Making the Most of Your Webinar
Webinars are an excellent channel for disseminating information to the extensive science community. Because you only get one take when producing a live webinar, it is important to get everything right the first time. Audiences can tell when speakers and hosts are ill-prepared, so plan ahead!
Follow these guidelines for a well-planned and engaging webinar:
Audience Interaction: Of course, a highly-regarded speaker is one of the most important aspects of a successful webinar. Inviting someone who is dynamic and tells a good story is the first step. In order to take the webinar from good to great, there must be a high level of interaction with the audience. Having the speaker ask the audience questions, run polls, and include puzzles in a lecture engages the audience in a new way instead of just listening to someone speak on a screen.
Supporting material: Most people come to a webinar to learn about something they are interested in. It is great to listen to an expert talk about a topic. However, the audience appreciates having something to take home as well. Including supporting materials in a webinar, such as a PDF of the slide deck, extra information or data sheets about a product or technology, or protocols for a novel experimental technique can help the audience feel like their attendance was worth their time.
Time for questions: Always leave time at the end of a webinar for questions. Most webinars have a set time frame that they are subject to. Vital to an effective webinar is ensuring the audience walks away feeling like they understood everything discussed. Answering their questions at the end of the talk is an important part of that. Plan ahead to give time for the speaker to answer audience questions. This is another avenue of audience engagement as well.
Social media: Social media has become an integral aspect of most people’s daily lives. Why not bring that into a webinar? This is yet again an additional engagement opportunity for the audience, and even allows them to emphasize important points in a talk, ask questions, and interact with other audience members. And as long as you create a talk title that is easily searchable on the web, it can create its own social media buzz about the webinar topic. Social media, such as hashtags used for early promotion, extra images that peak a person’s interest in the topic, or twitter scrolls, can create a more intimate feel to a worldwide broadcasted webinar.
Effective follow up: Once a webinar is complete and everything has gone according to plan, it is a success! Right? Wrong. Following up with audience members who have asked for more information, would like to collaborate, or who have additional questions is a critical part of a successful webinar. Webinars have become an excellent supplement for in-person talks, where hosts can reach a larger audience at one time without travelling. However, a big part of in-person talks is the discussions that are initiated after the talk is finished. Hosts can recreate this within the webinar setting by following up with audience members who ask for it, all according to LabRoots Best Practices.