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The Path to Participation: How to create a webinar that encourages engagement

Posted by Simone Nabers on
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webinar questions"People don't pay attention to boring things," says John Medina, author of Brain Rules. Well that seems logical enough, right? So then we can certainly apply this concept to webinar presentations. If you're online, you've got plenty of distractors to begin with - email, work platforms, Facebook...I mean professional blogs, and the list goes on. The question then becomes, how does my presentation drown out the noise. Keeping someone's attention span for fifteen minutues without the internet in the background can be challenging enough!

I've put together a quick list of do's and don'ts for crafting a presentation that evokes participation:

1. DO ask open-ended questions via polling functionality. I call this the pushing vs. polling concept. You must make the shift from pushing information onto your audience to pulling ideas and knowledge in through the interactive tools (pollng) you have at your disposal. This can al give you immediate feedback from participants on topics that are relevant to the presentation to help you steer your next talking point and keep them more engaged.

2. DO NOT assume that your story is interesting. Most of us that have done webinars assume that we've got something interesting to say, and we very well might. And we assume that everything we say will be relevant, and again it might be. But the biggest error we can make is to simply assume we are the reason people showed up to the event. Storytelling is, in fact, a great method of capturing people's attention and carrying them onto the next point, but try this on for size - insert a pre-recorded video clip into your next presentation that further illustrates your story. Maybe its an interview clip from a case study, maybe its a comical blurp from a movie that ties into your message. Give it a try and maybe even throw a poll question in afterward to see if your audience is still engaged. Get creative!

3. DO set up a twitter hashtag for your event & DO encourage people to carry on the conversation. Can't lie - Hubspot has this nailed down. Rather than rewrite the book, take a look at one of their blog posts one how to turn a one-way webinar into a two-way conversation by implementing twitter into the mix of engagement tools.

4. DO NOT be that guy. Oh you know who that guy is - the one that turns the webinar into a re-run of you 4th period history lecture in highschool, everyone slowly nodding off as he spouts off information that answers none of the questions you'll have on the next exam. This rule is pretty logical - its a discussion not a lecture. If you're not solving a problem for your audience you'll lose them in a heartbeat, and you can't understand the problem until you ask. Conversation is key - using chat functionality can be more than just a technical support tool. Reciprocate the questions your audience is feeding you and send them a few to think about during the presentation as well to give you more fodder for discussion as you conduct the webinar. 

Two DO's and two DON'Ts - if you can take these four and begin to apply them to your online presentations I'd say you've got a solid start to determining whether or not your message caters to participation or whether it leans towards disinterest and drop-off.

What do's and don'ts would you add to my list?


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