Facilitating and collaborating in a virtual world is difficult. Be it a conference, meeting or a webinar, the one-way nature of online events seems to make them appear pushy and less interesting. The biggest concern is holding the interest of attendees and draw participation.
Because the use of webinars, online workshops and conferences has extended in organizations, it’s important to look at the design and content of webinars and the ways and technology used to deliver them. Most webinars seem to be pushing attendees to stay involved, which, of course, is not effective. Instead, the focus should be on pulling participation from attendees. Create opportunities for them to collaborate, discuss and contribute.
To do so, however, you need a different approach. By designing webinars that draw on the collaborative wisdom of participants, you can actually ensure the success of your marketing and training and development initiatives.
Here are 7 tips to design interactive webinars that you may find useful:
1. Define learning objectives
First things first. Revisit the objectives. Those defined for face-to-face workshops might not work here in online setting. The means of interaction and ways to deliver information would be different. And this is why the learning objectives and their importance have to be redefined.
However, it’s not always easy to redefine objectives. It means a shift from what you used to teach. Still, employees must learn new things compared to what they would have needed to know in the past. As such, your objective for what and how to teach them will change. Keep these in mind when working on learning objectives:
- Determine what attendees really need to know.
- Focus on how your attendees will accept information.
- Consider specific ways to provide that information.
- Adjust what attendees will learn from your webinar.
- Use webinar software to help you set goals and create interactive opportunities.
2. Look into the pre-webinar and post-session content
When you provide interactive webinars, there is more to the issue than just the webinar itself. Educational materials offered before and after the session must also be worthwhile.
People who attend these webinars need to know what they are going to be taught when they attend. Then, they need to have opportunities after the session to find out more about what they’ve learned. They can ask questions and get additional information. If you don’t look into what you’re offering before and after the webinar, you’re missing out on important opportunities – and so are attendees. Consider:
- The length of the pre-webinar and post-session content.
- Whether the content will be capable of holding attendees’ interest.
- What can be changed to make content easier to digest.
- Whether the content explains the webinar properly.
3. Check if you’ve used both synchronous and asynchronous learning methods
Just one learning method often isn’t enough to really give your attendees the information they need. Some people simply learn differently than others. By presenting your webinar in only one way, you miss the people who learn differently.
They do not get the knowledge they should have. Also, they might not see the value of what you’re trying to teach them. Because of that, they will struggle with tasks that they should have mastered. It is hard to learn something without seeing the importance of the information. Of course, a live webinar focuses on synchronous learning; however, recording the session and emailing the handouts will allow them to learn at their own convenience. Not providing both synchronous and asynchronous learning methods can mean:
- A lack of imparted knowledge.
- Frustrated learners.
- Employees who don’t follow instructions or handle tasks properly.
- Employers who feel employees don’t care.
- Wasted time on a webinar that was unsuccessful.
4. Create pre-work opportunities for participants
Participants in an interactive webinar must be able to consider what they are being taught in context. If they fail to understand all that they need to learn, and why they need to learn it, your webinar will not be a success.
Your webinar actually starts days before the D-day. You need to maintain frequent communication on regular basis to stimulate the interests of participants. Offering pre-work opportunities to participants will create more ways for them to gain knowledge and more chances for them to learn what they need. Scheduling options matter, since not everyone can view and work with the webinar at the same time. By offering pre-work opportunities, you can:
- Give employees options they can work with.
- Show employees that you value them and what they can bring to the company.
- Allow employees to get assistance if they need it.
- Make sure employees have ample opportunities to get involved.
- Avoid or eliminate employee excused based on time and scheduling.
- Help employees better understand the context of the webinar.
5. Include group activities
A proper interactive webinar is focused on what people can learn from the context of it, but also on what they can learn from each other.
By incorporating group activities, such as discussions, group hands-on activities into an interactive webinar experience, more inclusive learning opportunities can be created. Group activities can include role playing, worksheets, presentations, papers or essays, and trust building and team building exercises.
6. Define the role of moderator/facilitator
A moderator or facilitator is not there for hand-holding. Rather they control the flow of information, moderate the discussions and drive events in the right direction. That’s important to note, since a webinar that’s designed to be interactive really can’t be if there’s no one to interact with who appears to be in charge.
Additionally, a moderator/facilitator can ensure that the webinar is operating smoothly, and that the technology required to run it is working correctly. With a moderator/facilitator who has a clearly defined role, you get:
- Someone to whom attendees can address their questions.
- An individual who will keep the webinar moving.
- A focal point to keep attendees interested.
- Assistance if there are problems with technology or context.
7. Choose a collaborative learning tool instead of just a web conferencing tool
Many webinars are operated with web conferencing tools, but a collaborative learning tool is a much better choice. With this kind of tool, you can allow your attendees to actually interact with each other. They can collaborate on projects assigned by the moderator and working on group projects together. They can also get help in real time, instead of being required to wait until later.
By following the tips to design interactive webinars, your company can be sure attendees learn what they need to know properly. Not only does that help your employees perform their jobs more easily, but it keeps your entire company moving forward.