Webinars have been a key tool for Agricultural Extension during the COVID pandemic, but in reality they have been around as a tool for decades. Now they have become mainstream, ensuring participants engagement and expectations of them are met, is not necessarily easy. So they need to be well planned and prepared for.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin.
The topic needs to be timely, relevant and show the potential for real value for the participants. It also needs to be suitable to be addressed in a Webinar format.
The timing of the event needs to suit the participants and the presenter(s) needs to be a good fit for the topic, have credibility and be educational, inspiring and motivational in relation to the topic.
Ensure you know your audience so you can best plan for them and pitch to their needs.
The Webinar should aim to deliver the desired value in the shortest period of time.
The presenter can be considered against the following roles for the Webinar:
- Their ability to help attract the participants
- The potential for them to achieve the particular desired outcomes with the participants
- Their ability to ensure the participants stay engaged, entertained and motivated
- Whether they can provide new ideas and perspectives
- Whether they are skilled in using online delivery technology
- Whether they provide a unique opportunity for participants
The webinar also needs to be promoted and be easy to join. Having a registration link means you can gather email addresses and provide further pre Webinar engagement and reminders and also provide follow-up.
Avoid death by powerpoint, slides should support the presentation, not be the presentation. They prompt and back up the key points of the Webinar and provide any supporting data and evidence.
Remember: “”You” are the presentation, not your slides.”
Choose Webinar software you are familiar with and that your audience will be able to use easily. Test the audio and ensure any presenters will be able to be heard clearly. Have a running sheet and run a webinar test at least several days beforehand with presenters. Ensure the location they are going to use has a suitable background, their audio is going to work well and there will not be any distractions for the participants. Ensure presenters are going to present with their camera on, that it is at the right height and they are straight on to the camera.
If they are going to use any video or other forms of technology as part of the Webinar – test it as part of a run through. Have a back up plan for any potential tech failures.
Have at least one person managing the IT, tracking and moderating any chat boxes and monitoring the time against a running sheet. Send out a reminder on the day of the Webinar and open the Webinar up at least 15 minutes early and ensure the presenters login and are ready to go early also.
Have a back up plan for if any presenters go offline. Always record your Webinar.
Plan for how you will follow up and engage with your participants post Webinar.
Modern Webinar software has a number of features that enable webinars to be more participatory and make attendees feel more connected.
Chat boxes – Ask questions of participants and get them to respond in the chat box. Have questions ready for when they login, welcome people in as they come online and use the questions so they are doing something as the Webinar is getting ready to start, this also gets them familiar with using the chat box. You can have them introduce themselves in the chat. Waiting a minute or two can seem like forever when you are waiting for a Webinar to start and getting them to participate early fills that time and also sets a tone and provides useful information to build on during the Webinar.
Polling – You can create single choice or multiple choice polls of the Webinar participants for use during the Webinar and you will be able to show their individual and aggregated responses. You will also be able to download the polls after the Webinar has finished. Polls are a great way to get audience interaction, gather background information, get feedback and to understand their perspectives.
Raising of hands – Some software allows participants to click on a hand icon to raise it so that the moderator or presenter can see that they want to say something or it can be used to respond to a question.
Points of Difference
As people are getting a lot of experience with Webinars, the challenge to engage and keep people engaged is now greater. To stand out from the crowd you will need points of difference. A Webinar is part well planned presentation, part well run online meeting and part “cinematic” experience. It is also an element of Network Literacy. Here are some tips for creating a “point of difference”:
- Have a unique presenter, someone participants will value and wouldn’t easily get assess to normally and who can present well in online environments
- Craft weighty messages, use evocative visuals and deliver a story (with impact)
- Have key interactive elements, consider using the poll, break-out room and chat functionality and consider inserting engaging, educational and motivational short videos
- Have participants take action during the Webinar, that starts them on a learning journey by contributing to action learning cycles
- Plan and cater for different learning styles
- Cinematic principles is a way of telling a story with pictures. It covers things that can contribute to a Webinar event such as lighting, props, camera angles, movement and framing. Consider how you can use these principles to give your Webinar a unique feel and participant experience.