How do you affordably and effectively provide basic training or distribute important company information to a large, dispersed, and/or remote workforce? Webinars can help you save costs, reach a wider audience, and retain the opportunity for learners to experience live interactions and collaborations with the instructors and their peers. Webinars have evolved significantly over the years and are now more interactive and engaging than ever. In this blog post, I’ll share best practices and tips for producing successful training webinars gleaned from our 10 years of experience and a recent webinar study.
1. FOLLOW WEBINAR BEST PRACTICES
Wednesdays are the best days to hold webinars, followed by Tuesdays and Thursdays. The best time? Between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. And while the debate about the ideal length of a webinar continues, statistics suggest you keep your webinars under one hour to keep participants engaged and learning.
2. PLAN FOR SUCCESS
The first step in planning a webinar is to have the right webinar technology in place. But with so many vendors to choose from—WebEx, Go to Meeting, Adobe Connect (one of the most popular webinar technologies for training), Anytime Meeting, ON24, Zoom, Join Me, and so on—how do you decide? Above all, be sure to base your selection on your requirements, budget, and timeline. One way to do that is to select five vendors and compare features, benefits, support, costs, etc.
Once the right webinar technology is in place, line up your stakeholders for a pre-planning meeting. Develop a planning timeline with tasks and staff responsibilities for completing those tasks. Set the date of the webinar and work backward. Give yourself enough time for:
- Developing the webinar training content
- Setting up the webinar with the vendor (scheduling the webinar event and registration if applicable)
- Reserving physical space to host the webinar
- Creating the webinar invite
- Promoting the webinar (give yourself at least three weeks)
- Creating webinar registration confirmation e-mail (include Outlook and Google calendar invites for learners to save in their calendars)
- Sending out two reminder e-mails to learners and registrants about the webinar and asking them to download and test the webinar application
- Practicing the webinar (schedule a dry run two days before the webinar event)
The day of the webinar, give yourself 30 minutes to set up and be prepared (think: Murphy’s Law). Set up your computer, start the webinar, begin recording video (if applicable), and connect to the phone line to make sure everything is working properly. Tell your instructor(s) to show up 15–20 minutes before the webinar starts. Provide them, a day or so ahead of time, with a webinar agenda. The agenda should include specific times of what will happen and when so they can stay on track. Don’t forget to press record before you start the webinar! Most people want to record their webinars and share with those who cannot attend.
3. ENGAGE LEARNERS WITH ROBUST WEBINAR FEATURES
Learners need to be active in the learning process when using webinar technology, otherwise you risk them being bored, daydreaming, or multi-tasking, which result in a lost opportunity. Engagement and collaboration features are pretty robust in most webinar programs, so take advantage of these tools. Video has now become one of the most popular tools to use to captivate audiences.
Vision trumps all other senses and shapes our perception of reality. The human brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than it reads text. You can have live streaming video of the instructor in one portion of a webinar screen, while another portion of the screen can be focused on the presentation or a white board. If you don’t have all the audio-visual equipment on hand, you can incorporate relevant premade videos into the training. Just make sure you keep those short and to the point: statistics show that after four minutes of watching a video, audiences tune out.
Another popular tool is polling. Ask learners poll questions to gauge what they are learning, how they will apply new information, or how they feel about the subject. Polls keep learners actively engaged with the question, thinking through the answers, and then tuning in to see whether they are right or wrong or how their responses compare with the group.
Social media is being integrated into more webinars, which makes sense since many people like to use social media to chat about a webinar they were in together. This makes for a convenient forum to keep the discussion of your topic going even after the webinar has ended. It also encourages feedback and provides an efficient avenue for future micro-learning posts that reinforce your webinar.
There are a number of online tools and applications available at little or no cost to make your webinars more interesting and effective. Here are just a few:
- Socrative is a free Web-based application that enables you to set-up quizzes and view real-time results. It also has an engaging “Space Race” activity that allows learners to work independently or in groups to answer quiz questions while tracking their progress against the rest of the group in a competitive race to the finish.
- Padlet allows learners to work together on a problem or express their thoughts on a common topic on an online whiteboard. Padlet works like a blank sheet of paper and users can add any content to it, including text, images, and videos.
- Mind mapping is a frequently used approach for brainstorming, visualizing concepts, solving problems, and improving critical thinking. Coggle is one of a number of free online tools available for collaboratively creating and sharing mind maps. Another of these is Popplet. And mind mapping isn’t just a great way to get a group to work together—it’s also an effective method for organizing a presentation. I’m not endorsing any of these tools, of course, just offering them as examples of the types of tools that are available to make your webinars more interesting and effective.
One final suggestion before we wrap this up. You may have content related to your webinar in a variety of documents or materials (case studies, magazine articles, etc.). Why not offer those for participants to download to allow them to learn more?
Webinars are a rapidly growing format for communicating information to busy, diverse, and geographically dispersed audiences. Whether you are just getting into webinars, or you’ve already had some experience with them, I hope you found something in this blog to help your next webinar be your best yet!
Contact us for more information about our Synchronous Learning/Video Instructor-Led Training.