Five Strategies for More Engaging Webinars
One of the most exciting sessions at the 2018 Vision Conference in Scottsdale was full of tips for improving webinar engagement. Grace Hill Director of Sales Operations Christi Dobbins and Account Manager Melissa Feliciano demonstrated techniques for achieving higher participation, energy and information retention during webinars. Here are some of the main strategies they recommend.
Prepare for Learning
Christi and Melissa reminded attendees that webinar participants’ time is valuable. In exchange for their time, webinar participants should gain knowledge they can put into action. The best way to accomplish this is through preparation and practice:
- Prepare a lesson plan (Google “lesson plans” for ideas)
- Plan out your time
- Have a written objective
- Organize your content to support your objective
- Plan and practice activities and engagement exercises. Example note to include to yourself: “Now is a good time to have participants raise their hands to say whether this is something they experience.”
Bonus: these preparations have the added benefit of making it easier for someone else to take over the webinar if you’re unavailable.
Tip: Always have a backup plan and, if possible, a wing person who can help resolve issues while you’re presenting. If the issues simply can’t be resolved, it’s okay to reschedule for a later time when you can provide a better learning environment.
Vary Presentation Format
Most session attendees admitted they tend to use a one-person presentation format for their webinars. Christi and Melissa encouraged attendees to try out other formats to inject energy and avoid monotony:
- Dual presenter – Two presenters offer the benefit of contrasting styles, voices and expertise, allowing you to cover more ground and keep participants more engaged.
- A panel of experts – Use a panel of experts to cover individual content niches. For example, you might have someone address safety and someone else address maintenance. Consider inviting a vendor to cover their special area of expertise.
- Q&A – Give participants an opportunity to ask any questions they might have, for instance with a company leader.
- Interview – In this format, participants observe a facilitator asking questions of someone else. Again, this could be a useful format when you want to involve a company leader.
- Demonstration – Use the webcam to show someone doing something they excel at. This format works well with a separate facilitator who can handle the filming and commentary. It’s a great option when your expert is low energy.
Tip: Try pairing a high-energy presenter with a subject matter expert.
Use Interactive Tools
One reason the session was so exciting is that Christi and Melissa employed a variety of interactive tools to keep attendees interested and to demonstrate the impact these tools can have. As a result, attendees were energetic and quick to contribute feedback. Here are some of the tools they recommend:
- Menti.com – The Mentimeter has lots of fun uses for webinars. Use the word cloud function to crowd-source ideas or the ranking function to find out what’s most important to participants.
- Polling – If your webinar platform has a polling option, this can be a great way to engage participants and assess their priorities. Set polling up ahead of time and then use it anytime you need to pick up low energy or to see if participants want to go a different direction with the content of the webinar.
- Whiteboard – A whiteboard feature can help you gather ideas and engage webinar participants. Use it at the beginning to ask participants what they want to get out of the webinar or use it to send well-wishes to someone for an important day or event. Any notes you take on the whiteboard can be saved so that you can use them later.
Don’t Skip the Q&A
Studies have shown that 92% of webinar participants want and expect live Q&A as part of the webinar. Which is good news, say Christi and Melissa, because Q&A is one of the best engagement tools you can use. Here are some of their suggestions for getting the most out of your Q&A:
- Build Q&A time into your session (10 minutes will usually work).
- Let participants know at the beginning that there will be Q&A so they have time to formulate questions.
- Anticipate what questions will be asked and prepare for them (especially any “elephant in the room” questions).
- Have some staged questions ready to throw in if participants don’t ask questions. Chances are they do want to hear answers but are just shy.
- Even if you plan to take questions at the end of the webinar, don’t require participants to hold questions until the end. Any question is an opportunity to engage your audience, and your objective should be engagement throughout.
Build Toward the Future
Christi and Melissa reminded attendees that engagement shouldn’t end just because the webinar is over. There are always future opportunities for both participants and presenters. Give participants a next step for making progress on the training you’ve delivered. That might be trying out one of the techniques you’ve covered, looking at their current process to see where new techniques might fit or familiarizing themselves with a new software platform or application.
Tip: Use segments of recorded or documented webinar content as teasers or followup to the actual webinar to generate excitement beforehand or to promote continued learning afterward.
Next steps for presenters include assessing the webinar’s success and adapting for the future. Give participants a survey to find out how well the tools you used worked. Try out something new and compare. Keep yourself engaged and your participants will follow!