Apr 11: Making webinars work: all together now...
Following the release of our updated Virtual Classroom white paper last month, we asked you to let us know what your top tips for running webinars or virtual classrooms were. Once again we had a great response with some excellent advice on what to (and what not to) do in order to lead a successful webinar.
It’s been a while since we last covered webinars in (back in Top Tip no. 25 – we were all younger then, webinars seemed all so new..). So it was good to get some refreshed views.
As with last month’s e-learning top tip, we highlight the best of your comments below, though this month it was nice to see you’d calmed down and were sharing your positive experiences, rather than venting your e-learning fury. Well, mostly. Still a bit of venting. Actually, loads. But that’s ok. Comments are all kept anonymous here. But if you want to follow up on any of these comments, just come and join the discussion.
Preparation is key:
- Always do a practice run-through with a couple of people. Ensure you know the tool, issues and your presentation well so that you can be flexible if something does go wrong.
- Backup plans of what to do if you only have voice, or cannot screen share etc. Be able just like in a live classroom to go with other options, topics, or ways to present information.
- Spend time customizing your training to the web conferencing environment and use a checklist (pre-meeting, during the meeting, and post-meeting). With so many moving parts, relying on memory can be risky.
Get the ball rolling...:
- It is a nice touch to offer early arrivals in the webinars, a "pre-game show", such as links to related videos, a slide show introducing the speaker in more detail, ice-breaker activities for the participants. These strategies help to keep the webinar dynamic and alive!
- Polling may also be useful at the beginning to set expectations as to the objectives of the session being presented to ensure everyone has a clear understanding as to what content will and will not be covered and allow the attendees to put a discussion item on the agenda.
- Seed the discussion with questions and comments, there are always dead spots when it comes to Q&A.
... Then keep them on their toes:
- Ask surprise questions to people, if they don't know when/what you might ask they are going to pay attention to you not their email. (Make sure they are easy to answer as you don't want to put anyone on the spot.)
- Ask your attendees in the chat window to submit polling questions they want to see answered from the larger group to facilitate greater collaboration.
- Try to have a co-presenter and hand over the mike at agreed times. A second voice adds interest and gives you a chance to drink, catch breath, prepare for your next input etc.
- Make sure you mute everyone on a webinar and that all questions come through on chat. Otherwise, someone will place their phone on hold and the music will lay over the top of the instructor!
- If running a mixed (live + webinar session) remember to ask your live audience to turn off their wireless, and get a wireless microphone to handle audience questions, rather than need the speaker to repeat any questions.
- Some webinar tools (we use Citrix) have an 'attentiveness monitor'. If a delegate is looking at another application you can tell. A good opportunity to ask a hands-up question and to ask them specifically to interact.
- If the group is large, then make sure you have someone with you to help manage the chats, someone who can answer folks online while you continue with your presentation, and or, can provide you with a summary of questions, that are easy to answer as you move forward.
- Never, never ignore a raised hand, or question. Even if it is to simply acknowledge it as something you will come back to shortly (and do)
Pause for thought...:
- Pause for breath, and to allow participants to comment, online, whiteboard, chat etc. Most presenters ask for questions then move on before anyone has a chance to respond. This is especially true for non local language participants.
...But not for too long:
- ... up your connection with you audience and to make sure you cover pauses and gaps in your presentations so you prevent your audience disengaging. To this end, shortening the gap to discussion points and using voting to gather live audience opinion is a good way to keep a larger audience focused.
Ending the session:
- Wind up the session clearly and make sure everyone knows how to leave. I know it sounds funny but many people do not know how to leave... and you should be the last one before you close the session.
- Instructors also need to clearly convey where attendees can get a copy of the PowerPoint and/or recording of the event as well.
Some other key points when conducting webinars and leading virtual classrooms:
- Choose a tool that truly simulates a classroom environment (break out rooms, polling, virtual 'peek' capability to monitor multi-tasking)
- If you're going to share your screen, make sure you lower your resolution as much as possible (especially if you're working on a huge flatscreen that's also brilliant for strategy games ;) If you don't, you'll be able to see the interface, while your audience will see marching ants.
- I often have the main computer with my presentation and my laptop beside me showing the participants' view - this can help especially if I aim to do screen share and need to check what is being shown in real-time.
- Do not shuffle papers, drum your fingers, clear your throat, whisper to your assistant etc. near the phone or microphone. If you must refer to notes do so well away from anything that can transmit sound. You might be surprised that what sounds like a slight whisper to us can be magnified 100 times over the webinar. Remember your remote audience and they will thank you for it.
- Where possible, record your Virtual sessions:
1) They enable you to do your own After Action Review. What worked, how it flowed, what your pacing was like, how your style came across. As a deliverer you will pick up a lot, especially if you are newer to doing them.
2) The hour you spent delivering is then available for re-use, as part of you ongoing learning channels. Either as a reference point for the duration of your project or as a reference point for future programs.
- Post-event, follow up with a survey asking about the quality of the webinar, audio, video, etc. so that you can learn from your mistakes. A teacher that stops learning from their mistakes betrays the trust of their students.
As you’re all embracing the community discussions so much, we’re going to make it a regular feature in our monthly newsletter. If you’re not already in the group, you really are going to start missing out on the action. Go on, you know you want to... Join the eLearning Professionals LinkedIn group.