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5 Tips from Julia Young on Running Engaging Webinars

There’s a great post by Julia Young on the Facilitate Proceedings blog on tips for running effective, engaging webinars. Click here to see the post, but I’m including it below partly so I don’t lose track of it. Many of us can benefit from these tips!

5 Surefire Tips For Running An Effective And Engaging Webinar

By Julia Young

In a previous post, I admit that I ranted just a bit about the state of webinars and how almost all fall short of the engaging and memorable experience we hope they could be. The core issue is that webinars tend to be big on slides and small on interaction. I have spent a lot of time recently coaching clients on how to transform their training webinars into rich collaborative events. Here are some of the tips I shared…

1. Design your agenda with a distracted participant in mind.

Assume that participants will be multi-tasking unless you keep them fully engaged. Be sure to design you agenda with: tight content; lively speakers; no more than 10 minutes or three slides of talking before a fully interactive exercise; and, more than fifty percent of time spent collecting and responding to ideas, questions, perspectives from participants. Obviously the process will vary if you have 10 or 100 people on the call but don’t give up on the engagement even for large groups.

2. Give out slides in advance – review briefly and then start asking provocative questions.

We learn more from engaging with ideas than by sitting and listening to a 45 minute presentation (while doing our email). People like to make notes, mark up interesting points add their own ideas. So, send out your slides in advance, cut your presentation time to a minimum and start asking and answering questions of your participants. This could be done with a simple phone call (no more technology to distract us) or by providing an interactive online flip chart to capture ideas and comments. A slide-only presentation is a passive as the TV.

3. Skip the video – prepare for a good dialogue between a moderator and expert.

Use video as a way to attract people to your webinar and give them an introduction before you start – skip it during the real-time event. In many cases video adds an unnecessary level of complexity and often isn’t done well. Instead spend your preparation time to create a rich dialogue between a moderator and your subject matter expert. Turn on the radio and listen to how the experts do it. I recommend listening to the Peabody Award-winning Fresh Air with Terry Gross, on NPR (www.npr.org/programs/fa/about/.)

If you’re going to use video then talk to the audience and don’t look at your computer screen. Back in the old days we were all taught not to look at the projection screen and read the slides but rather look at our audience – this is still good advice.

4. Don’t compromise the interactive learning portion of your workshop.

Seek out web meeting tools designed to pull information in from participants rather than just pushing information out. (For a comparison check out www.facilitate.com/collaboration-tools/.) If you would use Post-it Notes™ and flip charts in a face-to-face session, then look for similar tools for your online session. Keep the technology simple and only use what will really add value. Take some time to participate in different webinars to see how others are doing it. Make notes as to what works and what doesn’t – when are you engaged and when are you distracted? Copy the best examples shamelessly.

5. Look for ways to engage your participants before and after the webinar.

Whether designing a webinar for marketing purposes, to extend the reach of your expertise or delivering corporate training, don’t limit your engagement with participants to the 60-90 minute teleconference. Send out a survey; provide an online space for introductions; ask participants for their questions ahead of time. Knowing your audience and why they are taking the time to attend will allow you to focus the webinar content and tailor your interaction. Similarly, follow-up afterward by providing an ongoing forum for additional ideas and reflections; keep the conversation going around a focused set of questions. This gives participants time to apply the learning, share their experiences and keep coming back for more.

If you would like to experience a different kind of webinar and share your ideas in a lively, interactive session, please contact me directly (julia.young@facilitate.com) and we will send you an invitation to our next event. Our topic? How to Get Great Results from Virtual Meetings and Webinars.

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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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