Whatever you want to learn, there’s probably a webinar being held to teach you or present an update. A webinar is a cross between a live, in-person class and online learning. You watch the webinar in real time, but you’re not in the same room as the presenter. You most likely can’t talk to the presenter although you can ask questions through a chat or Q & A function on the webinar platform.
What webinars make up for in convenience for the viewer they typically loose by a lack of interactivity or feedback. This, of course, depends on the webinar presenter and how willing the presenter is to use certain techniques for a more enjoyable and memorable webinar experience. Here are some tips I have learned and utilize to create webinars that are positive learning opportunities for the participants.
- Customize the registration: Most webinar platforms (I use Zoom, but this is also true of GoToWebinar) give you the ability to customize the registration page, if not the entire presentation. Take advantage of this to give people an idea of what you’ll present and how you’ll deliver. This could be anything from color scheme to description and even the information you request from the registrant. If you can ask questions beyond name and email address, use this to determine participants’ experience with the topic or what they hope to learn on the webinar.
- Tell people to register even if they can’t attend: You want people to attend the live webinar, but if they have a conflict at that time, you still want to get the information to them. If you encourage people to register even if they can’t attend, you will capture their information and be able to distribute the recording after the webinar has been completed. You can stay in touch with them and invite them to a future webinar.
- Add handouts: Just because you’re online doesn’t mean you can’t give people something to hold onto or take away from the webinar to refer to. Handouts typically can be shared during a webinar through the platform. Participants can be prompted to download the handout at the appropriate time during the webinar and asked to refer to it later as well. If you use slides during the webinar that contain a great deal of information, give participants the ability to download a PDF copy of the deck for future reference. If you’re an independent trainer, you can use the handouts as a way to give participants your contact information and a call to action.
- Use polls: Because the webinar is a one-to-many form of delivering content, the presenter has to work to encourage interaction. Polls are a great way to get feedback or information from participants. You can gauge whether participants are paying attention or checking their email by the number of responses and how long it takes for people to register their responses. If you are encouraging adoption of a tool or process, Polls double as a way to determine whether participants are on board.
- Have everything open and ready to go: Close any programs on your computer that you do not need, especially email if you have desktop notifications enabled. If you are using web-based tools during the webinar, be sure to close other websites and browsers to avoid a drag on bandwidth during the webinar. Have your presentation open and in slideshow mode. You can then use the webinar platform’s menu to switch between your open documents or websites during the webinar and avoid having to minimize documents or switch between browsers. This makes for a smoother viewer experience.
- Use a headset and test your audio: You will have more control over the sound of your voice with a headset. If you tend to move your head or use your hands as you talk, a headset will follow your mouth and you won’t risk toppling a microphone on the desk. If you have a multi-directional desktop microphone and are used to using it, by all means use it. I prefer a headset because I don’t have to worry about where the microphone is during the webinar. Test the audio before you begin the broadcast to be sure the webinar platform is picking up your voice adequately. You can also ask participants at the beginning of the webinar if they can hear you and see your screen.
- Record the webinar: Recording your webinar serves two purposes. You can review your webinar performance and use what you discover to improve on future webinar presentations. I discovered that my gaps in presentation were disturbing (too many ummms and ahhhhhs!). I worked on making my presentation more succinct and cohesive after reviewing the recording. You can usually share the recording easily through the platform with participants and absentees for their review after the live webinar. This gives them the ability to go back over the material when they most need it.
- Have someone monitor the webinar for questions or chat: If possible, it’s nice to have an assistant checking for questions during the webinar and posing them to you as you present. Otherwise, you must keep an eye on your chat or questions boxes to address questions during the broadcast. If you don’t have someone to assist you, notify participants that you’ll address questions at certain times during the webinar. I often answer questions at the end of the webinar for the participants only. I turn off the recording and make this personalized attention a bonus of having attended the webinar live.
- Include the recording in the follow-up e-mail: This goes with the previous point about recording the webinar. Distribute the recording through the platform. Most webinar platforms give you the ability to create a link for the recording and include the link in your follow-up email. You will want to do this instead of attaching a recording to an email (usually not possible due to the size of the recording) or posting it on YouTube or some other video sharing platform. Why? Webinar platforms are set up to register when someone views the recording after the webinar. You can see who viewed the video and when. If you’re asked to provide this kind of information, you’ll have it at your fingertips. You may decide to post the video to YouTube, for example, but wait until a few days after the webinar to encourage initial viewing through the webinar platform.
- Use the survey function: If there is a built-in survey function in your webinar platform, use it to launch a survey upon completion of the live webinar. This is a quick way to get feedback from participants. If the webinar platform allows for integration with a survey external survey, you can make more detailed surveys to judge participants’ retention of the material presented. Use this information to tailor the next presentation on the same subject matter.
- Get the log: Access and download the webinar log to follow up with questions you didn’t answer during the webinar and to see who attended and for how long. Use the information you get in the log to help you prepare your next webinar.
- Edit the recording: If you are able, download the recording and edit it before posting to other platforms. You’ll have the ability to delete dead air and take out the ahhs and ummms. If you’re demonstrating a technology tool during the webinar, you can add call-outs, annotations, and pan and zoom on the screen. I like Camtasia for video editing, but there are other options you can use.
- Practice, practice, practice: It helps to practice before your webinar. Even more important is to practice before your next webinar. Learn from your mistakes and make the next webinar one that will have participants asking for more.
Webinars are a great tool to help people in far-flung places learn the material you want or need to teach. If done well, they can be a learning experience that will motivate participants and get results.