5 Tips for Successful Webinars

Whether you are looking to use webinars (web-seminars) with staff, students or even customers, the following tips are useful for all.

There are many different webinar systems available, and they can be used very effectively for distance learning, remote training or for disseminating information. The main advantage of a webinar is that it can be accessed remotely – no need for you or your attendees to travel and people can easily attend from all over the world. If you need to give information to a large group of people, it also removes the hassle of trying to find a physical location large enough to accommodate everyone. There are many different webinar systems available and if you are just starting out, you will want to spend a bit of time comparing the different features and limitations of the various options.

I have had experience of using LiveMeeting, WebEx, Citrix GoToMeeting, Microsoft Lync, Adobe Connect and Google Hangouts,  and there are many others available besides those.  They are all broadly similar in the core features that they offer, but they do differ in user experience and some of the added features available in the systems. Before you start looking for a webinar system, consider which features are most important to you. What do you need your webinar tool to do? This will help you in deciding which tool is appropriate for your use.

However, selecting a webinar system is a whole other blog post, this blog post is focused on helping you get the most out of your webinar system once you have picked one.  The tips listed here are not specific to any one system, and should translate onto whichever webinar tool you decide to use.

5 Tips for Successful Webinars:

1. Define your objectives

Before you start to develop, promote or deliver your webinar, spend some time thinking about why you are doing this. What are the objectives of your webinar? What are your intended learning outcomes or key messages you want your attendees to take away from the session? Who is your audience? Do you know where they will be located or could they be connecting from all over the globe? Why will they want to attend? Is the session voluntary or compulsory?

Figuring out the answers to these questions, before you start to design your webinar, will help to ensure that the session you deliver meets your objectives and also the objectives of your audience.

2. Tailor your content

Once you have the answers to the questions above, you can begin to tailor your content for the webinar. Always, always, always revise content that was designed for face-to-face delivery before delivering it online. A webinar is a very different experience from a face-to-face training course, lecture or seminar. It is likely that your audience is surrounded by distractions – they may be in an office with others, be checking emails on their phones or computers, or fielding calls. As opposed to face-to-face delivery, where you can clearly see if your audience is engaged and attentive, webinars can sometimes feel as though you are talking into the dark. This issue can be overcome to a point with the use of webcams, although at present this is really only appropriate for small groups, and depending on your target audience, the use of webcams could be off-putting.

The most effective way to avoid this is to try and make your webinars as relevant and engaging as possible. Completing the questions in the previous tip will help to keep your sessions focused and relevant to your audience. Try to limit the length of your session to around an hour and definitely no longer than 90 minutes without a break. Ensure you incorporate interaction points into your seminar – many systems include poll tools you can use or chat boxes for questions and answers. From my experience, attendees can be very reluctant to talk on a webinar – particularly when the audience do not know each other. Providing a text chat window can be a good way to collect questions during the session. If you intend to answer questions as you move through the session, you may want to have a buddy on-hand to let you know when a question has been asked in a chat window, as this can be easily missed when you are presenting.

3. Provide practice sessions

As always with technology, there can be glitches. It is useful to provide attendees with access to a practice session so that they can confirm they can login to the system and navigate the tools they will be using. Depending on the consequences of the session (i.e. a freely available marketing seminar vs a paid-for online training session), you may wish to have a rehearsal session which replicates exactly how you will be using the technology in the live session. This provides you and your attendees with an opportunity to iron out any technical difficulties and become familiar with the software. Trying to assist attendees with technical difficulties on the day can be seriously disruptive to your delivery. It can be useful to have a buddy on hand to tackle any technical difficulties that attendees encounter, leaving you free to continue with the session.

Different systems also come with different audio options. If you are using a conference call system ensure you know how to mute and unmute the lines of the attendees. If your webinar is to a large group, the background noise from the attendees can become very distracting. Alternatively if you want people to be able to ask questions at will during the session, ensure everyone knows how to mute/unmute their own lines – if this is important to the success of your session, ensure you cover how to do this in the rehearsal or with any instructions you send out to the attendees.

4. Record your session

If you can, consider providing a recording of your webinar session after the event. This can be a great way to make your session accessible to those who were unable to attend or those who want to use it for revision purposes after the event. If you are going to record the session, make sure you let the attendees know they are being recorded and how the recordings will be used.

5. Follow up with a survey

To help you to refine and develop your webinar delivery skills and content, ensure that you invite your attendees to provide feedback on your session. This could be quickly and easily set up using an online survey tool like survey monkey. This provides an opportunity to collect feedback on what the attendees like about the session, what they would improve and how they found the technology you were using. Using the feedback from the survey will help you to establish if you need to add more interaction to your sessions, make them longer or shorter, or refine the content of your delivery.

When you are creating your survey, try to keep it as short and as focused as possible. Keep asking why you want an answer to this question? What are you going to do with the answer? If the response does not add anything or provides informaition you will do nothing with then remove the question. Ensure to check that your survey isn’t accidentally repetitive (many surveys ask the same question to elicit the same answer in a variety of formats). Always put your key questions at the start of the survey, if your participant drops out half way through, you have at least collected the answers to the questions most important to you.

I hope these tips are of some use to you, I’d be interested to hear any of your top webinar tips too.