I recently had the opportunity to conduct a Webinar on how to design Webinars – modeling some of the effective practices that shift a Webinar from being informative to being really interesting and involving. Here are nine of the ideas I talked about:
1. One of the most effective ways to make a Webinar more interesting is to stream video of the speaker. Keep the speaker on screen in a smaller box while slides are being shown or alternate between slides and the video of the speaker. Faces hold our attention much more fully than do slides
2. Devote a full time person to support and encourage chat. On this Webinar we had a great chat monitor. He didn’t just watch for questions, he encouraged participants' active participation with his comments and questions, for example,
- "Regie - thanks for the recommendation."
- “Melody - I may have to steal that virtual high five idea!"
- (following a technical glitch) “How have you recovered when you’ve had a technical issue?”
3. Use breakout rooms for small group discussion of the topic. In an hour Webinar, give the speaker 15-25 minutes. Use the rest of the time for break-out discussions. Limit each breakout to no more than 10 people - 5 is ideal. Have a facilitator in each breakout to get the discussion started.
4. Use an interview format instead of a “presentation,” again as streaming video. The back and forth of an interview holds our attention. And with a little laughter and a couple of challenges thrown in, it is better yet. Find a “Larry King” in your organization to be the interviewer.
5. Invite people to attend because you need to hear their perspective on a critical issue under discussion - not just to listen. We too often under estimate the knowledge that attendees have, assuming the “expert” is the only one who “knows”. Ask attendees to type their ideas into the Chat or save them for a robust breakout discussion. Make a short summary of the best participant ideas and send the summary back to the participants
6. Create two sets of slides, one for the webinar and one with detailed notes of what you said. Looking at slides is almost useless without accompanying audio or notes.
7. Use the questions participants ask during the webinar to shape the on-going content of the webinar. The questions reflect what people want to know, which is much more important that what the speaker had planned to say.
8. Create slides that have lots of pictures and color and minimize the use of words. Images carry a more powerful and memorable message than do words. Think about the unforgettable images on Ted Talks.
9. Keep changing things up; chat, polls, cartoons, video clips. Think Sesame Street - it was built around a single, breakthrough insight: “If you can hold the attention of children, you can educate them.” The same is true for Webinars.
We all need to learn how to use Webinars more effectively. They are an amazing technology with a huge potential for informing us, jointly creating knowledge, problem solving, and sharing what we have learned with each other. These nine practices are just the start of an on-going list that I hope you will contribute to. Please add your ideas to it in the comments section and I’ll update the list with attribution.
In coming post I will discuss, three types of Webinars, Broadcast, Breakout, and Problem Solving and outline the different techniques for each.