SOCIAL MEDIA / SEP. 08, 2014
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How to Run a Successful Webinar

The term webinar stands for “web-based seminar”. It is a presentation, lecture or workshop conducted online using video conferencing software. Information is shared via videos, images, slide presentations, text and voice. A webinar should be no longer than 2 hours in length. If more information must be shared, it’s best to divide the content into a two-part webinar. According to Webopedia.com, the “key factor of a webinar is its interactive elements—the ability to give, receive and discuss information.” This type of interactive communication differs from a “webcast” which only transmits data one way and there is no interaction between the presenter and the audience. This article will address how to run a successful webinar for your organization.

Why a Webinar is Useful

Webinars are an inexpensive way to share information online and simultaneously interact. The interactive format of the webinar provides your team members or employees with the opportunity to have an interesting learning experience and also cultivate professional relationships. Many times organizations utilize webinars as a means of training their teams, engaging with customers and educating clients. It is a useful resource if you have participants or team members located in another state or country. According to MindTools.com, “what sets webinars apart from virtual meetings or online learning sessions are the different interactive aspects that can be used.” There are a variety of features that webinars offer.

  • Real-time interaction with participants
  • Text chat or instant messaging
  • Interactive whiteboards for brainstorming
  • Slideshow presentations share content
  • Stream video to present information
  • Desktop or screen sharing
  • Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) for audio
  • Host can unmute line for listener interaction
  • Webinars can be recorded and later revisited
  • Use live testing to poll participants
  • Analytics dashboards show chat conversations

Benefits and Disadvantages

Before you opt to use a webinar for your organization, analyze the pros and cons to ascertain whether or not it is the right venue for information sharing.

Benefits

  • Convenient tool for training a virtual team and company-wide education
  • Long-distance travel time is eliminated which saves time, money and resources
  • Time-efficiency can shorten the length of the online training time
  • Interaction can cultivate a fun and creative learning experience
  • Flexible format means participants can join in globally
  • Webinar features cater to a wide variety of learning styles

Disadvantages

  • Participants may not catch all the nuances of body language from the host
  • With missed gestures and cues, miscommunication and detachment can occur
  • Hosts are also unable to measure the acute reactions of the participants
  • The more intimate teacher – student interaction of the classroom is lost
  • Technical difficulties can disrupt the webinar and create disengagement
  • Participants with slower internet speeds may experience viewing issues
  • Hosts have no assurances that participants will be in a quiet environment
  • Social interaction with other participants does not fully occur with a webinar

How to Run a Successful Webinar

1. Planning Stage

A successful and effective webinar cannot be thrown together in five minutes. You first need to get a comprehensive understanding of the webinar platform. Trying to figure out various functions during the webinar is unprofessional. Once you get familiar with the platform, you’ll have no problem delivering a great webinar. Plan for your webinar to be informative and flow smoothly. Your participants need to have a positive experience. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • How much do they know about your topic?
  • What is your purpose for the webinar?

Once you have answered those questions, begin to plan the presentation by answering the following questions.

  • Will you be using a video only?
  • Are you opting for a slide presentation?
  • How will you integrate the instant messaging feature into your webinar?

A successful webinar is highly visual, concise and follows the topic closely. Be prepared for the questions that your participants will have at the end of the session. Figure out how you will integrate when the participants can ask questions—at the beginning, throughout the webinar or at the end. One major factor regarding participant interaction is how many people will actually attend. Webinars are great for communicating with a large group. However, you also want the training to be effective and don’t want anyone to be crowded out.

2. Delivery Stage

As a host, you need to realize that this type of online presentation is distinctly different than presenting a lecture in a classroom or meeting setting. You cannot gauge attendees’ reactions to your discussion. That does not need to be a deterring factor from hosting a webinar. Learn how to utilize the interactive tools that webinar platforms offer users which can keep participants fully engaged during the delivery. Some tips are listed below.

  • At the beginning of the webinar, address how participants can interact through the instant messaging, polling, white boards or “raised hand” features.
  • Don’t read from a script. Your listeners will instinctively know that you sound unnatural. Become so familiar with your material that you can speak conversationally and only need to refer back to notes from time to time.
  • Smile and keep your energy level high so that your voice will sound engaging to listeners. Don’t pause too long when speaking because attendees may assume the webinar has stopped or there is technical difficulty. This pausing technique is different than if you are giving a face-to-face presentation.
  • Carefully explain intricate topics and continually ask listeners to use the interactive features. Explain about the unmute feature so listeners can speak. However, take control and keep the line muted while you are speaking. Save the interactive discussion for the end.

3. Evaluation Stage

Evaluating the webinar is important. It will assist you in gauging where you need to make improvements for future trainings. You need to create a way to obtain audience feedback when the webinar is completed. Some platforms offer an audience feedback tool you can utilize. Ask participants to use that tool to provide honest and constructive feedback. If your platform does not have a tool, you can encourage listeners to email you their comments or provide them with an anonymous online survey to complete.

Available Webinar Platforms

There are a wide variety of webinar platforms available. Several options are listed below.

  • Adobe Connect – offers a customizable and user-friendly platform
  • Cisco WebEx – a well-known platform which allows up to 6 video feeds
  • Citrix Go to Meeting – invite up to 15 users unless you pay for a corporate account
  • Fuze – is a newer platform which allows up to 10 video feeds   

A webinar is an excellent tool when you need to provide online training to people in your organization who are not able to be in one location for a lecture. It is an interactive online meeting that has both advantages and disadvantages. You need to weigh whether or not this type of tool is best for your organization. It is important to be prepared. Know your topic and how the webinar platform operates. Create an interactive and fun delivery and remember to ask for feedback.

 

 

Photo Credit: thelearningstation.ca

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