use the answers to focus the content.


Review the Content and Identify Opportunities for Engagement

  • Compare current content to the learning goals. Is there content to support each one? Are we missing content? Is there extraneous content we can move to backup or distribute in as supporting documentation?
  • Identify opportunities for interaction using a variety of tools such as polls, white boards, annotation tools, chat, and status icons. Is there an appropriate time to:
    • Dispel a misconception?
    • Gauge audience attitudes?
    • Allow participants to make predictions?
    • Apply learning by analyzing a case study and responding?
    • Ask participants to share one thing that they will apply right away?


NEXT STEPS: If content needs to be added or changed schedule a Final Content Review Meeting (30 min to 1 hr) before the content makeover. Repeat the steps above.


My next post will focus on the content makeover (aka the PowerPoint Makeover).