The condition is real, but so are the many solutions that might help keep it at bay.
Given the challenges posed by the pandemic and the difficulty of organizing and implementing face-to-face meetings, conferences, seminars and workshops during the last few months, many of us routinely turn to a fairly simple and cost-effective substitute, the webinar.
However, if this word brings up a Pavlovian reflex that makes you yawn and immediately seek any kind of distraction around your desk in order to keep your multitasking mind better entertained, you are probably not alone.
When you hear the word webinar, are your eyelids getting heavier? Are you feeling like you or your participants might be suffering from over exposure to this human connection digital surrogate?
Well, help’s right here. (And here, too)
One of the reasons webinars have gained so much popularity is the need we all have to keep connecting with other humans. Given the physical limitations the pandemic has brought about, webinars have come up as the next best thing. People like to interact with others in real time, we like to learn from other people, from experts we can see and hear. In absence of a face to face meeting, a synchronous web meeting holds much attraction.
Another reason webinars are so popular is the ease with which they can be set up. However, although implementing a webinar might be somewhat straight-forward, just conducting one might not necessarily be the same as conducting an EFFECTIVE one.
Listen to Stefano Merante, TVET Programme Officer at ITCILO, interviewed on this topic as part of the ITCILO E-Learning Design Podcast Playlist.
One of the best ways to maintain your audience’s interest is by being relevant to them. By
researching your audience’s needs and wants it will be easier for you to earn its willingness to
invest time and attention in what you have to say. Even a pre-webinar questionnaire might
help align your audience’s goals with your own webinar goals.
The more you know about your audience, the more useful information you will have in order to
arrange your content around its key points of interest.
Not only is good, relevant content important, but the manner in which you deliver your key messages is also crucial.
Having quality guest speakers could be a plus, for sure, but just as important is how these speakers are able to relate to the audience, how they are able to engage the audience’s attention.
Being able to have eye-contact is significant, and one of the elements that are at the root of webinar fatigue, since keeping eye-contact through a digital device while trying to process the speaker’s words can be mentally exhausting. This condition is even medically recoginized. Definitely ask your participants to turn their webcams on, but do know that looking at a screen is no substitute for looking at someone’s eyes when having a face to face meeting. For this reason, try to vary the ways in which you reach out to your audience, vary your voice, vary the rhythm of the webinar and take breaks.
Borrow methodologies to connect with your audience, to bring interaction into this digital experience, from face to face training sessions, like jigsaws, world cafes, fishbowls and other participatory tools.
Arrange to have micro-moments, varying the use of different engagement tools like whiteboards, breakout rooms, gamification apps, etcetera. Giving the floor to participants in order to hear their perspective, and not only to respond during a Q&A session, which can get boring, might help them feel more involved.
Breaking the monotony should be a fundamental component of your webinar’s design.
Your technology setup is crucial, of course, as is taking a practice run in order to smooth out any glitches in advance before your audience starts coming in.
Another key element is coordinating your tech and logistical support team, who can help you out with breakout rooms, helping you with the online activities and micro-moments and provide support in case of unexpected malfunctions.
Once we’ve planned, we’ve designed, we’ve prepared and checked and checked and triple-checked, we need to be ready to welcome the unexpected.
Be open to the idea of improvisation and to the notion that things might get out of your control. Once, for example, we had a participant who had his son interrupt him while participating in a webinar discussion. We took the opportunity to welcome the kid into the discussion and this helped make it a positive and memorable moment for most of the audience.
Humor can be a vital component of setting up a positive experience for your participants. We can’t underestimate the benefits of laughing together as a way to build empathy and to nurture a positive mood during the webinar in order to enhance cognitive receptivity. Keeping things light could actually be a useful way to be able to dig deeper into the knowledge you are seeking to transfer.
If you’re hungry for more ideas and techniques to enhance your webinars, join a hands-on online lab on this topic.
The e-Learning Design Lab is launching on May 4, and during the course you will not only have access to the latest methodologies, you’ll also get one-on-one coaching on your own institutional e-Learning project.