Workplace Productivity: Tips for Wonderful Webinars

You’ve decided to conduct a webinar for your association member, corporate employees, or your team members spread around the country. How do you ensure the Webinar goes off without a hitch?

Here are the top ten tips on how to have a successful webinar:

1. Select the best format for your objectives. Each of these popular formats has pros and cons:
• Single speaker who presents and administers the webinar—easy to coordinate but can be less interactive if participants are hesitant to ask questions.
• Interview style with a moderator—more interesting than just one voice but harder to coordinate the discussion.
• Facilitated conversation with multiple panelists—more people to train and the potential for panelists to talk over each other; adds a variety of perspectives and can increase audience interest.

2. Determine the level of interaction. We’ve all experienced webinars with road noise, dogs, babies, and ringing phones in the background. So I prefer to mute all attendees and take questions via the chat box only, rather than opening up the lines. I also encourage participants to submit their questions on the topic before the program begins. Many platforms support audience questions at registration. I also recommend other methods for keeping the audience engaged during the webinar, such as taking a poll or asking a question and asking for answers via chat.

3. Plan your visuals. Script your core content if you’re nervous about losing your train of thought. Text-heavy slides with multiple bullets on one page are boring, since the participant won’t have anything to look at for long periods of time. Webinars rely on visuals to keep the audience engaged, so use lots of graphics and one point per slide. Rather than screen shots of applications, use a platform that supports desktop sharing and demonstrate concepts “live.” For example, I support my PowerPoint presentations with tours of websites, demos of my actual Outlook software, and program tools in action for a more dynamic experience.

4. Determine who does what. There are several roles that may be played by one to multiple people. First, you’ll have an Organizer who creates the webinar, markets the event, sets up the registration, and communicates with participants. Second, there may also be a separate Facilitator who welcomes everyone, outlines logistics, hits the record button, introduces the speaker, and handles audience questions. Third is the Speaker, who is the content expert who will run the actual presentation or ask for slides to be advanced. Fourth are any additional Panelists if you have more than one speaker. Fifth, you might have additional Assistants on the line to answer technical questions and address problems during the actual webinar itself, especially if it’s a large webinar that can’t be handled by the Organizer alone. I’m an experienced webinar presenter, so I’m comfortable presenting and facilitating the webinar at the same time. However, other presenters are more comfortable having an assistant to remember to share the screen, hit the record button, and handle other webinar functions.

5. Promote your webinar well in advance. Get the word out three to four weeks prior to the webinar. Include advertisements on your website, blog, listservs, newsletters, social media networks (such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter), and online event calendars such as Create engaging copy with title, description, objectives, who should attend, logistics, cost (if any) and registration URL. Once an attendee has registered, most platforms support automatic reminders at registration, one week, one day, and one hour prior to the webinar.

6. Conduct a dry run. If you have multiple participants who are unfamiliar with the webinar process, it’s critical to schedule a run-through several days prior to the webinar to work out any kinks. During this time, you can download necessary software, address technical issues, introduce panelists, establish a time line, discuss features such as drawing tools and the chat window, test headsets and equipment, practice transferring the controls and sharing desktops, and answer any remaining questions. If time allows, move through the presentation to verify slide order.

7. Start preparations an hour before show time. Post a “Do not disturb: webinar in progress” sign on the door. Turn off noisy technology and background noises. Put away pets if presenting from a home office. Get a glass of water. Hook up your microphone or USB headset. Print your slideshow outline and verify your computer is running smoothly. Launch any applications or websites you’ll use during the presentation.

8. Log in early and conduct a tech check. Send out call-in numbers, access codes, and URLs well in advance if you have multiple panelists. Ask all participants to log in at least 15 minutes prior to the start to test connectivity. Conduct roll call and verify that everything is working. Review the timeline. Give out a method to reach you offline should a panelist encounter problems.

9. Conduct a fabulous webinar! You’ve prepared and planned—now enjoy the fruits of your labors and let it roll.
• Announce any logistical details at the beginning of the program to let attendees know the game plan. Clarify if there will be time at the end of the session for questions and the best way to submit questions during the program. Also explain if the session will be recorded and where it will be posted.
• Don’t forget to hit the record button!
• Stand when you are speaking if possible. Attendees can’t see you, of course, but your projection will be more animated and interesting when you stand.
• Don’t worry if less than 25% of the registrants show up for the “live” session; many plan to simply watch the recording afterward.

10. Follow up with participants. Just because the webinar is over doesn’t mean your work has ended! Many platforms have built-in functionality to automatically present an evaluation to attendees at the conclusion of the webinar. If not, you can use to create your own online survey. You can create questions to gather feedback on the content, speakers, process, or to gauge interest in future topics. Schedule an automatic message to thank participants and follow up with no-shows. You can also publish a recap, summary, transcript, or recording of the webinar online. Many organizations sell this recording in their digital stores for profit.



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