Most of us have likely been on more than one webinar where we quickly find ourselves multi-tasking and tuning out the webinar. By the time the webinar is over, we may have answered a lot of email messages, but we did not retain one single fact or take-away from the webinar.
The ease of use and relative low cost of hosting make webinars an extremely attractive marketing and training tactic for many companies. But making a webinar effective requires significant planning and effort. When planned and executed according to a strong plan, webinars can be a highly effective tactic (a 2013 study reports that webinars/webcasts are the third most effective marketing tactic, behind in-person events and case studies).
Beyond the content you will be delivering in your webinar, significant planning into how you will engage your attendees is critical. A webinar is not about one-way communication. Engaging your audience at the very start of the webinar makes it evident that input is expected and it focuses attention to the webinar, instead of answering emails or multi-tasking that prohibits real learning and engagement.
There are many techniques and tools available to webinar facilitators to involve your audience in the content and delivery of the webinar.
The three basic tools that facilitators should use in almost any webinar are:
Hand-raising is not an anonymous technique, but can be used for general questions like “who is attending a webinar for the first time?”
Keep the questions general and non-threatening early in the webinar to allow participants to ease into deeper engagement later.
A yes/no response platform may be anonymous and is best utilized as an on-the-spot assessment to check comprehension of concepts. Responses can be tabulated instantly and shown to participants graphically which could yield further or deeper topic discussion.
Responses could also be used by the facilitator to gauge level of understanding.
A quick method to see the environment of the webinar. Smiley faces, sleepy faces, confused faces, etc… can help the facilitator gain a quick feel for how the webinar is progressing and how engaged or enthused the participants are (or not!).
Once you have mastered effectively working hand-raising, polls, and emoticons into your webinars, start to experiment with additional techniques like chats, Q&A time, open-ended questions to the audience, advanced polling, and breakout sessions. Breakout sessions are an essential element of almost every in-person event, and can add a completely different dimension to your webinars too.
Want to know more about webinar engagement techniques, including how to incorporate breakout sessions into a webinar? Download our free Webinar Effectiveness Guide today.