It’s raining webinars these days.
With people locked up in their homes, organizations are rethinking traditional methods of engagement and brand-building. And webinars have emerged as a brilliant way to do it.
A webinar—a combination of the words web and seminar—is basically a video presentation, discussion, or workshop that people from different locations can join together. If done right, a webinar is a great engagement and educational tool. If done wrong, it could damage your credibility forever.
Over the past two months, Harappa has organized 20 webinars, including a series on the five Harappa habits of Think, Solve, Lead, Communicate, and Collaborate. The response was overwhelming, with more than 10,000 people from more than 500 cities and towns joining our webinars.
Here are some tips on designing high-impact webinars. A great webinar has seven key ingredients—topic, format, outreach, moderation, setting, engagement, and team.
It Begins With Teamwork
Let’s start with the last one first—the team.
Great webinars are the result of seamless execution by a team. They are essentially performances delivered by characters on screen who are guided and controlled by a team of people sitting behind.
You should have the following people in your webinar squad:
1. Content Specialist
4. Tech Manager
5. Visual Strategist
6. Outreach Manager
7. Engagement Manager
The content specialist is responsible for brainstorming and the format of the webinar. They work in tandem with an editor who finalizes what content and how much is necessary for a session.
The moderator leads the webinar, the tech manager handles the logistics of setting up the webinar, managing registration links, onboarding, switching roles and finally launching the webinar. They are often called the host of the webinar.
The visual strategist is responsible for developing the slides and promotional content. They should have good visual judgment of the amount of information on a screen. A great visual strategist will be able to illustrate seemingly complex concepts with the simplest designs. The audience loves to screenshot good slides that they can keep as notes. Make sure your slides are succinct and self-explanatory.
Next is your outreach manager. This team member is responsible for spreading the word about your webinar and driving registrations. They handle email and social media campaigns.
Finally, you have the engagement manager or the person handling the responses from the audience during the webinar. Yes, it takes a village to deliver a stellar webinar.
These team members must be cool-headed, should be able to think on their feet, and be good at clear and concise communication. I emphasize this point because in the runup to the webinar, Murphy’s Law will strike and things will go wrong. There will be confusion and chaos once the webinar goes live. Tech will start acting up, the content will go haywire, and just about anything that can go wrong will go wrong. A calm and agile team will be able to quickly adapt according to the situation without affecting the delivery of the webinar.
Choosing A Topic
Once you have a good team in place, you need to decide the most fundamental aspect of the webinar—the topic. A good topic captures attention. A great topic generates curiosity. But a brilliant topic will evoke interest and make people sign up for the webinar.
Spend some time brainstorming about your webinar. What knowledge gap is it going to fill? What insights will your guests be able to provide that your audience doesn’t know already?
Then, think of a name for your webinar. Get a good copywriter to do it. It should be simple, yet powerful enough to capture people’s attention. Avoid jargon and heavy words. A simple topic will stay with people.
After the topic is finalized, spend some time fine-tuning the format. Depending on the platform, you have different features that allow you to conduct various activities during a webinar. Decide your format in line with these features.
Will it be one long conversation between the moderator and the guest or a panel discussion? Will the guest elaborate on some topics first and then take questions or will it be one long teaching session? Will the guest engage with the audience through the chatbox, a Q&A session, or in-person questions? Conduct trial runs to check if the features work seamlessly. Experiment and tweak accordingly.
Depending on your target audience, find a date and time when they will be most willing to attend your webinar. Most organizations tend to stick to a set time in a week. Make sure your event doesn’t clash with another such webinar in the market.
Build a strategy for all the platforms you’ll use to get registrations—emails, social media, personal invites, and chat-based forwards. It’s advisable to start the outreach at least a week before the webinar date to ensure you get sufficient traction.
Now comes the crucial player—the moderator. A moderator’s job is to bring out the best insights from the guests than show how much they know about the topic. They are the pilots of the webinars and must act as a bridge between the audience and the guests. Moderators must be well-versed with the format and know the point of transitions.
They should conduct enough trials with their webinar team and the guest to know how to run the webinar. Good moderation is all about giving sufficient time to the guest to make their points and be able to bring out multiple perspectives without necessarily biasing the webinar.
Once all of this is in place, then you just practice, practice, practice. Do dry-runs in which the moderator practices their delivery along with slide transitions. This is a sticky wicket where often people struggle between slides. Bad transitions can break the flow and attention of the audience. Decide who will handle the slides and practice with them.
Conduct trials for various possibilities—an audience member asks a difficult question, the guest or the host drops off due to technical issues, either of you become inaudible, or the slide transition goes awry. Anything can go wrong. So be prepared and have backup team members ready to take over if any of you drop off the webinar.
The setting of the guest and moderator’s space matters a lot. Most webinars are done through laptops. Bad lighting, terrible angles, hazy webcam, and distracting elements in the background can reduce the quality of the experience for your audience. Make sure you fix the moderator’s and guest’s place for a great visual appearance. Have some depth behind both and avoid plain walls. Sit in place with good, warm, and soft lighting.
A large chunk of a webinar is often spent in discussion between the moderator and the guests. The audience, during this time, is in receiving mode. After a point, almost everyone gets distracted and starts playing with their phones.
You must provide opportunities for your audience to engage with the guest to increase their interest and participation. Conduct polls, pose questions, ask for a show of hands from your audience to know what they think. You’ll be surprised how enthusiastically the audience is willing to engage and show their knowledge in webinars.
If you are able to hold your audience’s attention once, chances are they will be back. Most webinars last for an hour. That’s a lot of time the audience is devoting to listen to your organization, especially in an age where attention spans are less than that of goldfish. So prepare, practice, and make your webinar count.
Explore topics and skills such as Speaking Skills, Oratory Skills, Verbal Communication, Nonverbal Communication, and Types of Communication from our Harappa Diaries blog section and communicate information effectively.
Nishant is a Senior Specialist, Curriculum at Harappa Education. He is an incoming Fulbright Scholar at Harvard University who nurtures a dream of making world-class higher education and healthcare accessible to everyone in India.
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