I’ve sat in on a bunch of webinars lately, generally they get some slides on the screen and conduct a kind of interview. User interaction is tpically limited to the occasional poll or the ability to ask a question using the chat window. I don’t ever find these overly useful, sometimes you get some good tips and tid-bits that prove to be helpful, but they never really hit the mark as a learning experiance.
So yesterday I had my first chance to run a webinar of my own. Admitedly it was only with 6 participants and they were all staff but it was nice to try the technology out, and see if I could go close to making a webinar as good as a training session.
In short, it wasn’t as good. But it wasn’t too bad either. There are a few things that I reckon are worth keeping in mind if you are about in embark upon training via webainar.
Open the webinar client 1.5 – 2hrs before the session, just leave it open. We use Elluminate internally which I used last week so I was pretty confident that it would open straight away. It turns out I used Elluminate 9 last week and I was using Elluminate 8 yesterday. Elluminate 9 is installed on the PC and works fine but Elluminate 8 wouldn’t work. That meant 20 mins before the session I was forced to change computers and use my 12″ iBook that has a broken VGA out port. In the end it worked ok and I was very glad I logged in a long way ahead of the start of the session.
Have two screens, it might be that I don’t know how to use the tool properly but it is really helpful to have one screen showing what you are sharing (PPT, Applications etc) and one screen for you notes and the ‘preview’ window that shows you what the participants can see. This is vital for two reasons, it means you don’t ask “can you see x” every five mins it also will alert you if your connection drops (as mine did a couple of times).
Run through your session a couple of times to make sure it flows and you know what you are jumping to next. The rules here are the same as face to face training. Think ‘the 5 P’s’ – Perfect Preperation Prevents Pretty (there is another word that can fit in there but we shouldn’t use it in polite company! :-)) Poor Performance.
Use the tool A LOT before you run your first real session, know what every button on the screen does. It will make running the session much simpler.
Be interactive, (I didn’t do a good job of this one) conducting a poll at the beginning of the session is not being interactive, unless the speaker is incredibly compelling people will tune out.
There are too many distractions, people will have your webinar open in one window, then in others have a combination of email, twitter, facebook, RSS reader, their favourite news paper, YouTube a, a half written report etc. You are competing against all of that stuff for their attention so don’t ever think that your dulcet tones and your funky powerpoint will be enough to keep them focused.
Finally if you don’t have too many people, encourage questions. If a participant misses something and feels they can’t ask a question they are far more likely to close the window and give up.
Many of the techniques used in running successful face to face training sessions can be applied in a webinar, the difference is getting it right much more important. There are very few people that will get up and walk out in the middle of a face to face session but if you’re online people will close the window.