Tips for Hosting a Great Webinar

This document is a co-constructed list of tips for designing and facilitating webinars based on the readings/viewings and direct experience of webinars presented in a graduate course (Planning & Facilitating Live Events) I completed in 2018.

Tips for Picking a webinar topic

  1. Not broad, focus in one aspect or two.
  2. Make sure it is interesting and something that others will need and want to learn about.
  3. If working in a group, vote on a top 3 choices so that everyone can have a voice.
  4. Ensure topic is focused with clear, measurable objectives.
  5. Seek out topics that are unique and haven’t been covered extensively.
  6. Pick a topic that is fresh and trendy to get more hits.
  7. Choose a topic you’re confident about your knowledge in, the audience picks up on your confidence level.
  8. Choose a topic that there is a lot of multimedia for which can be shared or embedded easily into the webinar.

Designing the webinar space

(including selecting platform/ technology)

  1. Use a mic or headset, not your computer’s.
  2. Ensure it has all the capabilities you desire for your webinar.
  3. Don’t have too many tabs that make the audience have to click away from the main screen to see. Using multiple software might create this issue.
  4. Consider using a background complimentary to your topic. There is software you can use to replace your background (XSplit VCam, probably something in the adobe suite as well) with a jpeg if you don’t have a hard copy background that works.
  5. Be familiar and comfortable with your platform and its spectrum of capabilities. Use the chat, polling, and other interactive functionalities to improve engagement and to derive important feedback about your discussion.

Logistics (time, size, length)

  1. Most webinars are 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. Should be no longer than 1.5 hours without a break
  3. 1 hour is long, but provide transcripts of recorded time.
  4. 1pm Pacific time = afternoon for U.S., evening for most of Europe, and morning for south pacific.
  5. Choose lunchtime and evenings in your timezone. However, for daytime workers who don’t get more than a 30 minute break, these times are nearly impossible.
  6. Use a poll to ensure that the most people possible view the webinar.
  7. Provide an outline or agenda and use it to keep on track and make sure all topics are addressed in the time allotted and that can be reviewed prior to the meeting.

Marketing to an audience

  1. Reach out several times by email before the webinar is scheduled, and follow up after it has been completed.
  2. Announce the topic and give a link to register tied to your email on LinkedIn.
  3. Send emails to participants (around 5) leading up to the event.
  4. Create social media content to facilitate interest and sign up.
  5. Title the Webinar something exciting.
  6. Collaborate with colleagues and encourage them reach out to their network to sign-up for the webinar.
  7. Use outlook “send response” and/or calendar apps as reminders for attendees.  

Pre-webinar tasks

  1. Prepare materials to send to participants.
  2. Practice a few times ahead of time.
  3. Record practice sessions to prepare for the live session.
  4. Find someone to evaluate your presentation.
  5. Enlist and coordinate with a partner, whether co-presenter or tech guru.
  6. Design slides (using CARP).
  7. Time the slides/presentation.
  8. Check the audio and video at least 5 mins before session.
  9. Make an easy troubleshooting/tips slide to share on screen with participants as they join (before the webinar starts).
  10. Write a script.
  11. Create a “blueprint” that details the flow the presentation is going to take, and create content from that point.
  12. Give participants early access to handouts so that they may develop questions.
  13. Turn off all phones and dogs. Prepare a space that eliminates distractions and “ghost” noises.

Launching the webinar

  1. Launch the webinar session 5-10 minutes ahead of the start time to check audio/mic and welcome participants.
  2. Send reminder email and/or text.
  3. Send that reminder 15 minutes before the start of webinar.
  4. Get help with another facilitator to manage chat while one person presents.  
  5. Have a clock/timer set to keep time.
  6. When switching between applications, open application before sharing screen.
  7. When sharing a video, make sure to share sound also.
  8. If recording, make sure to inform audience prior to pressing record.
  9. Start your webinar with a hook — something that creates intrigue and gives people a reason to stick around.
  10. Have a way to make sure that everyone can hear you (i.e. raise your hand).  
  11. Plan for an engagement activity as early as possible, something as simple as a “where are you from?” or “what about this topic interests you?” Interacting at the beginning of a webinar primes your audience to participate throughout, and reduces psychological barriers that might keep them quiet.
  12. When talking to a global audience, keep cultural references in mind. Limit any jargon or conversational language.
  13. Show a picture of yourself at the beginning of the webinar. You are giving your audience the opportunity to put a face to the voice they will be hearing.
  14. Provide social media handles at the beginning of the webinar. Provides users a way to connect with you.

Engagement activities during webinars

  1. Polls.
  2. Multiple chat pods allow for multiple perspectives and cross-conversation.
  3. Collaboration outside the chat; e.g., Google docs, Padlet or other Web 2.0 tools, at-home kinesthetic activities.
  4. Whiteboard feature.
  5. Use chat features to have the participants engage with each other and content presented.
  6. Raise hand feature.
  7. Create a googledoc where all participants provide answers to questions.
  8. Break for questions throughout the webinar.
  9. Collaborative engagement activities (e.g. shared google doc with resources, live annotation via hypothesis) that can extend the conversation beyond the webinar.
  10. Slide movement every 20-40 seconds to keep the audience interested.
  11. There should be designated times for questions/comments throughout so that they do not all have to wait until the end.
  12. Remember that any activities you incorporate need to be relevant to your topic and your audience – don’t just insert one to check the “engagement” box. Each activity should provide you and/or your audience with new insight that is useful in some way (e.g. helps you tailor to your audience, allows viewers to connect past experiences to what they are learning or to practice a skill, etc.).

Aesthetics of the Webinar

(slides, videos, lighting, etc):

  1. Recording area with good lighting and sound quality. Test lighting(avoid shadows) and sound(check for unwanted background noises).
  2. Sound quality doesn’t just depend on your microphone. For high-quality audio, you should also consider mic placement (how close you are and at what angle), percussive (pop noises caused by breath and certain syllables, which can be eliminated with a pop filter), and the physical space you are recording in (smaller spaces with soft surfaces are best; if you won’t be onscreen, you can also create a sound booth with cloth and a frame.).
  3. Look at CARP when designing slides.
  4. Images and graphics are interesting and relate, sometimes they can be cute and funny depending on the topic.
  5. Limit text, more use of white space, find creative ways to convey the message.
  6. Font is legible and large enough given the format.
  7. Provide a lot of personnel visual throughout the slides. 
  8. Highlight what you want people to look at on the slides. 
  9. Have a back-up script in case something goes haywire using the prepared slides.
  10. Find ways to add movement or animation into slides (transitions count too!).
  11. Use more slides with less information versus less slides with more information to keep webinar moving and audience engaged. 
  12. If you stop speaking (to get a drink of water, wait for poll responses, etc.), tell your audience so they don’t worry that their sound stopped working. Alternatively, look for ways to continue actively engaging with your audience as you wait for poll results, perhaps by reading aloud some of the responses as they come in or making on-topic small talk — your audience is less likely to get distracted and switch their attention away.
  13. Make eye contact with your audience. While it is OK to glance at your screen from time to time, spend most of your time looking at the camera.
  14. Maintain high energy/enthusiasm! If you are an enthusiastic and engaging presenter, your webinar is less likely to come across as boring and lifeless.

Debriefing the webinar/concluding the webinar

  1. Last minute Q&A.
  2. How to review or connect with the hosts.
  3. Mention what to do next / how to move forward.
  4. Give your audience a specific call to action – a concrete thing they can do to implement the material you covered or to continue learning about the topic.
  5. After the webinar, send a follow up email to participants thanking them for their attendance and providing additional information – website, recording, handouts, slide deck, etc.
  6. Thank everyone for joining and offer other webinar opportunities.
  7. Feedback survey with Likert scale responses to gauge quality of content and delivery. Open-ended responses for suggestions for improvement.
  8. An exit-ticket style response form to make sure those who viewed the webinar understood the gist of your presentation.
  9. Make sure that your contact information is readily available. 
  10. Consider providing an end-of-webinar handout that summarizes the material covered, provides your audience with a jumping-off point for further learning, or otherwise acts as a reward/incentive for them to stick around to the end. (And don’t forget to mention it at the start so people know it’s coming!).

Principles of Design

  • Contrast between text and graphics versus the background.
  • Alignment both within each section and across the image.
  • Repetition of elements similar sizes and spacing with emphasis on larger text.
  • Proximity of elements within each quadrant pertaining to the section and elements spaced within neatly.

Example of Bad Design

  • Poor contrast: the light green title text on the yellow background
  • Poor alignment: the elements from left to right are directly touching on the left and spaced on the right. The center is off center. The video embed is smaller than the above elements and not centered.
  • Poor repetition: Most elements are not the same style and do not repeat. Everything is disjointed.
  • Poor proximity: Some elements touching that should be separated. Text on the right is totally separated although part of the same statement.

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