How Can I Present a Better Webinar?

Lynn ZimmermannBy Lynn Zimmerman
Associate Editor
Editor, Teacher Education

A few weeks ago I presented my first webinar, and I have mixed feelings about it. I have participated in them and have felt okay about the experience, but this was not the same. Let me give you the background, and then I am hoping that a bunch of people will jump in and give me fabulous hints and advice about how to do it better next time.

First, the webinar was set up by someone else who was in a different location, and she used Hangouts, which I had never used. I had prepared a PowerPoint with my main talking points, and we uploaded that.

When the webinar began, I could see participant faces and the face of the moderator. I could also see the chat box where participants greeted one another.

When I started my presentation, we put up the PowerPoint, and I literally felt like I was sitting behind a screen talking to an invisible audience. At one point, the moderator said that several people had commented that they couldn’t see the PowerPoint advancing, couldn’t see the comments, etc.

All I could see was my PowerPoint, which appeared to be working just fine.

In response, I started flipping back and forth between the PowerPoint and the Hangouts screen to follow the comments. The longer this went on, the more stressed I got. I ended up hurrying through the rest of the presentation, answered a few questions, and said goodbye.

Those of you have had better experiences in presenting webinars, what advice can you give me? Different platforms? Different presentation models? How could I have made it more interactive? Other tips for conducting an effective webinar? Thanks in advance.

3 Responses

  1. Lynn, I’ve always felt that these real-time web conferencing platforms are technically flawed — even when they’re run by experts. In time, though, I’m sure we’ll have better media. -Jim

  2. Lynn:
    I don’t know the details of your session, and I suspect you may have shorthanded your description, so forgive me, but I’m going to respond at face value. I don’t like Hangouts, though I’ve used it for a variety of things, but each has good and bad. In general, its difficult to present and watch chat.

    I don’t like the sound of your organizer. “At one point, the moderator said that several people had commented that they couldn’t see the PowerPoint advancing, couldn’t see the comments, etc.” As organizer it was their responsibility, especially since they selected Hangouts to fix it, not just tell you. But, the problem might have been user error on their end, if it was only a couple of people. Still, your moderator was not helpful. Don’t take on responsibility for that!

    My bias, supported by feedback on my approach, is to make the webinar more a conversation. So, I start off, if it’s small, by asking for chat responses to what the participants want/why they’re attending. If its bigger, (and your organizer should be able to tell you that from registrations). I’ll make it a multiple choice question and either get hands raised or something similar, again depending on platform. Some platforms have poll tools that make that easy. I may also ask for participant roles, again as chat or multiple choice question so I have a better idea of the audience.

    It sounds like you were just doing a lecture online. (That’s so last century :-).) That’s what a lot of folks are doing and miss the essential elements of interaction webinar platforms can support.

    If you must do a lecture, and you were asked, so the proposer may have framed it as such, build in some stopping points where you can check the chat — as well as hear from the moderator about chat questions if there are a lot. There are moderators and there are moderators. Some are not helpful. But again, this helps to keep it informal.

    Another option is to drop in a poll, survey, or little quiz to break up the presentation, get folks to stop doing their email while watching the webinar, and to give you a break from talking. It also provides a way to transition to a slightly different take on the subject or introduce something new.

    If you can, and are willing, either make the slides available before the session, or make a link to a site like Slideshare where folks can get the slides. It means they can pay more attention to your words, and not try to screen shot, or copy down relevant info.

    Don’t be afraid to tell the organizer how YOU want to organize the webinar. Many of the folks who do that aren’t presenters, and just think lecture online. When I can control the event I will get great comments and have seen organizers change their thinking about how to do a webinar.

    [Soapbox rant follows] Ideally, again, the webinar should be accessible. That means the organizer should have asked, at registration, if there’s anyone with a disability that needs accommodations. You should push, if this is an event/organization funded by US Government grant (e.g. NSF/ED) or if it’s part of an education program from an academic institution. In those cases, the webinar (ideally) should be accessible. Live captioned, signed only if requested, but the slides should be accessible too (search making Powerpoint accessible)

    Hope this is at least a little helpful.

    • Thanks! This definitely gave me some things to think about before – and note I said before – I do the next one. I can see where planning a few things like you suggested would make it more interactive, which is what I prefer. I also will insist on a dry-run the next time I do something like this so I can get a better feel for the platform we are using. Lynn

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