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30 Tips

What makes a good webinar?

Most of us have participated in webinars that didn't live up to the hype. My personal dislike is of webinar applications that offer "training" that is nothing but a sales pitch.  Sales mixed in with training is fine - if you give me useful information and also sell your product, more power to you.  But if you claim to offer training, and the training is nothing but "This is what our product can do," forget it.

Technical issues crop up all the time, but a lot of them can be avoided if you take the time to practice in the webinar application ahead of time.  I've done a lot of webinars, without much in the way of technical glitches.

Here are some suggestions:

Practice, practice, practice!  It's worth spending the time. When webinars go wrong, the damage done to students' attitudes takes a long time to undo.  Most webinar applications/services allow you to log on free to practice.

Set up a separate PC that displays what the students see.  You will know if screens are refreshing correctly, so you don't jump ahead of the users.

If possible, have someone standing by to help you - to monitor chat questions and deal with any unforeseen technical glitches.  Even better, if you're broadcasting to multiple offices, is to have someone in each office to act as what someone called a "border collie" - making sure that everybody is on track and there are no problems.  (Thanks, Carol Gerber, for that great term!)

To chat or not to chat?

The other day I heard someone say that she always shows the "master" screen in a webinar application, whether WebEx, LiveMeeting, GoToMeeting, whatever.  Her reasoning is that there is so much going on, it keeps the audience occupied, so they don't get bored staring at one slide, and find something else to do.  There was a logic to that, but it also means the chat window is there for everyone to see.

To her, that seemed a good idea.  I think it depends on the audience.  If you are teaching people who are concerned with being made to look even a little foolish - young lawyers, for example, or an Asian audience - they may not ask questions in the chat window if their name is revealed to everyone.  If, however, you can announce ahead of time that questions are welcome in Chat, and will be kept confidential, then show only "full screen" mode, they may be more willing to ask questions.

On the other hand, if you are teaching a webinar to, for example, a group of secretaries in one office, they may be comfortable sharing questions - and may even want to show off just a little by asking good questions.

To mute or not to mute?

When do you have the audience mute their phones?  The deciding factor is usually the size of the group.  I've done a webinar for 8 or 9 people, across 3 offices, without muting the phone, because I like to encourage a relaxed atmosphere and interaction.  If you do decide not to mute the phones, you have to lay down the rules - no side conversations, no typing near the phone, and no BlackBerry sitting near the phone that may start vibrating.

If you ask them to mute, encourage them to use the chat, and pause at regular intervals to ask for questions, or to answer any that have come in through the chat window.


Last modified: 04/28/08