ReadyTalk Hosts Susan Stewart on our Webinar Series
Time and time again people eagerly register for webinars, to only drift off from the live event and leave the webcast wondering if it was really worth their time. Don’t let your audience wander off to check their email, explore other websites or even take a short lunch break nap. Keep your attendees engaged the entire time. ReadyTalk recently featured Guided Meetings’ Director of Online Learning and Collaboration, Susan Stewart, on the webinar series to share her valuable insights on how to create participatory webinars that will keep an audience engaged the entire time.
It is important to first understand Susan’s distinction between “live webcasts” and “participatory webinars”. A live webcast usually features a presenter who talks to the attendees about a particular topic. They result in a one way flow of information and provide attendees with the opportunity to comment and ask questions at the end of the presentation during a Q & A section. On the contrast, a participatory webinar includes a facilitator who both presents on a topic and invites participants to engage in the webinar. The flow of conversation is back and forth, and the learning occurs in a more interactive way. In order to create a participatory webinar, Susan suggests that the facilitator actively involves the participants during the entire duration of the webinar and encourage them to share their ideas.
Hosting a participatory webinar starts the moment you start designing your slide deck. As you gather information, keep your listeners at the forefront of your decision-making. Think about what your audience wants to learn—maybe even ASK your audience what they want to learn. If they learn valuable information that they originally wanted to hear, they will always leave a webinar satisfied. To figure out if your webinar has relevance, it is often useful to meet participants beforehand or include registration questions. If you go into the presentation confident that you have relevant content, you will be able to focus more on participant interaction, which will make it more impactful. Since humans are both powerful and natural learners, creating a participatory webinar does not mean transforming typical classroom activities into an online format. Design your webinars in a way that online learners can explore the content.
That leads us to Susan’s next section–the different ways to design the webinar experientially. Studies have shown that participants' attention and engagement are the greatest during the first 15 minutes of the webinar. This means it is extremely important to grab the attention of participants early, but also keep them engaged and do not let them drift off at the 15-minute mark. Susan recommends using the 10-minute rule—regaining the attention of participants at the nine-minute mark. In order to do this, inject something emotionally relevant every 9-10 minutes. This could include group
discussions about the topic, a relevant video, an activity such as a poll or survey or sharing a relevant story with them. While this is a crucial time-table, Susan explains how you can go even further and actually grab their attention every three-five minutes before they even begin to doze off. You might be thinking, “That’s a lot… I’m not sure I can do that.” However, you can and you should.
There are two types of activities that Susan recommends facilitators do every three – five minutes. First, ask your participants to do something. This can range anywhere from demonstrations, viewing videos or web tours, looking at resources, taking notes or answering polls. Second, create interaction between the facilitator and the participants through sharing examples, collectively brainstorming, asking and answering questions in chat and venturing off on webquests. It is important to remember when constructing the webinar that these activities take a lot of time. A good starting point, is to cut your content in half, add your activities, and then make adjustments from there. When planning the activities, focus on your content and think about how the activities can help you achieve the overall outcome of your webinar. Remember to breakout of habitual thinking and find new ways to work with your platform.
As Susan points out, “Brain Rule #10: Vision trumps all other senses—vision is our primary sense.” Your slide deck matters—if it is boring, your audience will be bored. No question. In order to make visually engaging slides, it is important to understand that people cannot listen to someone talk and read at the same time without missing information. Instead of piling words onto a slide, selectively choose the most important ones, and then thoroughly discuss them during the presentation. While pictures are necessary, they are only effective if they have a purpose. When it successfully serves a purpose, they make powerful statements. They need to further people’s understanding of the concept being discussed. Images also create emotional relevancy and allow participants to develop an emotional connection that will help them remember the content better. Susan advises that you change the visual field every 60 – 90 seconds in order to keep the presentation intriguing and dynamic.
Go beyond creating a webinar that just talks to an audience, and actually include the audience in the presentation. It will develop a deeper learning as well as encourage attentiveness and engagement with the participants. Not only will people stay engaged, but content will also become richer and people will retain more information.
Watch Susan Stewart’s full webinar to learn first hand how to develop a participatory webinar here.
To learn more about Susan Stewart and her company Guided Meetings, click here.