Webinar fatigue is real. It is frustrating to listen to talking heads pontificating from our screens trying to sell us something. The lack of engagement makes you feel small; a faceless participant without a voice.
Doc Searls always wanted to flip the keynote stage, as he felt there were so many interesting voices and experiences in the room, that can’t be heard because of how the room is set up, with him on the big stage and microphones and lights focusing on him.
The cool thing is, during a Webinar, if we put some effort in, we have the ability to tease out these insights from the audience, bring these voices to the front, have them on the video too.
We long for connecting with fellow practitioners around our current challenges. Let’s set our webinars up so that we tab into the insights and experience of our audience and collectively come up with the best solutions.
Here are some tips on how to create such an environment of collective solution development when running your next webinar.
Before the Webinar
- Engage with your community even before announcing the webinar. Let them help you select the next topics and key participants. Ping your community:
- What challenge would you like us to tackle next?
- What are the top 3 questions around that challenge?
- Who has insights into that challenge? Aka who would be great panelists to share their experience during the webinar?
This way, you get already a core audience and folks that are eager to be part of the webinar.
- Once the webinar is posted encourage people to ask questions even before the start of the event!
- Some Webinar platforms like CrowdCast.io allows your audience to post questions directly into the webinar even if it has not started yet. Encourage that! Comments to your webinar event post work too. Just make sure you actually tackle these during your Webinar.
- Add any questions you want to ask the panelists to that public list of questions too. Ideally, your webinar platform allows your audience to upvote the questions they would like to hear about the most. It is OK if your questions are not the ones topping the list.
- Take 1-3 questions from that list and send them to your panelist for a quick take and share that as a teaser for the upcoming event.
At Ecosystem Aces we did that with Ray Wang before the Ecosystem Cloud Summit. Bonus if you can get them to post their answers in video form.
- Start a webinar prep document ahead of time with some comments that you can easily copy-paste into the comment stream like:
- Connect with our panelist <name> on LinkedIn <linkedin link>
- This Webinar will be as good as you make it by commenting, posting questions, voting your favorite questions up, or even be ready to join us on camera [we will ask you before we do].
- Let’s continue our conversations at our <link to thread in your community>.
- In our next webinar we will tackle <topic> with the following experts: <name link> Register here <link>.
- We didn’t get to answer all of your questions but will post them in comments to the event thread. <link to event threat>
These prepped comments will really help you keep the conversation going.
During the Webinar
- Set the stage right at the beginning. Your audience is used to mostly be just a consumer during webinars. You have to strongly encourage your participants to lean forward and embrace all of the interaction possibilities that you are offering: “This Webinar is only as good as you make it!” — Over time, once you have developed a core group of active participants, they will model the behavior and a flurry of activities will develop. If your audience is exhausted after the high signal activities and engagement during your webinar, you have succeeded.
- Give your participants as much freedom as your platform allows to connect with each other as well as drive your webinar. It is a shame, that Zoom Webinar isn’t allowing for participants even to see each other.
- Keep the presentations/slides to a minimum. Max ⅓ of the session should be spent on slides and explanations. Much more powerful to flip this too and answer a question by saying: “Let me jump to this slide that illustrates my answer.”
- Tackle the questions that have been posted. The work done in prep is now paying off. People are joining in part for the interesting questions that have been posted. Make sure you tackle them according to the sorting, even if your questions are not the ones topping the upvote list.
- Engage your early participants from the first minute, you can even open up before the top of the hour. Instead of the dreaded: “We wait just a little longer for people to join us …”, have friendly banter with the people that are already there.
- Where is everyone from?
- How is the weather where you are?
- Which local businesses are thriving in this time of Covid-19?
- What’s your local time?
Give away a coffee voucher to the one who called in from the worst time zone. Anyone calling in between the hours of 9pm to 7am local time is dedicated. Make them quickly come on camera and show that it is dark where they are :-)
- <come up with your own webinar topic relevant banter. Add those to the webinar prep document you created above>
- Bring a participant on camera
- If there is an interesting question, that lends itself to a greater conversation, ping that participant and ask them whether they could join via voice or even better on camera. That really livens up a webinar if you are able to bring in and discuss different perspectives.
- Use topic relevant polls to transition between presenters and to liven up the session. Every third poll can be light-hearted one like: “Which movie will win Best Picture at the Oscars?”. The WorkSpan team is doing a great job with these during their Ecosystem Cloud Summit. Jump to 1:16:58 to watch a recording of it. It is unfortunate that Zoom doesn’t share the polls in the video stream to Facebook.
- Use the last 5 minutes for Wrap-Up and end on time:
- Quick summary and lessons learned,
- Share where to find more information. (one of your prepped comment posts.)
- Thank panelists and everyone for their participation, especially the brave ones that came on camera.
- If you did a quiz at the beginning, reveal the solution and the winner now.
- Announce your next session and encourage them to post questions for it already.
- Ask them to suggest future topics to be tackled.
After the Webinar
- Have the recording available as soon as possible and share it. Use that footage to create a podcast too for easy consumption.
- If there were open questions at the end of your session, which is OK, take the time to quickly answer these in comments in the webinar platform if possible, as well as in the summary post.
- Create a summary post and a follow-up email to the participants and the ones that didn’t make it with a pointer where the conversation continues, and an invitation to the next one as well as ask for new topics suggestions.
- Reach out to the ones that shared interesting solutions and nudge them to post them in your community.
By focusing on bringing out the best solution to a given challenge in your webinar, you will create a much stronger outcome from your session with everyone involved feeling more accomplished. heard, satisfied. Try it out.
Look at your webinar like it is a live performance. How can you entertain, delight, surprise? Can you add some comic relief? For example, add a quiz at the beginning? What’s the favorite snack of the panelists? At the end of the webinar, you reveal what it is and the first one who guessed it right gets a care package with all of those snacks.
With the SAP Mentor webinars, I instituted a musical intro. I just played a quick simple melody right at the beginning. I encouraged other panelists to share their love of making music too and we got some really wonderful precious moments of participants making music.
Here is SAP Mentor Gregor Wolf playing the guitar during an SAP Mentor introduction webinar.
One time I took out all the stops and created a song with lyrics that I recorded with my daughter’s Ukulele in a Wig.
Hope you got inspired to switch the focus of your next Webinar to collectively bring out the best solutions for a given challenge from everyone participating.
Making your webinar more engaging can be the first step in that direction.
Please try out some of these ideas and let me know how they went. I am sure there are many more things we can do. Please share your suggestions in the comments.