Webinars are a great way to engage groups to learn at scale, regardless of their geography. However, it takes a special skillset to ensure that they’re interactive and engaging, which is essential for real learning. Here, Impact facilitators share their top tips for hosting webinars for virtual and blended learning solutions...
- Rigorous, purpose-driven learning design
An intentional learning design, created with the same rigour as you would a face-to-face learning session, will allow you to best address the learning need and add value to the participants’ experience. It needs to truly engage participants, with interactivity specifically designed to meet the webinar’s intended purpose.
- Keep it visually clean and clear
We are competing for brain power when we attempt to listen and read at the same time, so tackle one idea, insight or input at a time, in a variety of ways. Experiment with delivering a virtual experience (VE) that has less than six words per slide, using mostly visuals and questions. Clean visuals can help to echo the facilitator’s verbal message, increasing the likelihood of real learning. Keep things pacey visually, to ensure you keep the participants’ attention.
- Be prepared and rehearse
Make sure you’re comfortable so that the session is as natural as possible. Double-check your location has a reliable internet connection and no background noise or interruptions. Have a plan B so that you can remain calm if something doesn’t go to plan.
Practise to ensure you’re familiar with the tech, platform settings and timing. Can your content be delivered effectively and efficiently to leave essential time for interactivity? There are different skill sets required for virtual and face-to-face facilitation. Ensure that you are practised and confident in delivering virtually.
- Engage people early to attract full attention
Maximise the human capital in your session early and often. Starting with pleasantries is nice and often eases the participant into the virtual experience, however, as a challenge, consider kicking off with a provocative question that’s relevant to the purpose of the session. It’s very easy to get distracted during a virtual experience and therefore capturing the learner’s attention early on may help you to set the stage for the level of engagement you hope to establish.
- Be vulnerable
What you say, and how you say it, are key inputs that others capture and consider as they both consciously and unconsciously decide whether or not to engage and share their perspective. This means you have to set the tone for the level of honesty, disclosure and trust that you hope to establish in the 60–90 minutes that you have.
- Use chat to generate questions and ideas
Conversation is a great, organic way of generating more questions and engaging participants in a lively and constructive discussion. Endorse and refer to the chat panel throughout the webinar.
- Ask individuals for their views directly
If you know the group, stop and ask individuals by name for their take on a statement or issue. This helps to break up your voice and keep participants on their toes.
- Keep it interactive and engaging
Ensure that the design is intended to keep participants involved and engaged with the session, whilst still covering the content in a meaningful and purposeful way. Presenting valuable information is great, but real learning can only happen when everyone can practically apply the information to their own context. Dialogue and activities embed information and provide real takeaways.
Interactions include the chat function, verbal interaction, live-polls, Q&A, and group break-outs. The latter simulates face-to-face paired/group conversations with break-out chat rooms. As a facilitator, you can either let these be private chat-rooms or you can ‘walk through’ each room one by one.
- If participants can’t see your face…
…you need to pay special attention to engaging the audience. Add a photo of yourself near the beginning to allow participants to visualise you throughout the webinar. Make sure you tell participants when you’re intentionally being silent to let them take in models or diagrams.
- Know your close
When you close the webinar, remind participants what happens next. Where can the materials, recording or slides be found online? Will you be sending a follow up email? Is the webinar part of a series, or a pre-cursor to a face-to-face module? Wrap up with a strong call to action.
Read more about Impact's digital learning methods here.