‘Webinars’ [meaning seminars but online, hence the web] have become a hugely popular form of educational content recently, and have paved the way for easy, accessible and often cheap forms of discussion, presentation and debate.
Whilst COVID-19 has forced an inevitable online environment for the way most of us work, function and hold such forms of educational sessions, it is tough to tell what the future holds for webinars and their uses.
Some argue that companies will choose to stick with this virtual way of working meaning webinars will hold a crucial role moving forwards. Others argue that the latter simply cannot replace the classic lecture theatre, classroom or boardroom, and all of the social benefits that these spaces bring.
What is for certain however, is that most of you will have created, taken part in, or listened to an online webinar over recent weeks, which raises numerous questions: Did you find them useful? How engaging were they? How easy was the registration and joining process? Is there another way to host one?
The Confederation of Professional Golf [CPG] have been functioning in a virtual, flexible environment for almost six months now, pre-empting what most people are doing. Here is the CPG’s take on answering these questions, using our own recent experiences.
1. Pick a Platform, Any Platform…
First you need an appropriate platform and there are lots to choose from. Skype has been around for years and something most people are familiar with in some form. Whether that has been speaking to family overseas or catching up with friends from afar, it is a good starting point.
Pros of Skype:
- Hold video chats and make local, domestic, and international calls.
- Conduct both screen and document sharing with large files.
- It has a variety of interactive functions such as white-board, post a poll, and Q&A sessions.
- Free version available, which works well for smaller teams.
- Integrates with Microsoft Teams, which is a useful platform used by a lot of companies already.
Cons of Skype:
- A number of technical issues during calls, such as freezing, connectivity issues etc.
- There is not a large amount of support or help options in such circumstances.
- What if you are using something other than Microsoft Teams?
Overall though Skype is a good option. But how about Zoom? This seems to be a buzzword at the moment, so does it live up to expectations? Or is it merely a shadow of Skype culture?
Pros of Zoom:
- Conduct live video chat.
- Access to various meeting analytics.
- Easily screen-share during a call.
- Use the recording feature to save and document your sessions.
- Hold brainstorming sessions with Zoom’s on-screen whiteboard feature.
- Access in-depth support such as live help, online chat, phone support, FAQs, help articles, and video tutorials.
- Free (up to 100 participants and 40 minute calls).
- A relatively easy registration-creation process.
Cons of Zoom:
- If you host more than 100 participants regularly, you will have to pay (Starts from $14.99 a month…)
- Picture quality is sometimes an issue.
Both are great platforms with some minor hiccups and glitches but overall they do what they say and will be great options for your next online webinar. Think about what you want, factor in your budget and how much support and guidance you want from each service and it should help you make your decision.
2. Identify Your Goals and Structure The Webinar…
This is a relatively straight-froward, self-policing matter. Ask yourself these questions: what is the main point of the webinar – Is it to inform? Create a discussion? Find answers? Provide answers? Will you require a presentation to achieve the answer to these questions? Who’s presenting? How long for?
Once you have done that, you can start to formulate a plan as to how you want the webinar to go. In the recent CPG Masterclass Series – a two-month programme of online webinars – we primarily focused on a presentation model. If we were to answer those questions it would have looked like this:
- Is it to inform? Yes
- Create a discussion? Not primarily, but we can if necessary.
- Find answers? No
- Provide answers? Yes
- Requires a presentation? Yes
- Who’s presenting? External speakers
- How long for? Short bursts of information
Now we have a basis to form our structure. Generally, we followed a presentation-style webinar, whereby the external speaker presented on a certain topic for 20-25 minutes, to provide expertise and knowledge about it and then the listeners could ask questions at the end, and spark a discussion if warranted.
By answering these goals, you can create an effective webinar template.
3. Communicate Clearly…
This is key to delivering an effective, highly-sought after webinar. If your participants do not even know about it, how can they join? Promoting your webinar is therefore important but must be done in the right way.
Think about the channels you use (social media, email, website, blog) and tailor the message to each. Coincidently, we held our own CPG Masterclass Series webinar on just that very premise here. Once you have drafted out some promotional posts (remembering to include the sign-up link in every single one!), get posting.
Then you need to think about the user-registration journey. How do you simplify the process of registering for a webinar? If it is complicated, people just will not join or be interested. Zoom’s registering system is very straightforward – it creates a registration link which takes you to a separate landing page, you fill in a few of your basic details and you receive an automated email to say you have registered along with the timings and access link (the host also receives an email to say they have received a registrant – important data!).
People’s time is precious. Pitch to them what your webinar is about, why it is of use to them and then once you have grabbed their attention ensure they don’t fall at the last registration hurdle.
4. Don’t be Camera Shy, do be Camera Conscious
Once you have completed all of the above and have created a webinar with registered participants, you need to think about how you deliver the actual webinar itself effectively. This is not as complicated as it needs to be, it just needs a little bit of confidence and preparation from you or the presenter beforehand.
Do you stay on camera? Do you turn it off? Personally, we like to stay on camera…the current circumstances have already limited our social contact considerably and whilst Zoom is a good substitute to meet, do you really want to alienate your registrants even further by not showing your face on camera? Its a tricky one but I think your attendees would appreciate seeing who they are listening to.
On a final note if you do choose to go onto camera, ensure you have considered yourself and your surroundings. As we have all seen, there have been some terrible (albeit amusing) examples in the past of meetings being interrupted by children, slightly inappropriate photos in the house or somebody not wearing appropriate office clothing! Whilst you might be at home, preparing the environment you are in appropriately has never been more important.
On a final note, make sure you have as much fun and confidence as possible whilst planning, organising and holding your webinar!