In this week’s Ask a Trainer guest post, Kassy LaBorie, author of Producing Virtual Training, Meetings, and WebinarsMaster the Technology to Engage Participants, explains the three types of technical producers that facilitators may work with.
I’m an in-house trainer at my organization and, like most organizations, we pivoted to virtual training in 2020. Since then, my organization has decided to allow employees to work from home long-term, so virtual training is going to be the norm for us going forward. Because my boss no longer sees this as temporary, she is going to hire a technical producer to support our team, and she asked for my input on what that role should look like. I’m excited to have a producer on the team, but I don’t really know what to tell my boss. Should a producer also have a background in training or instructional design? Is it important for them to have some familiarity with the content we train on? Or are technical skills really the most important ones?
That’s an excellent question. I think there are three different types of producers. All of them are technical producers, meaning they know how to run whatever software you’re using, whether that’s Zoom, Webex, Adobe, Teams, and others. But not all of them need to know the content. Some producers just know enough about the subject to know how to direct it. They run all the tech, but the facilitator handles the content.
The second type of producer is one that I like to call the facilitative producer. This person may be an instructional designer or trainer and will know the content. They could teach or present the content if the facilitator isn’t there or maybe swap roles with the facilitator. I’ve done this with previous roles where I worked with a co-trainer. I would present the first half of the course, while my producer (who was a facilitative one), would teach the second half, and I would step into their role.
Is it required of producers to know that? Sometimes this approach isn’t scalable. In a bigger organization, you may need to hire producers who could support all the trainers. If you have hundreds of trainers teaching around the globe online every day, it’s unrealistic to ask all the producers to know all the content so they could also teach it.
The third type of producer comes in if your company says that having a producer is a luxury, or you just don’t have anyone available who can be a producer for you and have to do it yourself. In this situation, you may be able to work with a start time producer. This is someone who can be with the facilitator for the first 15 minutes of the session, because we all know that’s when the majority of technical problems are going to happen—when people are connecting to the computer, the audio, and camera. Most of the problems occur just getting started. If you have a co-worker or a friend who can be with you for the first fifteen minutes, then often you can take it from there.
In that situation, the facilitator must be aware of what all those production tasks are so that they can manage alone. But it’s at the beginning, when the bulk of help is needed, where it’s difficult, if not impossible, for one person to manage to get everyone connected. It’s important to open the session with impact, and I’m not opening with impact if I’m helping someone connect with their microphone. That’s when a producer is needed to take care of all that peripheral stuff in the background. That way, the facilitator can keep things going without having to interrupt the whole learning event for a couple of people.
Learn more from Kassy about working with a technical producer on the ATD Accidental Trainer podcast. Her episode will air on February 3.
If you have a question for Ask a Trainer, send it to [email protected]. You can find answers to previous questions by visiting the Ask a Trainer hub.
We welcome your comments and engagement on these posts. All posts are reviewed to ensure appropriateness based on ATD’s requirements for postings in our online communities.
Please note: Content shared in this column is provided by the author and may not reflect the perspectives of ATD.