Companies have invested heavily in communications technologies like video and web meetings, but often these technologies are not being used or are being used badly – and the problem is not the technology!
We have been running training through online tools for many years with a particular focus on creating interactivity and participation – which is the real challenge. So here are our 7 top tips for running great webinars.
- Forget the technology – start by planning the audience experience. How is it relevant to them, how can they use the material, what you want them to know, do or feel as a result of the webinar.
- Compelling content– what materials (slides, downloads and other resources) do you need to create this audience experience. Planning is absolutely essential – it is hard to be spontaneous with materials on webinars, you need to think it through in advance, prepare and upload the materials.
- Think more about participants– how will they be involved. When we focus on content we tend to obsess on what the presenter will do, but great events are ones where the audience participates. In webinars the audience can chat, write, share whiteboards, web pages and applications, vote, ask questions etc… But only if the webinar leader provides the opportunity.
- Allow participants to create materials, add comments, complete templates etc… rather than expect them to just passively consume materials you created.
- Set expectations early – if you present for an hour and then ask for questions you have trained participants to shut up. Get them doing something quickly and regularly – learning some basic web meeting functionality like trying out a poll or changing their online status can be enough to begin. Keep building in chances to interact at regular intervals.
- Keep sessions short – take breaks if they last more than an hour.
- Use small group discussions. To change pace and improve interaction try having people attend in small groups, 3 to 6 people in each location. Take breaks to allow these subgroups to discuss or complete local assignments then bring all the sub-groups back online to share findings. Some webinar technologies enable sub-group rooms where you can connect individuals to do this online too.
Interactivity is key. In a face to face meeting people will (usually) try to look interested even when their mind is wandering, online your participants will just do something else if you lose their attention.
You do need to learn the technologies and what they are capable of. This is pretty easy to do, just sign up for the free webinars and trials at providers like LiveMeeting or Webex and play with the tools.
More difficult is to get into the planning habit. Running really successful webinars requires you to think through the process you will follow and to plan interactivity – not just think about your content. This is a great lesson and one we should apply face to face as well.
Check out our podcast – Dismal meetings and surprisingly useful coffee breaks – for more on fundamentals of planning for more participative meetings.
If we do this properly, our webinars should be shorter and more satisfying than our face to face meetings – not just a second rate cheaper alternative. An hour spent planning to save hours of travel and large costs for you and other participants is a good investment.
In the absence of planning, expect people to blame the technology.
If you would like some help designing your next webinar or online team event we can help bring both content and interactivity – including running team building activities online – contact us now.