Preparing the Completely Unprepared
There are many reasons why online learning is amazing.
You can learn from anywhere in the world and connect with folks you would never have the opportunity to meet in real life. All you need is an internet connection and you can learn anything from anywhere.
There are thousands of amazing online trainings out there for anyone in business. The topics range from starting a business to specific issues like increasing social media engagement or managing freelance productivity. Udemy even has a class called Realtor Podcast Marketing For Real Estate Agents Success! The scope is limitless!
Yet, the one thing online learning cannot teach is how to connect with people in the real world. It’s one thing to have a conversation in a closed online group. It’s quite another to figure out how to chit chat at a networking event. This is a huge issue for any online business learner who actually works out in the real world.
While I don’t believe we can really fix this disconnection, I do believe it’s time to try.
It’s Tough Out There!
The first step is understanding that learning offline social skills is actually important to our business success. In Top 10 Dental Marketing Ideas, author Justin Morgan explains how building strong relationships just aren’t important, but necessary for a healthy bottom line:
Is the relationship you have with your patients strong enough that a free examination, whitening, and x-rays from the next direct mail piece no longer a temptation? If you build a relationship with your ideal patient, that cannot be stolen or revoked any kind of dental advertising.
Any business that requires some kind of in-person communication needs to understand the importance of strong relationships for their long-term survival. What is going to keep customers coming back when a competitor offers a sweet discount? Some will always go where it’s cheaper, but many will stay because of a strong relationship based on trust and loyalty.
Be open and honest in how important strong social skills are in building trusting and lasting business relationships. Stress how these relationships are crucial to their success and it’s these people who will be the ones to refer new clients to their business. Have an open and honest conversation about the limitations of online learning instead of pretending its equal to all offline training.
It’s not that offline is better or worse. It’s just an honest assessment of online learnings limitations.
Offline Relationships Require More than an Emoji
I’m the queen of the smiley face emoji. I use it all the time, not only when I teach but also when I’m messaging clients on Facebook. It’s one of the only way to convey friendliness in a limited online relationship.
I can also respond with professionalism, disappointment, or excitement. But we’re always under some kind of limitation unless we’re using Skype or some other live video tool. We don’t get to practice our sales pitch in front of a real person unless it’s face to face. And that can be terrifying!
Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash
There are many tips and suggestions on how to handle in-person business communication that can be taught in an online setting. For example, The Body Language Infographic shows how to use body language in different scenarios like “nailing an interview” or “how to socialize with a new client”. While we’ll never be able to practice these in an online setting, we can ask for feedback when students try it for themselves. We can offer helpful suggestions or support for when someone embarrasses themselves after forgetting a lead’s name or completely bombing an interview.
Start the Conversation
There are millions of online entrepreneurs out there that never need to speak face to face with another human being. Their success will never hinge on whether or not they can navigate a clients cocktail party without incident. Yet, how underprepared are the millions who take online classes and trainings when they start their new careers?
I’m not suggesting we redesign every curriculum out there, but it’s time to start having real conversations about the limitations of online learning. We need to start being honest about the importance of speaking confidently, addressing social issues and share how important building strong relationships can be for business success. It’s not an easy fix, but it’s something we need to start considering in every online business training.
Otherwise, we’re just throwing lambs out with the wolves.
Liesha's a business educator by day and Kyokushin Black Belt by night. She's the author of Killing Rapunzel: Learning How to Save Yourself Through Determination, Grit, and Self-Employment (her mother hates the title - but it's a metaphor mom!). She talks freelancing adventures at Microbusiness Essentials.