How To Make the Most of Webinars

In the last year I’ve presented dozens of webinars both in Romanian and English and I plan to increase what I’m doing in this area. The webinars were about #enterpreneurship, #startups and #onlinemarketing and especially #socialmediamarketing. Just recently, Harvard Business Review published an article about “Making the Most of Webinars” reconfirming how serious is this method of sharing knowledge worldwide.

“Everyone from for-profit companies like LinkedIn and Procter and Gamble to non-profits like the Red Cross and City Year to professional associations like the American Medical Association and the American Bar Association to publishers like HBR run webinars. These sessions are designed to do everything from teach particular skills or tools to discuss trends in different sectors. And they are aimed at all sorts of audiences, from clients to colleagues.” The article focuses on the fact that the webinars overall can be done much better as they are done today and I think that they question the added value many webinars have for the audience.

The whole article can be found here and the takeaways below:

#Professional associations and others promoting webinars should keep these rules of thumbs in mind when developing webinar content:

#Choose topics carefully. Consult members in the process of selecting topics. Many organizations have their communities vote on topics for possible webinars. In developing this list of possibilities, concentrate on subjects that can be taught through short presentations, not subjects that require long explanations or substantial exchange.

#Focus on training, not analysis. As evidenced by CCIP’s research, webinars seem to work less well when they deal with topics around which there is no consensus, or that require enormous customization to be relevant to all audience members. On the other hand, webinars can be valuable when they focus on training or diffusing objective information on a discrete topic of shared concern and consequence.

#Create opportunities for dialogue. Technology now allows for webinar viewers to submit questions in real time, and skilled moderators can integrate these questions or themes into the discussion. In addition, professional associations can organize smaller regional or interest-based discussion groups to continue discussion after the webinar presenters sign off.

#Allow participants to grow their networks. If presenters and participants circulate their contact information ahead of time or during the course of the webinar, everyone can get more out of the webinar. They can continue the discussion afterward, and presenters and participants can make connections that will be useful in the future, especially on topics that do not lend themselves to webinars.

#Provide incentives for participants to demonstrate their mastery. In cases in which a webinar counts toward professional development requirements, there may be some measure of mastery offered at the end — a short quiz, for example. But this system can be useful in other cases, too. If participants can accumulate points or professional development dollars or achieve recognition based on their performance, they will listen more closely.

And those watching webinars need to hold up their end of the bargain, too. Here are some things participants can do to maximize their webinar experiences:

#Choose webinars carefully. Time is limited and not all webinars are created equal. When selecting which webinars to attend, consider how much value each will provide for particular projects with which you’re involved. Think about your other commitments for the period. Also, consider which professional associations and other groups offer the most compelling content. Consult colleagues about which experiences have been most valuable to them.

#Watch the webinar with a group. A town manager that CCIP interviewed described how she convenes groups of employees to watch webinars. Not only does this practice make employees more likely to attend and pay attention during webinars, but it also signals the importance of the topic and the value that the organization’s leadership places on professional development. Plus, it allows for a more comprehensive discussion of how to customize the content for the organization.

#Take and distribute notes. Taking notes helps participants pay attention. Distributing them to relevant colleagues is not only helpful for those who weren’t able to attend the session, but it also gives the note-taker recognition as someone who has learned and synthesized the material presented during the webinar.

#Use the webinar to network. When presenters and other registrants distribute their contact information, don’t be shy about following up with questions or ideas. It’s perfectly acceptable to use the shared experience of the webinar to present queries on other topics, too. Personal networks are incredibly important for researching and developing innovative new approaches to problems. Webinars can be a means for expanding yours.

#Ask questions. Take advantage of technologies that allow you to ask questions of presenters, following up in an email if your question doesn’t get asked or answered. In addition, talking to colleagues about questions or themes that emerged from the webinar can be an important piece of understanding the information and making it work for your organization.
Of course there is no way completely to avoid the occasional pitfall. Even the most conscientious webinar-attendee will miss one occasionally, failing to make good on his promise to watch the session at a later date. Even professional associations that spend a great deal of time and thought selecting topics and designing curricula will choose a dud of a speaker. Every once in a while the technology simply won’t work. But webinars can be made into much more valuable resources if both sponsors and attendees do more to make the experiences worthwhile ones.”

In some webinars I do for certain clients I use GoToTraining and GoToWebinar because they already have the technology integrated. For my own webinars, I’ve switched to WebinarJam which is a second to none, amazing platform. I will write something in the near future about my experience with Webinar Jam. More details about this platform here.

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