It’s hard to believe it’s only been six months since NCI kicked off its first online, live training. Like many, we faced some truly tough choices in response to the complete shutdown of in-person training at distribution locations and other venues across the country.

We were very fortunate to recognize in mid-March that the shutdown was coming, and we scrambled to build a new approach to NCI training that would need to see us through this very different COVID-19 world.

As a result, we learned several valuable lessons that we hope you can benefit from as your business continues to evolve and change, both currently and in a post-pandemic world.

Lesson 1: Adapt or Die

As we saw the handwriting on the wall, we quickly put together a plan to begin producing live, online training. We faced several challenges. The first was to reinvent training so it would be more than just a talking head in a webinar.

Because NCI’s training is more than just short seminars, we had to figure out a way to keep our students engaged for several hours at a time – not an easy task. We settled on a system of four-hour training sessions with 10-minute breaks every hour.

Each technical class also includes several hands-on testing demonstrations with live equipment. When we first launched the training we surveyed our students about our approach and asked them their opinions on different options such as two-hour segments with an hour break.

The overwhelming response was to keep the current model, as it worked well and kept them from being pulled too far into something else.

Learn the lesson from adapting to a pandemic
Dominick at the controls of NCI’s new broadcast studio.

Lesson learned: When you try something new, ask your customers if you are doing it right – and what you could do better.

Lesson 2: Be Decisive

Our first step was to invest in a broadcasting studio. We quickly put together a plan to transform our NCI headquarters training center into a versatile TV studio with several cameras, lighting, sound, video control boards, and so forth, so we could create live productions with both classroom-style training and hands-on demos using different stations with working systems.

Because we acted early, in less than 10 days we were able to secure all the equipment we needed to launch. A few days later every vendor sold out, and showed 30+ days lead time to get more in.

Lesson learned: Act quickly and decisively. When you know the tidal wave is coming, get your supplies before they are all gone. Had we hesitated even a week, we would have missed the window to quickly make virtual training a reality.

Lesson 3: If You Build It They Will Come

Next, we worked day and night to make it happen. We quickly built the studio and met with our curriculum development team led by NCI President Rob Falke to determine which training to launch first.

The team jumped into action and built the initial training modules in record time. The results have been beyond our wildest dreams. We held our first class in early April. Since then, our online training has been a huge success. In a little over six months we have trained roughly 1,500 students in 60 online classes!

Lesson Learned: Once the decision is made, get to work!

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