Planning and Delivering Webinar Sessions
What is a webinar and how do you go about planning and delivering an effective one, and what are the key differences to web conferencing and webcasts?
Webinars are similar to web conferencing in that they are essentially remote, live, virtual seminars, online conferences, or training web meetings with larger groups. While web conferencing tools are best suited for meetings, webinar technologies are best suited to simulate physical classrooms. Webinars typically involve instructors, an audience and, ideally, a high degree of real-time interaction between each.
Webcasts are often conflated with webinars, however, there are important differences which set them apart. Webcasts can be “web broadcasts,” with one-way video transmissions in which a presenter or instructor presents audiovisual information via a web-based platform live to a very large audience. They can also be a broadcast of pre-recorded webinars via video (for example, an MP4 file) over the internet.
The following table summarises some of the key features of web conferences, webinars, and webcasts.
|Online Activity||Good for:||Synchronous/
|Reach||Degree of Interaction|
||Synchronous||Small groups||Very high|
||Synchronous||Very large, dispersed groups||Variable: Webinars can be highly interactive if planned well. However, many end up being a one-way transmission of information.|
||Asynchronous||Very large and more geographically dispersed audience||Very low|
Hosting your first webinar can be a daunting prospect, even veteran actors can stumble when they need to pull off a live performance. Below are some concise, handy tips to help you produce an effective, engaging webinar from start to finish.
Getting ready for the main event
- Familiarise yourself with webinar tools and technology. This is perhaps, one of the most important considerations when it comes to planning your webinar. Spending hours researching the subject matter and content, as well as sending out invites will be to no avail if you don’t know how to use webinar tools and technologies. Alongside knowing how to use the tools, being comfortable using them will go a long way to providing a slick session when it is showtime.
The chances are if you don’t know how to use screen-casting or recording tools, your students will notice and can quickly become disengaged. Coupled with this, the value of the session can be taken away from the overall learning experience. Take time to research the available tools and figure out which ones suit your needs, then learn as much as possible about their features and functions.
Did you know we have a large selection of bespoke online support guides covering a number of different tools? You could also look for online tutorials, walk-through’s or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for any support requirements.
- Conduct a test run. A test run will ensure that any potential problems or issues can be ironed out in advance and that learning content is accurate. You can ask friends, family or colleagues to log in to the platform and attend a ‘mock’ webinar.
This is an excellent time to ask them for feedback whilst you familiarise yourself with the interface and other controls. Test-runs can relieve a great deal of stress and builds familiarity and confidence for the ‘on-air’ experience.
- Setting up a webinar-ready space. There are few things worse than attending a webinar where the presenter is distracted, or background noise is constantly interrupting the learning experience. Think carefully about location and try out different locations which best suit your needs.
You will also need to make sure your computer is ready for the main event. Close all unnecessary applications and have everything organised in one folder before you go live so that you are not trying to find content in different locations.
- Hashtags and social media links. The opening of the event is a good opportunity to mention the webinar hashtag and social media links. Providing links facilitates opportunities for learners to ask questions and participate in the online discussion.
Hashtags are an excellent way to promote your event and make it easier for people to find and follow the webinar. You can also create an online forum or message board specifically for the online learning event. You will be able to address their questions during the event and provide an immediate response to comments.
- Provide clear instructions. Take the time to walk students through the webinar hosting platform features and interface during the live event, as they may not be familiar with it. Let them know where they can ask or answer questions or provide their responses to polls and surveys.
Also, if they can offer audio questions or commentary, give them clear instructions on how and when they may do so.
- Record the event. You should always record your live webinars to allow attendees the opportunity to reference the recording at a later date. Also, learners who could not attend can still access the information.
Webinars can become an integral part of your course as it can be highly effective in improving engagement and help boost interactivity.
- Further signposting. Don’t forget to ask learners to sign up to any further webinars or events and express your thank for their time and participation.
- Revisit the recording. After you have held your webinar, listen back to the recording to figure out where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Do you need to slow down when you speak? Are there pieces of training content that you forgot to include? Do you need to work on your interactions with the audience?
Is there an additional webinar tool that might make the online training experience even better or more interactive? You can use your notes to improve the webinar the next time around, so that future events run smoother and offer more value to your audience. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from your learners directly via online surveys and questionnaires, or even virtual interviews.
Webinars can draw in new learners and add more value to your courses, however, consider pedagogy carefully. Running a webinar is not as simple as opening the platform and talking. You will quickly lose students if the webinar becomes ‘transmission only’. There is a lot of organisation that needs to happen prior to the event in order to be successful. Make a webinar outline of the sequence of events and who does what; practice sessions before the webinar to ensure that slides and materials work, that audio works, that presenters can hear and be heard; and orient online learners to the webinar platform and webinars in general.
It is easy for students to disengage during webinars, so make sure to keep them engaged through polling, questions, cold calling, discussions, small break-out sessions, and possibly having students run part of the webinar. Unfortunately, many models of online learning have been “talking head” MOOCs or webcasts that focus (literally) on the teacher. The most important thing we can do in teaching via webinars is to constantly focus on how we make this about students and how we can make learning as active as possible.