Are you doing webinars? Here are advice on how to get a good start (and ethical tools to use). Many still feel uncomfortable with organizing webinars and prefer physical events. And agreed, there are things you cannot do in a webinar – e.g. it is more difficult to network with new people, but not impossible. With preparation and planning webinars can be a good experience for both host and guests.
BEFORE THE WEBINAR
1. Why are you holding a webinar instead of meeting? It can be because of travel bands and meetings as a result of CoVid-19 but it can also be motivated by a wish to minimise time on the road, travel expenses and CO2, while at the same time being more convenient for the participants to be at home, in the office or someplace else. Point out the advantages in the digital meeting and make it a good experience for all.
2. Be well-prepared for the online event, just as you would with a physical event. Send out agendas and descriptions of the presentations and the speakers. Should the participants do something before the event? E.g. fill out a questionnaire with their interest for the speakers to use in their presentation.
3. Which digital platform should you use? Many are familiar with Skype and Zoom, but consider these privacy-focused alternatives: whereby.com, meet.jit.si (Thanks to Pernille Tranberg for these alternatives) pexip.com, bluejeans.com or Adobe Connect, which also works well on the phone and is worth considering since more and more prefer to watch webinars on their phone.
4. Test the sound and the internet connection in advance before the webinar. Avoid background noises. Possibly make a rehearsal if it is the first time you are doing a webinar.
5. Make it possible for the participants to meet each other digitally – e.g. by encourage them to use a specific hashtag doing or under the event or do a LinkedIn-group for the participants and so on.
6. Consider having a limited number of participants just like at a physical event. It has several advantages. For instance, it creates a feeling of exclusivity which will make it more attractive for people to participate. Also, it will make it easier for both you and the participants to conduct the webinar if there are fewer participants. You decide your maximum, whether it is 20, 50 or 200, it is up to you and the platform you chose to use.
DOING THE WEBINAR
7. Make the webinar interactive – use votes, round of reflections and Q&A on the chat during the webinar. Make sure to involve the participants on the other side of the screen.
8. Make short presentations. A full hour with just one speaker will feel like a long webinar. Maybe 20 min + questions could do it? You can also divide the presentation in two; the first 30 minutes for those who only want the introduction while the dedicated participants can choose the full hour.
9. For webinar speakers: I prefer to see the speaker and not just slides. Smile, engage, be enthusiastic and laugh of your own jokes (an advice from Anne Skare). Create a good atmosphere – even if a webinar does not give you the same physical responses. Invite dialog and comments or finish by making a Q&A on the chat.
AFTER THE WEBINAR
10. Make sure to send extra material – like video and articles for the participants. Make evaluations; what went well? What to improve next time?
And remember that with webinars like so many other things – practice makes perfect. Even though it might not go perfect the first time. The above-mentioned advice is for webinars. Much of the advice can also be used to conduct a digital meeting. In a digital meeting you need to focus on facilitating a good dialog between the participants – this can be done by having a chair person and a well-defined agenda and a time schedule for the meeting. It is also possible to use speaking in rounds, this way you make sure all are invited to express their opinion.