Today is going to be busy. I have plenty of interviews to go over for a white paper, and some research to finish up. Plus, writers group is here tonight. Not only do I need to clean — I need to write something to present.
Behind the scenes here at the blog, I’m busy putting together a list of resources — this one focusing on webinars and training courses. It’s going to be a little different from the 33 Places to Learn New Writing Skills list I made a while back in that I’m focusing on webinars and workshops given by writers, and some of them will have a price tag involved.
That’s when it gets interesting, for the second you put money into the equation, the stakes go up. How do you know that what you’re paying for is something that’s going to give you real value? If you’ve ever paid big bucks (or even small bucks) for a course or workshop that was nothing more than a weak interpretation of the same old stuff you can find online, you know how important it is to vet your options before plunking down cash.
And there is a way to vet your options. Start here:
Get an outline. Your presenter should be giving you an outline of what you can expect. And my rule is the more they charge, the more information they should provide on what you’ll be learning. If your presenter isn’t interested in giving you an outline, spend your money elsewhere.
Get feedback. Don’t rely on testimonials that accompany the sales content — those can be coerced out of attendees too easily. Instead, find a neutral forum or email group and ask. Ask if the content matched the outline, if the presenter was involved, if their questions were answered, and if they had any concerns. Did they feel it was a good way to spend their money?
Look for experience. There are way too many pseudo-experts out there who are intent on selling you something. Yet how much do they really know? Look at their bios. If they’ve been in business a year or less, why are you trusting them with your money? That’s not to say newbies can’t have something valuable to teach — I’ve known one or two I’d learned plenty from. But you have to question how someone with say a year and a half or two years of background can teach you how to market successfully or drive sales through referrals.
Also, look at their resumes. Too many times I’ve come across people selling courses on topics that aren’t even in their area of expertise. If your writer is about to show you how to break in to celebrity magazines, they damn well better have a background in that concentration. Otherwise, the information is coming from where? Answer: probably the Internet. In that case, save yourself some money and do your own research.
Measure responsiveness. So this presenter is promising hands-on, personalized attention. Why not try it out before you commit? Send them a quick note asking something relevant to what the course would include. If you get a response within 24 hours, you have a winner. If you’re sitting there three days later without an answer, let’s hope you’ve found a better alternative already. If not, look for one. That’s not to say the presenter will neglect you based on one email– people can get busy for any number of reasons. If your quick reminder gets no response, move on –there’s a good chance the presenter won’t have time later, either.
Consider the price-to-content ratio. My own exercise includes looking at how many minutes/hours are being offered, how detailed the content is, and how much I’m being asked to pay. Price is a very personal decision, so I can’t tell you if it’s worth it, but if I’m expected to pay hundreds for a 2-hour webinar, it had better be jammed with information.
Look for unique content. Is this presenter proposing to give you something you’ve not heard before or something you’d otherwise have to study in a college setting? If so, it could well be worth it, if the outline and content depth is there. If the topic sounds identical to other offerings, might be best to skip it.
Check content for availability elsewhere. Too many presentations (way too many) are giving you information that’s already free somewhere else. I like to take the outline and search each section head online. What you’ll find is that most content is available — that’s normal. What makes it a presentation worth buying is how much isn’t available, or what this presenter’s particular spin is. That should already be spelled out in the course title or outline, but an in-depth search of the course’s offerings could reveal that your presenter has something unique. Or not.
Writers, how do you determine if a course or presentation is right for you?
What’s the most you’ve ever spent on a course/training/webinar?
Did you get what you paid for?
What advice do you have for other writers looking for the right skills training?