So, how are all those online meetings working out for you?
If you have found yourself on the receiving end of webinars, you've most likely experienced the full gamut of the user experience. They can range from confusing and boring to super interactive and engaging.
But from the other side, you also likely know how beneficial they are to give. Facilitating a webinar is a terrific marketing tool. You can test new offerings and business ideas that give greater value to your clients. The platform keeps you connected to existing and potential clients in dynamic ways. It also doesn't just benefit you, as I've found that when I collaborate with another company, we each achieve some great co-marketing goals and we learn a lot along the way.
But offering an engaging webinar that exceeds expectations is more than a notion. In addition to having great content, here are some strategies that I employ which you may also find useful.
Set the Tone
I like my webinars to be interactive, so I start with rules of engagement. For example, some of my rules include "suspend judgement" and "quantity over quality." I like to ask attendees to go outside their comfort zone and ideate. I also invite attendees to share their own rules. It helps people to feel engaged from the start.
I think Sunni Brown, author of The Doodle Revolution: Unlock the Power to Think Differently, uses really great opener questions. Some of those include, "What's your state of mind?", "What interests you about this group?", and "What's one of your micro-joys during the quarantine?"
It is also helpful to share a simple agenda right at the start. It keeps you on track and it gives your attendees a sense of where the plane is going to land. That marks a tone of inclusion and transparency.
Using minimal bells and whistles is totally OK. For example, I have led a three-hour design-thinking workshop and asked attendees to only use paper and a marker to interact with my talk.
Yes, there are cool tools on Zoom, such as the whiteboard, and you could migrate over to other apps, like Mural or Miro. However, depending on how much time you have, the learning curve to get your attendees comfortable with those tools could clash with your objectives and their experience.
Another example of low-tech is not using any slides, or constraining yourself to just one slide. Focus on the conversation and topics instead.
Silence Is Not Awkward
We are used to filling every void and space with activity and sound. That's not necessary, especially on a webinar. I like to use a pedagogical technique called "think-pair-share." I share a question prompt and then give attendees 60 seconds to brainstorm their answer to the question in silence, by themselves. Then they share responses in smaller breakout groups and later to the large group, when we reconvene altogether on one screen. The silence does wonders for helping people to digest the information in their own minds.
Make Time for Connection
These webinars are not about you. They are about making time for your attendees to gain new perspective and information to broaden their own knowledge pool. Optimize smaller breakout sessions. Zoom's breakout room function in the meeting mode is wonderful for enabling attendees to connect with one another, meet someone new, and digest your talking points with each other.
Also, be sure to intersperse your content with questions for the audience. Whenever I err on the side of more time for attendees to connect, the feedback is spectacular. In times of isolation, opportunity for interpersonal connection is prime real estate.
Time Limits Are Your Friend
Absolutely use time limits. In my book The Creativity Leap, I wrote that "time is a constraint for creativity." Your attendees will be amazed at how much they can accomplish in short amounts of time: 30 seconds, one minute, 90 seconds. In strategic design, we are used to working in "sprints" because of the principle that often a lot gets done in the bottleneck pressure points of a project.
In an hour-long webinar, plan content for 45 minutes. You may not start exactly on time, there may be technical difficulties, and you want to leave at least 15 minutes for additional questions. If your webinar extends beyond 45 minutes, do design in pauses and micro-breaks. People need time to step away so that they come back refreshed.