Part of my job in managing the Master eLearning Course is to deliver webinars on a weekly basis, sometimes up to 8 to 10 a week. We integrate webinars into the course so students can benefit from synchronous interaction with peers and learning coaches. I’ve been delivering these webinars for a few years now and I’ve definitely got better….because from where I started there was nowhere else but up!
Here are some approaches I use to make the webinar a ‘memorable, meaningful and motivating’ learning experience which also help to avoid drowsiness on the other end of the camera! My webinars usually have a max of about 15 people so some of these approaches may not work for everyone.
Make it Interactive
Keeping attendees engaged with the content and me is important in my sessions. I only have an hour with my students once a week so this time is precious. I need to make it count! I need to make sure that I keep my audience engaged and interacting with me and the content on some level. I do this through asking lots of questions and getting users to answer them verbally or using the chat feature. We also answer polls about certain topics and then reflect on choices that we have made etc. I do a lot of software demonstrations and these can get quite boring so to get around that I give the users control of my desktop and then provide instructions while they navigate or interact with the software.
Add the human element
Webinars can be a strange learning environment for a lot of people. At the start of a session I make sure that I make contact with each attendee, have a quick chat, checking audio and making sure that they are ready to get started. Then we’ll start off with a little warm up activity such as ‘what you can see out your window’, ‘if you were exiled to a desert island, what would you bring etc’. I get attendees to write their answers on the whiteboard. Ice-breakers like these ensure that attendees know how to use webinar tools and it can sometime add a touch of humour or fun to the session. I like to keep my sessions fun, light and informal if I can. We are missing that face to face interaction so I have to compensate for it in other ways. M webcam is always on. It gets a little embarrassing when I get quite animated about what I’m saying as I use my hands to talk! Based on the feedback, the majority of my students really enjoy this type of informal, light approach to the sessions. It also goes back to knowing your audience. I need to build up a relationship with my students over a four month period so these sessions are crucial.
To speak or not to speak that is the question!
Some webinar instructors prefer to be the only one speaking in the session. The webinar sessions I enjoy most are when everyone shares their thoughts, ideas and experiences. If possible I encourage users to keep their microphones un-muted. Just like a classroom session, every webinar session is different and you will have some attendees more willing to chat than others. I try to encourage conversation by creating a safe, comfortable environment and directing questions at individuals to get them involved. My top tip for asking a question in webinars is never ask a question and throw it out to the attendees expecting everyone to answer. Nine times out of ten you will just get silence! We can’t pick up on visual cues such as eye contact in a session so I compensate for this by always directing a question at an individual attendee.
Another top tip is to record your sessions! At the start of each webinar I remind students that the session will be recorded so they can sit back and relax. If users are taking notes they may miss key points or miss certain interactions. We then make the recorded sessions available for students from our LMS. These should be accessible as soon as possible after the webinar is complete.
Finally, preparation and trialling is paramount. When you’re fully prepared and comfortable presenting in this environment then it will be a more enjoyable experience for all involved.