When the planes aren’t flying

It’s going to take a while for airlines to get themselves straight in the wake of the ‘Superstorm’/Hurricane Sandy. It’s not the first time air travel has been disturbed on a major scale, and it certainly won’t be the last.

Most meetings work much better face to face, but if it’s not possible, many will be resorting to webinars.

At Global Integration, we have been running training through online tools for many years with a particular focus on creating participation and interactivity   – which can be real challenge.

So here are our  top tips for running great webinars.

  1. Plan: It’s difficult 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. Start with the audience experience and plan that by asking how the call will be relevant to them, how can they use the materials or subject matter discussed. Ask yourself what you want them to know, do or feel as a result of the webinar.
  2. Technology:  You will need to learn the technologies and what they are capable of in order to deliver, of course. This is pretty easy to do – providers like LiveMeeting or Webex offer free trials  – a great chance play with the tools. Even free tools like Skype and Google + hangouts have hidden functions. But use the technology to support the content you’ve planned, not the other way around.
  3. Content: define what materials (slides, downloads and other resources) do you need to create the audience experience that you might have had face to face – or better! It is hard to be spontaneous with materials on a webinar, so think things through in advance, prepare and upload the materials. But resist the temptation to use everything just because you’ve prepared it.
  4. Participant participation– think how they will be involved. People tend to obsess about what the presenter will do, but great events are ones where the audience participates. Webinars allow the audience to chat, write, share whiteboards, show web pages and applications, vote, ask questions etc if the webinar’s lead provides the opportunity.
  5. Engage – if you present for an hour and then ask participants for questions, you have trained to shut up. Get them doing something quickly, and get them involved regularly. Responding to some basic web meeting functions on webinar software like trying out a poll or changing their online status can be a good enough start. 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. Keep sessions short: take breaks if they last more than an hour.
  6. Break out: Use small group discussions to change pace and improve interaction. Try having people attend in small groups, say three to six people in each location. Take breaks to allow these subgroups to discuss or complete local assignments then bring them all back online to share findings, for example. Some webinar technologies even enable sub-group rooms where you can connect individuals to do this online too.

Check out our podcast – Dismal meetings and surprisingly useful coffee breaks – for more on fundamentals of planning for more participative meetings.

Done properly, webinars should be shorter and more satisfying than face to face meetings, not a second rate, cheaper alternative.

In the absence of planning, expect people to blame the technology – but understand that the technology is just the medium. It shouldn’t be used as an excuse.

Why not….?

 

 

When the planes aren’t flying

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