One of the issues with which we routinely see organizations struggle is how to compete with free Webinars in their market place, or related, how to justify charging for some Webinars while offering others for free. One of the strategies we often suggest is to make use of the distinction between inform and perform training offered by Ruth Colvin Clark and Richard E. Mayer.
Clark and Mayer define inform programs as those that communicate information while perform programs build specific skills. Using this distinction, “inform” Webinars – like the typical “subject matter expert shares basic information or news” model so common across the Webinar landscape might be offered for little or no charge to members. These can be positioned as a member benefit and as fulfilling the organization’s mission, and in most cases we recommend they carry no credit.
“Perform” Webinars, on the other hand, should offer a richer experience which might include, for example:
- Clearly stated learning objectives
- Increased interactivity through the use of self-checks, Q & A, real-time chat, and other activities
- Potentially, pre- and/or post-session interactions
- Meaningful supporting materials (e.g., job aids, templates)
- Scored assessments
- A trained, expert presenter
- Availability of continuing education credit
Some organizations fall into the distinction between inform and perform intuitively, but we feel it pays to pursue it consciously and overtly for a couple of reasons:
- Both within the organization and in the marketing of the product, the application of research-based terminology – inform and perform – helps make clear the additional value provided by the perform Webinars – value for which the organization should charge accordingly;
- Embracing these terms also ups the stakes for the perform Webinars and encourages the use of effective instructional design principles, meaningful training of speakers, and other elements that contribute to the delivery of consistently high value.
The inform/perform distinction represents one of those serendipitous instances where the language and principles of learning dovetail perfectly with the needs of marketing. If you aren’t already thinking about your Webinars along these lines, we highly recommend giving it a try.
 Ruth Colvin Clark and Richard E. Mayer, e-Learning and the Science of Instruction (San Francisco: Pfeiffer, 2008), 17.