In this blog, we talk a lot about how to make virtual training effective, and how to utilize collaboration tools to create engagement in virtual classrooms. Virtual training is my particular passion, and I have been fighting the use of the word 'webinar' for years.
I am willing to admit I've lost the battle to remove 'webinar' from the vocabulary of corporate Learning & Development, but I will continue to argue that there is a difference between collaborative training and presentational webinars.
Presentations, as part of a larger instructional strategy, are important and valued. The problem is we often call them "TRAINING" when they are in fact NOT training. Presentations aren't meant to train, and we should take pains to position them correctly.
What is a Webinar Presentation?
The goal for a presentation is to build energy and disseminate information about a new product, tool, or corporate strategy, not to train new skills and provide opportunities for practice. Often, the audiences for these types of programs include clients, prospects, and investors. These sessions are tightly organized and carefully rehearsed, and less than 60 minutes in length.
10 Best Practices for Webinar Presentation Design
- Make sure the objectives for the webinar are presentation oriented, keeping to the knowledge and understanding domains in Bloom's Digital Taxonomy. Let's face it, it is difficult to teach people to "create" a project plan or "manage" a new product launch in less than an hour; but we can easily promote interest, share key features and benefits, and demonstrate new tools or products.
- Keep up the level of excitement by showing dramatic new features and benefits. Repeatedly address the “what’s in it for me?” factor. Interactive activities may seem to slow the flow of information, but you must nevertheless keep participants engaged with visuals, activities, and with your voice.
- Teach participants how to use the basic communication tools like hand-raising, whiteboards, and chat. Then, start the session with an interactive activity that demonstrates how participants are expected to participate and contribute. No matter the audience size, interaction is crucial.
- Don't keep all Q&A until the end of the session. Your audience will be much more interested in their NEXT meeting at that point. Also, planting seed questions among participants or with the producer is a great way to kick start conversations.
- Generate poll questions that support and reinforce the reason the audience is attending. For example, if your topic is focused on software to generate sales leads, polls could ask questions like: "What percentage increase are you looking for? How are you generating leads now? What problems are you experiencing with your current methods?" The answers to these polls will allow you to customize your presentation a bit (as long as you can stay on schedule!)
- 60 minutes is not a lot of time, so limit the presentation to one or two key points. Create a strong “what’s in it for me?” statement at the beginning and then come back to that statement at the end. Your actual presentation should reinforce this message.
- Keep up the level of excitement by showing dramatic new features and benefits. Repeatedly address the “what’s in it for me?” factor. You must keep participants engaged with visuals and audio because the majority of the information will flow one way (to the participant).
- Can you create a demo? Allow for a bit of practice? Kick up your presentation with a short (3 minute) impactful demonstration or video of what the product can do, followed by a 5 minute exercise that includes tools like application sharing with as many as 5 people working 'hands on'. This needs to be very proscribed so you don't go over time.
- Rather than sending out slides, support your presentation with job aids that detail new processes or explain the new product in detail. This will provide a take-away that is just as valuable as the live program and provides value long after the session is complete.
- The final slide should include contact information and/or sales information. It should ask the participant to do something (a call to action, an invitation to practice, etc.) and tell them how to accomplish that task.
Preparation for Webinar Delivery
Don't assume that just because this is a short program preparation isn't necessary. Preparation for webinars is crucial and may take several weeks for rehearsals, slide revisions, scripting and creating "seed questions" before the first is delivered. (Seed questions are 2-5 discussion starters or questions about the product/service that the speaker has prepared for you. This gets Q&A started and encourages other participants to ask their own questions.)
Be sure that you conduct at least one “dress” rehearsal using all of the slides and tools that will be used on the day of the presentation.
What’s in it for me?
How do you hook them right up front? Assure them that their time is well-spent. Here's what your agenda might look like for a marketing presentation or webinar. Fill in the blanks with your own terms:
During this session you will hear from ________.
You will have the opportunity to ask questions about ________.
You will discover where to get more information about ________.
During this session you will see a demonstration of ________.
A webinar doesn't need to be boring, or an opportunity for your participants to catch up on email. Purposeful design will make the time investment valuable for all involved.
For examples of engaging webinars, check out our Virtually There recordings by clicking here.
If you're interested in upcoming complimentary Virtually There sessions, click on the graphic below for our complete calendar of upcoming sessions.