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Webinars are the way forward for Dave

Dave Perton has a degree in Industrial Engineering, an MSc in Operations Management and more than 17 years’ experience of transformational change and continuous improvement. He started out in the manufacturing sector and now runs his own company, providing project management services to the National Health Service.

A member of the IET Project Controls Technical Network since 2014, Dave became Chair in October 2017. “It’s nice to give something back,” he said. “Project Controls is a subject area I’m very interested in, so the idea of arranging events that I could learn from appealed to me.”

New communication channel

Soon after the launch of the new TN strategy in January 2020, Dave and his fellow committee members met up in person to decide on the way forward.

“As a Technical Network we’re not really geared up to put on local events,” said Dave. “Professionals in our specialism are spread around the globe. Cities as large as London are the only places where there are enough people to make a physical event viable – anywhere smaller and it doesn’t really generate a big enough audience. So we had two options: go to big cities or go digital. We did try a regional approach, but it wasn’t hugely successful, to be honest.

“From the outset – a couple of months before COVID really started to take hold – we wanted to reach out to a new target audience worldwide: students and young professionals doing jobs associated with or outside our specialism who were keen to learn the basics of project controls. And we knew that the only way to achieve that would be to go digital.”

Setting the framework

Planning the project controls webinar series started in earnest in January 2020. There would be seven webinars in all

  • Overview
  • Governance
  • Scope and Cost
  • Scheduling
  • Managing change
  • Managing quality
  • Managing risks and opportunities

All the committee members are experts in the field of project controls, so there was no need to bring in external presenters for the webinars. Dave offered to present three of the seven topics, including the initial overview session.

“We booked an hour-long slot for each of the webinars, to allow time for a 30-minute presentation followed by questions and answers,” said Dave. “To take the pressure off, we decided to pre-record the presentations.”

Joanne Longton, IET Senior Community Manager, would also be on hand for each webinar, to record all the questions coming into a chat box during the presentation. She would select a range of questions submitted and, after the presentation element had finished, read them out for the presenter to answer.

To maximise the potential for attracting an international live audience, each webinar was scheduled for GMT 14:00. The IET’s Marketing department worked its magic and the TN committee members also spread the word about the webinars on various LinkedIn groups and on social media.

Covid challenges

Ordinarily, there would have been a number of physical meetings to firm up the webinar arrangements, but for a variety of reasons – including the approaching pandemic – the committee dealt with all the planning remotely, through conference calls, phone calls and occasionally Skype.

“Although webinars were new to the committee, we were working with a platform that hosts webinars all the time, so that definitely helped. There was a certain nervousness among the committee members about doing the presentations. They are all subject matter experts, so the nerves were about the presenting and the technology rather than the content, of course.”

Dave was the first to take the plunge. In February and April he presented the first two webinars. Based on this experience, he was able to mentor other committee members in advance of their own webinar session and put their minds at ease.

“I explained to them how easy it is to record the presentation in advance,” he said. “I described to them how to record the words for each slide. I also explained the editorial controls online, including how to pause between slides, as well as how to delete sections and re-record them. I told them that although they would be recording their presentation on the webinar platform, they didn’t have to submit it until they were completely happy with it.

“I also encouraged the committee members to watch my ‘Overview’ webinar because I wanted them to enlarge on the framework I’d outlined during that session. And because I wanted to make sure that we were all pitching at the right level, to attract the target audience.”

Webinars – the way forward

The first three webinars generated a total of 1,921 registrations from 51 countries and resulted in 482 live views and 651 on-demand views. In all, 39% of participants were in the target age group (between 21 and 40).

The sessions were well received. One participant wrote that the webinar had provided “a very good overview of project scope and cost techniques, which I can take forward into my job role”. Another stated: “The Q&A session in particular allowed more time for clarifications and detailed explanations. The quality of the content and the well-paced delivery have further enhanced my understanding of the subject.”

Dave is delighted with the attendance figures and the feedback. He said: “Webinars are definitely the way forward and we’re already planning to do more of them. We may well have only the one physical event next year. Webinars are a much better way to meet a far wider geographic audience and people do seem hungry for information and opportunities to learn – this was especially true during lockdown.”

Joanne Longton said: “Dave has been a great proponent of our webinar series. His enthusiasm to deliver and willingness to mentor other committee members have just been fantastic to see and have really put the network at the forefront of our planned technical webinars.

“The feedback we have received from our audience has been exceptional, with many appreciative comments for our online offering. Without Dave we would not have got these webinars off the ground.” 

To find out more about Technical Network webinars, visit https://www.theiet.org/impact-society/technical-webinars

 

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