How to run an effective webinar

With digital events increasing in popularity and being the new normal, webinars offer a safe environment for disseminating knowledge while social distancing, which make them a great communication tool among scholars and higher education institutions.

Webinar Logo with Man Holding Laptop

A webinar is a live, synchronous, interactive, and in real-time online seminar (either free or paid) that lasts 30 minutes to one hour. It has the purpose of teaching/learning and requires viewers to sign up in order to watch it.

They allow you to share your screen, videos, and powerpoint slides; chat with attendees; have virtual rooms for group work, and hold Q&A sessions where viewers can ask questions live. In addition, webinars offer other interactive opportunities, such as surveys and calls to action.

In the higher education setting, a webinar enables communication among professors, lecturers and students, and a group interaction that can happen from anywhere in the world, as presenters or attendees don’t need to be physically in the same classroom. In addition to enabling long-distance learning, webinars can also be used to promote your research, host a conference, and broaden your audience.

Webinars have also been shown to be effective in promoting student learning and are comparable to face-to-face classroom teaching. To run an effective webinar, just follow the steps below. Note that some of these steps won’t apply if your students are the target audience.

  1. Choose a topic: A good topic informs and motivates attendees. If you have a new perspective on your topic or a new version of a conference presentation that will benefit your audience, or if you are discussing a timely news-based issue, the webinar format is a good fit. Just one reminder: make sure your presentation will not have major changes over time. By doing so, not only will you tend to rate higher in a web search, but you also won’t need to worry about updating the content.

  2. Plan your webinar. Focus on the topic, and don’t go off on tangents. Decide how many speakers you will have; choose someone who knows the subject and is comfortable with speaking on camera. Think about whether the webinar will have a panel discussion format, how many people will attend, and how you will carry out your Q&A session.

  3. Choose a webinar platform: choose a platform that best fits your needs. Your choice will depend on the size of your audience, your budget, and recommendations from your institution. Here is a list of some webinar platforms: Adobe Connect, GoToWebinar, Zoom, EasyWebinar, WebinarNinja, Demio, WebinarJam, EverWebinar, ClickMeeting, Zoho, Cisco Webex, BigMarker, On24

  4. Prepare your presentation: Boring is distracting. Avoid webinars that last more than one hour. The ideal length is around 40 minutes. Stay focused, and stand out by making an engaging presentation and providing an enjoyable experience to your audience. Open your presentation with an icebreaker related to your topic. However, remember to keep your speech simple, direct, and to-the-point. Use engaging and fun images in your slides. Polls and handouts can also make a big difference. Finish with the main idea in a way that will make them leave the webinar thinking about what has been said. Once prepared, practice your presentation multiple times.

  5. Promote your webinar: Try to host your webinar from Tuesday to Thursday - those are the days with the highest attendance rate, although since March 2020 Mondays and Fridays are also becoming more popular for webinars. Choose a date and time considering the different time zones. The best time to run a webinar is 2:00 p.m. Eastern time. </p> Start promoting your webinar at least two weeks in advance. Although Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are great days for promoting your event, plan on sending email invites on a Tuesday, which is when you will likely have the highest open rates. </p> Add a webinar section to your website and promote it on social media; create a hashtag for your webinar. Pin the announcement to your Facebook and Twitter accounts - by doing so, this will be the first communication visitors will see from you. Your webinar can also be streamed live on Facebook or YouTube. Also, post the announcement on LinkedIn, which can tremendously increase your visibility. </p> If possible, set up an automatic email to remind people one day to two hours before the webinar goes live. Always keep track of when to promote or host your webinar as trends can change over time.

  6. Use a headset microphone and a landline phone: You need to ensure everyone can clearly hear the presenter. Poor quality audio will destroy any effort to make a high-quality webinar. It is also recommended to use a landline phone just in case your internet connection fails.

  7. Test the webinar and have your laptop fully charged: Run at least one test webinar to make lecturers comfortable with the webinar controls and avoid issues and confusion. A fully charged laptop is a must.

  8. Do everything you practiced: in addition to being prepared, arrive 15 minutes before the scheduled webinar. During your presentation, move around and engage your audience. When things start to get too technical and you feel you are losing the audience, bring it back by simplifying. Make comparisons to daily life and relatable experiences. Remember to finish with the main idea so your audience will leave the webinar thinking about what you just said

  9. Record your webinar and make it available: Record the webinar and then upload it to your website or a video-sharing platform, such as YouTube or Facebook. This will attract the interest of more people and extend your reach.

  10. Follow up with your attendees: check if your attendees have any questions or requests shortly after the webinar. Send a feedback survey to improve future webinars.</p>


Sources:

[1] ClickMeeting. “How To Attract Crowds To Your Webinar: Webinar Manual.” KnowledgeBase Clickmeeting, knowledge.clickmeeting.com/manual/attract-crowds-webinar/.

[2] Gegenfurtner, Andreas, and Christian Ebner. “Webinars in Higher Education and Professional Training: A Meta-Analysis and Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials.” Educational Research Review, Elsevier, 7 Oct. 2019, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1747938X1830561X.

[3] “How to Do a Webinar Your Audience Will Love.” WordStream, www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2014/08/26/how-to-do-a-webinar.

[4] Mayday, Michael. “How COVID-19 Changed Webinars: A Comparison of March 2020 to 2019 Benchmarks: ON24 Blog.” ON24, 28 Apr. 2020, www.on24.com/blog/how-covid-19-is-changing-webinars/.

[5] “Webinar Promotion - The Ultimate Webinar Marketing Guide.” Livestorm, livestorm.co/webinar-promotion/.

[6] Winn, Ross. “Best Webinar Software: Platforms To Teach or Sell In 2020.” Podcast Insights®, 21 May 2020, www.podcastinsights.com/best-webinar-software/.

Published on 09/16/2020

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