Effective Communications – the Webinar

La Lecture

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Today we have so many options for communication available to us that provide opportunities that we’ve never seen before. We can expand our workforce, our business relationships, our education, and our communities without thought of geographic boundaries and physical location. Webinars are one method of communicating with remote audiences and of providing education which give us the ability to reach out to and communicate with people from all over the world.

But a colleague of mine from M*Modal, Transcription Services Manager Paula Pasquinelli, and I were talking about the challenges of this particular medium. We talked about how presentations and material that go over great for an in-person audience sometimes fall flat for a webinar audience.

Why is that? Well, let’s face it – when people attend a webinar you probably don’t have their full attention. When sitting in an audience or classroom, we likely wouldn’t be rude enough to pull out a book, watch television, or work while listening to the presenter (though I personally would like to have smart phones checked at the door). A remote audience feels no need worry about manners and courtesy – if they don’t pay attention, who knows? They won’t bother anyone, so who cares?

So I was thinking about some tips for webinar presenters and attendees – and we’d love to hear your tips too!

For attendees:

  1. Pay attention. Treat the webinar as you would an in-person lecture or meeting. Did you pay to attend the webinar? Then think about the dollars you’re throwing away if you multi-task while the webinar is under way. Even if you didn’t pay for the webinar, you have invested a certain amount of time.  Don’t waste that time and risk missing out on useful information by multi-tasking during the session.
  2. Participate. Sometimes it is difficult to stay focused. Help yourself and the presenter by using the tools at hand to provide feedback. Does the webinar medium allow you to “clap” or “smile” electronically?
  3. Communicate. Ask questions and provide comment when asked. Some webinar tools allow attendees to “raise a hand” or to present questions via chat. Have a question? Ask! This will help you to stay focused, will help other attendees because likely someone else has the same question, and will help the presenter to know someone is listening.
  4. Take notes. You’re attending that webinar for some reason – get the most out of it by taking notes and retaining information.
  5. Clear your environment. You wouldn’t play music, talk on the phone, watch television, converse with coworkers during a physical presentation would you? Don’t do it during a webinar either. Try to find a quiet place where you can listen without interruption.

For presenters:

  1. Keep it lively! There is a reason to use a webinar versus print media to present information. If you are simply going to read your content – save everyone the time and write a paper instead.
  2. Engage and include your listeners. Ask questions. Ask opinions. Don’t forget there are people on the other side of that webinar!
  3. Learn to use your tools. Do you have interactive features such as chat, “hand-raising”, “clapping”, available? Take a few minutes to review those features with your audience. Have them practice using them. Remind them to use them during your session. Use those tools to wake up your audience by asking things like, “are you still there? Claps your hands if you’re listening!”
  4. Learn to use tools such as highlighting, underlining, drawing on your presentation to draw attention to important items and to help keep listeners engaged.
  5. Watch for questions and comments. Keep an eye open for raised-hands, questions or comments offered by chat. If you don’t have those types of tools available, stop occasionally and ask if there are questions or comments and allow people time to participate.
  6. In a remote session, I personally don’t like to hold questions til the end since I think an interactive session is much more interesting for the listener. But you must consider the size of your audience. A group of 10 – 20 people works well for a more interactive session. But taking questions during the session for larger groups can eat up too much of your limited time.
  7. BE INTERESTING! Try to use humor, engage your audience, give “pop quizzes”, toss out questions and select someone to respond. Back when I used to do training, I used to give out “virtual chocolate” for correct answers to questions.
  8. If you are conducting a remote training, intersperse exercises and activities with talking. Create exercises, puzzles, a few true/false or multiple choice survey questions. Some webinar tools allow you to ask questions and collect responses online.
  9. Make your presentations colorful. Use graphics instead of lots of text.

10.  Provide the opportunity to ask questions or give comments after the webinar. Give an email address for those who are uncomfortable asking questions during your session.

11.  Ask for comments and suggestions to improve the experience. If you have the tools, provide a survey at the end. Read the comments and suggestions and use them to improve your next webinar.

Does anyone else have tips and suggestions for participating in or giving webinars? Post them here!

Also posted on Excellence in Health Information

All the best,

Lynn

M*Modal

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