Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Interactive and engaging webinars- between who and who?

I'm currently using Webex for webinars, unfortunately we discovered (quite late!) that there is a maximum of 7 active microphones, and the first time we had serious problems. Now we found out that we can share the microphones, after people raise their (virtual) hands. Sounds stupid and I feel stupid. You probably think that we should have done a test, but we did a test (with less than 7 people). Apparently nobody realised this maximum of 7. Nevertheless, I don't feel it completely failed because we asked people to use the chat, nevertheless it does feel like a failure for participants. The first webinar probably needs to be technically perfect, might be because of the mistrust they already have for technology? Ironically we had a face-to-face where two people couldn't reach the venue, one stuck in a huge traffic jam, the other in a train which took the wrong track. But that's somehow accepted... Are we more lenient for these obstacles like taffic jam, because we've known them?

Because of the technical obstacles we've not tried out the polling and whiteboard features. So when I saw a free webinar by Gotomeeting on the topic of: 'making your webinar more engaging and interactive' I subscribed immediately. That's what I need to take the next step. The presentor of the webinar was Ken Molay. If you like you can still listen to it here.

A funny discovery was that for me interaction is about interaction between the participants. But in this case interaction was apparently between the presentor and indivividual participants. I had no clue about the number of fellow participants and could not read their replies in the chat. It sounded so smooth that I even thought I was listening to a tape and did not have any fellow participants :). But when I typed this question I got an immediate reply! So it was not a tape.

The webinar started with the observation that webinar participants are prone to start multitasking: check mails, water the plants etc. According to Ken Molay this is hard to avoid. You rather focus on winning their attention back. A few tips to win attention:

  • Talk to participants, use names (get names from the chat)
  • Start immediately with the topic of your webinar and action, that's why people are joining the webinar
  • Don't use introduction slides about your company- too boring!
  • Use pictures and images
  • Tell a story instead of a lot of facts and figures
  • Challenge participants: what did you hear? What did you see?
  • Go 'over the top' with your voice - it may not sound normal in a face-to-face conversations (this probably made me think it was a recorded tape I was listening to!)
  • Use short polls to ask people's opinions
  • Use an invisible behind the scenes team that helps you scanning the chat for questions etc.
  • Make sure participants have to use their keyboard and become pro-active

Though many tips seems kind of obvious, I thought the talk 'over the top' was very original and I would like to try this. Polls are also a good tip and should be part of your design, especially with large-scale groups.

I asked a question about use of webcams in webinars. I have different experiences, showing myself, seeing everybody, without webcam. It is usually quite distracting. Ken Molay felt it depends. When you use your webcam you have to make sure the lighting is good, that you are not looking at your notes constantly etc. So these are important extra things to pay attention to when you use a webcam as presentor during a webinar.

Tip from me, maybe they should investigate: "How to facilitate interaction between participants in a webinar" I'm convinced it is powerful to create an exchange between participants and use their ideas and experiences too.

1 comment:

Bonnie Koenig said...

Joitske - This is an excellent set of 'tips' for presenting webinars - thank you for sharing. I very much agree with your suggestion towards the end that there is a need for the technology and process for engaging participants together virtually. I think it's coming, although we're not quite there yet!