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You didn’t play it back, did you?
There’s this entrepreneur I admire. I’ve been on his list for a while and was delighted when he announced his long-anticipated online course was ready. Off I went to download the first module.
Long story short, it was horrible.
The content I’m sure was amazing but I couldn’t get past the delivery. The recording was littered with endless pauses, umms, ahhs, teeth clicking… It was painful.
He might have got away with it on YouTube with a video distracting people from the vocal. But on an audio, all you have is the voice.
The thing with online courses is that students generally listen to course modules several times but nobody enjoys replaying massive pauses, gummy chomping or umms and ahhs where the speaker is trying to find the right word or remembering what he wants to say.
We might suffer through it once, but again and again?
I don’t think so.
Online Courses Are All The Rage
People enjoy online courses and self-study — it’s convenient to learn whatever you want whenever you want.
This makes for a huge demand for skilled people to offer out their knowledge and everyone’s studying under the masters to get their online course machine perfectly oiled.
A lot of preparation goes into creating online courses.
You’ve got to write warm-up emails and sales sequences, find willing compatriots to help build up the buzz. Landing pages have to burst with mouthwatering copy leading down to a big yellow buy button, preferably with a payment plan.
Then of course, there’s the content. You have to prepare exercises and content in a way that works for the student. You plan the things you want to teach and how you want to teach them.
So much effort goes into preparing a course that it’s a real shame when the final delivery fails and lets this preparation down.
Vocal delivery is as important as the content
It’s not just your voice or your accent or your dry mouth, it’s the pace, clarity, and flow of your words too.
Courses are purchased by people from all over the world with varying degrees of familiarity with the language. While you can’t cater to every language, you can make your words accessible to the widest range of people with forethought and planning.
Read on to learn how to deliver a course that does justice to the content you’ve poured your heart into.
Enunciate your words clearly
If you do nothing else, do this: pronounce your words so people can hear them. Not just words, enunciate entire sentences and paragraphs clearly too.
- Obey rules of punctuation in your speech. Pause at the end of sentences, for example.
- Don’t slur or mumble. It irritates people when they miss what you’ve said and they can’t catch it even on the seventh replay. It distracts from the course material.
- Respect your accent. If you have a regional accent, know it’s part of your charm and you don’t need to disguise it. It will become familiar to people as they listen to your material, but help them out by minimising or explaining regional slang. Be distinct as you speak so their ears can learn to differentiate the words.
There’s a course I purchased that has three presenters. One of those presenters talks so fast, I dread it when he comes on.
This guy is a technical genius and knows his stuff, but it’s like he’s forgotten he’s supposed to be teaching. He speaks like an express-train racing for some unknown destination because it’s late; he even gasps for air in the middle of a sentence.
Worse is that the course has been delivered on a platform that has no speed controls so I can’t even slow it down. My only option is to keep replaying sections to try and catch what he’s saying throughout the demo. It’s a horrendous user experience.
Your students are not familiar with your topic. Help them by speaking at a pace that they can keep up with.
- Pause for breath between sentences, no gasping, no swallowing air.
- Repeat complicated concepts in different ways to help people process your material.
- If you’re teaching something technical using visual aids, give people time to follow along. Students don’t know where all the buttons on the app are so whizzing your cursor from here to there is unhelpful. Cursors don’t show up well in an online demo.
Write it out
Even if you know your subject inside-out, it doesn’t follow that you can talk about it fluently without an aide-memoire.
- Write out what you want to say and rehearse the words so you speak them fluently without pauses or searching for the right words.
- I hear umms and aahs from British presenters the most. I’m British too and even I do it! It’s like we all turn into Hugh Grant in front of a camera. It’s annoying in a course. Let’s stop doing that.
Writing out your material, either as fully formed sentences or as notes, means you won’t lose your place as you’re talking and you’ll always know what to say. It gives your voice a happy confidence.
Edit out the problems
Your online course should be played back in full before you release it — preferably to an interested beta-tester. If you’re listening to it yourself, wait a day or two between recording and playback so you get a full experience.
You’re looking for things like:
- Unnecessary repetition
- Omission of key information and concepts
- The Hugh Grant thing (unless you are Hugh Grant)
I came across one course that consists of sixteen 5-minute modules. The course is beautifully presented and spoken and the coach ends each module with a motivational quote.
Nothing wrong with that, right? It is after all an unusual and beautiful quote.
Well, it’s the same quote every single time. The modules are only 5 minutes long and most people will play them back-to-back. That same quote every five minutes soon becomes an annoying ear-worm and distracts from the course content.
Play your course back the way a student will so you can fix any problems before release.
Offer a transcript
Students learn in different ways. Some prefer video, others like it written down. Even if your voice and delivery are perfect, offering a transcript along with your video is a big help to people who need the convenience of print.
A transcript also gives you a safety net. It provides an alternative way for someone to access your content if they can’t gel with the verbal delivery, or if your video delivery system doesn’t allow for custom playback speed.
You’ve spent a long time growing and nurturing an email list of enthusiastic followers who want to buy from you.
You’ve worked so hard developing your online course, making sure the content is exactly what they’re looking for.
Now, make sure you deliver it in a way that hits the spot.