The most common questions about webinars

2011

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking on a webinar about "Why Good Presenters Struggle Online and How to Get Over It". In fact, we had over 300 people on the webcast, and so many great questions that we couldn't answer them all.

Here are some of the most thought-provoking questions. You can find another 10 equally intriguing FAQs over at our strategic partner, Communispond's, website.

1. What are tips to keep people from putting you on mute in a training session?BR/> The trick isn't so much to keep them from putting you on mute (do you really want to hear their dog bark or the idiot in the next cubicle?) as it is getting them to participate fully in the session.

Because training, in particular, needs to be interactive and engaging to be effective it's critical that you set groundrules and then enforce them. Make sure all participants understand how you plan to take feedback (chat, raising their hand and unmuting their phone when called on, etc.) and then give them plenty of opportunities throughout the presentation to comment or ask questions.

Here's the thing: many presenters say, "we want this to be interactive" and then limit interaction as much as possible. Model good facilitation skills, call on people you haven't heard from and keep it up throughout the webinar, not just during Q and A.

2. What does a good outline or script look like? BR/> You want to make sure your presentation is tightly constructed and laser focused. At the same time you don't want to write out your presentation word-for-word or you'll wind up reading it and boring (not to mention insulting) your audience.

As a rule, you can create a very effective script/outline by using the "Notes" section of PowerPoint. For each visual, put in your first sentence to introduce the topic, use bullet points and lots of white space to jot down the key points you want to cover (full paragraphs and blocks of text will confuse you and it's hard to find your place). Make a note if you want to ask a question or engage the audience (I put something like "do a check-in question here" there).

Finally, it's a good idea to write the last thing you want to say on that visual, and what you'll say to transition to the next visual.

3. What is the right size for a webinar-type presentation? BR/> There is no hard-and-fast rule, except to say it should be long enough to be worth the trouble of scheduling and logging on (so at least 20 minutes) and no longer than a human being can withstand it while drinking their morning coffee (if you can last longer than 90 minutes, you're a better man than I, Gunga Din).

Taking a half-day program and just presenting it for four hours online is, or should be, against the Geneva Convention. Basically for a marketing webinar or announcement an hour (40 minutes plus a lot of Q and A) is becoming standard. For training shorter modules (under 90 minutes) are proving to be more effective.

You can go longer if you are sure people are engaged and you take biology into account, but you'd better have a darned good reason.

4. Is there a difference between a webinar, a presentation, and training? BR/> The terminology is sketchy, and nobody has completely defined it, but here it goes:

Webinar is a catch-all term for anything presented live online via WebEx, GoToMeeting or some similar platform. It comes from the words Web (as in online) and Seminar (implying lecture or learning).

A Web Presentation is just that- a presentation. It might be a sales demo, an announcement from HR about signing up for benefits , or a large-audience event.

Training is a very specific term. It's interactive and focused on developing new knowledge or skills. True training involves assessment of their current knowledge or skill level, introducing new knowledge, letting them process the information through discussion and questions, practice, and assessment of the new skill to see if they learned anything.

Making 100 people sit for an hour with no interaction or practice is NOT really training. For example, at GreatWebMeetings.com, we limit most of our training classes to 10 participants so that everyone can participate, learn and be engaged, even though you can have a lot more people than that on a session.

In future posts, we'll share other common questions about webinars, web meetings and presenting online effectively. Some are drawn from my book, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations. All are available through our training workshops such as Web Presentation Basics.

Don't forget there are 10 other frequently asked questions about presenting online that came from the webinar audience over at Communispond's website.

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About The Author

Wayne Turmel
Wayne Turmel

Wayne Turmel is a speaker, writer and co-founder of The Remote Leadership Institute. He’s passionate about helping people present, sell and lead people and projects using today’s virtual communication technology. His books include Meet Like You Mean It - a Leader’s Guide to Painless and Productive Virtual Meetings. Wayne is based in Chicago, IL.