Microsoft Excel Video Course Diva and Excel MVP Mynda Treacy, who runs the successful online Excel Training program (at http://myonlinetraininghub.com) with topics ranging from Excel Dashboard to Microsoft Word and Outlook courses, joins Excel TV host Rick Grantham and cohosts Excel Author Szilvia Juhasz and Microsoft Excel MVP Jordan Goldmeier to discuss Excel training programs.
Rick: After the Microsoft Excel MVP Summit, Jordan relayed that there was a lot of conversation about training programs. Mynda, you have built a training empire. Can we talk about your catalog of training courses and how you created it?
Mynda: I started because I wanted to teach people with small businesses about the programs they have at their fingertips. Video courses are the best fit for those types of workers who cannot leave the office to attend a class. We started with Excel but we also have outsourced courses for Word and Outlook. Data reporting was part of my real job and passion so dashboard was, naturally, a great topic as it bands so many different parts of Excel to what a regular job requires.
I started by writing blog posts, building an audience, finding my Excel voice, and my technique or approach to sharing what I know. I found if I wrote a script or an outline to follow, I was less nervous. Keep it short. Aim for five minutes (if the topic can be covered) so you don’t lose people. Think of the things you have trouble with in a particular topic and break it down to how you understand it to teach it to others. Find your voice. Take the feedback. You just got a start.
Jordan: You have different levels of courses from beginner to advanced levels. Can you talk about how you categorize certain topics into those levels?
Mynda: I struggle with that as well. People don’t know what they don’t know. I started with my syllabus and listed what beginners should know as a minimum; and then the next level. I related it back to my job and what I thought were good Excel skills, which I have learned were intermediate skills. With blogging and stretching my knowledge and getting all kinds of questions, I now know what advanced is – such as Macros and VBA’s and complex nested formulas! You help them understand what level they are.
Rick: We have had a lot of experts with a wealth of knowledge present on Excel TV, but not a lot of them have turned that knowledge into something they can monetize. You’ve created something that has a shelf life that goes further than the initial creation. What steps would you recommend an interested audience member take to get started?
Mynda: It’s like standing up in front of a class and teaching a topic. Decide on a starting point, such as showing how to manage data in a pivot table. I determine what I want to teach and, sometimes, I have to take a step back and build to that point. You have to assume a level of knowledge. It’s like a blog post where you come up with your topic, decide what level of knowledge you’re going to assume people have, and you start writing. The only difference with the video is that you are actually demonstrating it as well.
Rick: Let’s talk about design principles. You mentioned keeping videos to five minutes which is a tactical design principle. How do you figure your overall course structure? Do you have a target of how many videos are within a subject topic?
Mynda: I had a list of things I wanted to cover. I teach a broad skill set to apply to different data scenarios. And then I added interacting elements. Then, I added analyzing the data or how to get the data for your charts. I never started by saying it’s going to be a three hour class with 20 videos. It evolves over the course of creating it. I’m trying to be flexible in how I build it. At the MVP summit, I announced I could market some of other MVP’s topics to my program, such as VBA which I am not going to cover myself.
Rick: Within each video, are there a certain amount of comments that link to other videos or workbooks in the structure of each module?
Mynda: I try not to repeat myself too much. With every video, there is an Excel workbook. Also, I include fairly comprehensive workbooks and notes so people can refer and don’t have to watch the video again. I also support my members. So if you watched my video, but need help when you’re implementing the techniques into your work, I will help. I get files and photographs of screens or whiteboards emailed to me for help. I get a lot of feedback about that support being important. This is better than a classroom course because when you’re implementing it after you’ve completed the course I am there to help you.
Szilvia: You said you started this course for small businesses. Is that still the strategic focus or has it expanded beyond that organically or part of your strategy in terms of who your audience is?
Mynda: With the Internet, we learned that our audience is everyone from NASDAQ companies to individuals. The majority of our audience are people paying for their own training who see the value in improving their skills. I get emails telling me how the dashboard course opened up job opportunities for them, new promotions and salaries. Doors will open!
Szilvia: How much of the content is coming from your existing audience? And inspired by questions from your students?
Mynda: Because I don’t have a job anymore doing this, most of the topics I create are the result of questions I am asked. I’m really good at Google! Especially in the early days when I thought my Excel skills were really good and I got these questions and I was like, “I have no idea!” but I could figure it out. And then it became a blog topic or a new course topic. I’m inspired by my members.
Rick: This question comes from a fellow blogger, Patricia McCarthy at Excel-Diva.com. What program do you use to run your webinars?
Mynda: I use EasyWebinar.com. I am changing it due to some issues, but for most people it would be fine.
Rick: Once you created your video, via Camtasia to create the videos, what technology do you use for your delivery mechanism?
Mynda: It is pretty complicated. We have a WordPress website. We use WishList Member add-on to protect the content. (WishList is a plugin.) We host the videos on Amazon S3 so they are in the cloud and that helps for delivery wherever you are. And we integrate that with PayPal for our payment system. We use WooCommerce, which is another WordPress plugin, as our shopping cart. We use MailChimp.com for our emails. So everything in the background is integrated. PayPal talks with WishList and MailChimp gets their email set up automatically. There are newer plug-ins that you can use, such as LearnDash which is a WordPress plug-in you can use to create course outlines or syllabus.
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