The wacky world of webinars

I’ve done a few webinars now with the Learning Pool posse and am planning to do a lot more as both a marketing thing for Kind of Digital and as a part of the training work we do.

Webinars are going to be a really important part of the training and communications mix, as they provide a lot of the benefits of face to face learning without the travel expense and time lost of traditional events. The only thing that really sucks about webinars is the name, but I guess we’re stuck with it.

Here’s some lessons I’ve learned from my experiences of running a webinar.

1. Have a wingman

By this I mean someone sat behind the scenes, not talking but just keeping a watching brief over what’s happening. Someone to ping the odd message out to the chatroom, help manage the questions, and to remind you to do and say stuff.

Presenting a webinar can be a bewildering business and having someone to keep you on track is vital.

2. Have a co-presenter

This came as a bit of a surprise to me, but it turns out people don’t want to sit and listen to me talk at them for an hour down the phone. Madness!

Having somebody else involved can make a real difference to the dynamic of the webinar, especially if it brings multiple perspectives to the session. Also, it means that witty banter is on the cards, which improves things for delegates no end.

3. Practice

Always have a run through an hour or so before the actual performance. It improves flow, points out any obvious problems that might happen and gives everyone a chance to rehearse what they will say.

Never skimp on practice!

4. Keep talking

As I found out when doing ¬†webinar this morning, stuff either goes wrong, or at least goes slowly – especially when you are demonstrating a website or online service. If you’re waiting for something to happen, or if you are having to have multiple goes at getting something to work, don’t go quiet!

Keep chuntering on – not just moaning about how the technology never seems to work, but go over some of the stuff you’ve already said, which will probably be a fairly useful refresher to the attendees. Not saying anything can make attendees think that everything has broken, including the sound, so even if you aren’t exactly setting the world alight with your commentary, keep it coming.

5. Interact

Webinars without audience participation can be pretty dull. Set up a couple of polls to run during the event. One great feature of GoToWebinar, the software both Learning Pool and Kind of Digital use, is that it shows you who is paying attention – ie those who have the webinar window in focus on their desktop.

If someone has flicked to check their emails while you are talking, you know about it, and that’s always a good time to launch a poll! You can also get people to type in questions and comments throughout the webinar which keeps participation up and people concentrating.

6. Follow up

When people register for the webinar, they leave their email address – so use it! Send them a link to a recording of the webinar so they can share it with their colleagues and other resources. You can also get attendees to fill in a quick survey at the end which is another great way of grabbing a bit more information from delegates.

Do you have any tips or experiences to share about webinars? Leave them in the comments!

1 thought on “The wacky world of webinars”

  1. Good stuff dave (though webinars have been around for years – where have you been?!)

    We’ve done dozens of webinars at talk about local using the Cisco Webex platform at UfI to reach out to uk online centres in deprived and isolated communities across the country. It’s been fantstic to do sessions with the audience spread as far as Moretonhampstead and Redcar with me in London, Nicky in Digbeth and Mike in Stoke-on-Trent.

    The most important thing is to keep the audience engaged. We picked up in 2009 in our audience research that many webinars can be awful powerpoint drone-athons and we make a huge effort to keep them engaging, light and fun. And we get great feedback from our participants.

    When the audience can’t see you, your tone of voice, pitch and pace are all important. you need to think hard about how you sound – if you are down or a bit flat it can show. Alternatively, you don’t have to think about what you are wearing of course.

    If you have consistent two way speech then ask questions of specific audience members, ‘So bob, how is it in midfordshire?’ but give them a few seconds notice to think of what to say (there are no visual cues such as pointing). This opens things up into a dialogue.

    We send people away to do things in the session in another window and then report back into the main webinar. Some lovely local websites have started this way in a webinar: for instance.

    Humour helps but without visual cues you have to judge it carefully – in jokes between the instructors are pretty poor – keep it simple and generic you are performing to an audience that has elected to come they will usually laugh pretty easily.

    Keeping the commentary going is important -listening to test match special is a great pointer. Do as they do – if you have a gap due to a tech problem talk about what ever you can see out of the window – a pigeon, or an interesting passing bus – even if it isn’t actually there. My cat has featured in a quite a few webinars even when he has been asleep under the bed….

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