Covid-19 has forced teams to revolutionize how we connect, resulting in a surge of virtual events and webinars. How many webinars have you attended over the past few months? How many wowed you and are memorable?
Zoom has made virtual meetings accessible, making running webinars incredibly user friendly. But months after online meetings and webinars have surged, we’re seeing the same mistakes over and over again! A speaker can’t connect, screen sharing isn’t working, a moderator is overwhelmed, the participant chat is boring, or the content only lives within in the 60-minute live streaming of the webinar. Just because a platform is user friendly, doesn’t mean that the production doesn’t need more thought and manpower.
Planning an in-person event doesn’t stop after you find a venue, and producing a webinar shouldn't end after you select your platform.
It’s true that some aspects of in-person events can’t be matched in a virtual space. But there are many opportunities to engage audiences and expand the impact of your event when you go virtual. But to be successful, you have to apply an event-production mindset to your virtual webinar.
A good production always starts with a stellar plan! Even for a one-hour webinar, planning is the most important step.
Define your audience
Select the right online platform
Set expectations for hosts, speakers and participants
Prepare a communications and promotion plan and content
Create a run of show and share it with all involved parties
Prepare a registration page for the webinar, if needed
2. ASSIGN ROLES FOR DAY-OF PRODUCTION
Although online meeting software makes it very easy for one person to run all the activities of a webinar from a single console, don't fall into that temptation. Playing a one-man-band during your webinar will produce lower quality results for the participants and speakers. Instead, assign the following roles to different team members, scaling the number of people per team based on need and webinar size:
Usually defined as a webinar host, this person or team will take care of all the technical logistics of the webinar. This person will be controlling speakers and participants access to microphone and camera, recording the session, activating polls and sharing their results, broadcasting live streams, managing screen sharing, etc. Most software allows for co-hosting, allowing webinar producers to have multiple people manage these aspects, which can help delegate tasks across a team.
Audience engagement coordinator:
Manage the crowd to ensure engagement throughout the session. When hundreds of participants attend a webinar, this can be a full-time activity. This person should be answering concerns over the chat box, sharing relevant links and resources, filtering answers on the Q&A area by answering those very simple ones, allowing the speakers to respond to the highest quality questions submitted. If the webinar is being live streamed, the followers on those platforms should also be managed and considered, including relaying any important questions to the speakers. Additionally, this person or team should be grabbing and pushing out valuable content and quotable moments live on social media to expand the reach of the conversation and content at hand.
Host or moderator:
Instead of controlling the logistics of the webinar, the host will do what they're meant to: introduce speakers, frame the conversation and manage the dialogue. It's important to ensure the conversation remains relevant on on topic, while ensuring balance. Depending on the format, you may designate a second person moderate audience Q&A, in order to allow the primary moderator to be present during the conversation, while another can review questions, typing answers and bringing the best questions to the speakers. Excellent moderators encourage participants to engage with the speakers or panelists, ensure the run of show is being followed, and elicit valuable conversation and conclusions within the set time.
Assigning a person or team to track the conversation, report on calls to action highlight key quotes and points for ongoing conversations produces and extends the webinar's impact. Interesting quotes from the speakers, suggestions and ideas from the participants can be shared to take the webinar to the next level. Although most software platforms offer reports and recording capabilities, taking notes in real time can be easier and tap into the organic energy of the live session.
3. PREPARE YOUR GUEST SPEAKERS
Give yourself time to inform your speakers about the webinar. Make one-on-one meetings with each speaker to clarify the run-of-show, make them familiar with the software, discuss their internet capabilities and hardware they'll be using, share virtual backgrounds, and answer any content or technical questions they may have. If necessary, rehearse the use of the software with them prior to the event and walk through the run of show.
Do not wait until the day of the webinar to test the software and hardware being used. Make a practice session at least one day in advance and invite people with all the different roles described above, as well as speakers if possible, and some friends to act as participants to test all of the functions and ensure cohesion.
5. SET ASIDE SETUP TIME BEFORE STARTING
The day of the webinar, set time before showtime for everyone to prepare prior to going live:
Most software platforms give you the option to start your meeting in rehearsal or preparation mode. Start your meeting this way so you can test all your logistics and prepare your speakers before giving the participants the possibility to enter the webinar.
Have all the logistics ready at least one hour before showtime. Test host and speakers' cameras and microphones, set slides and shared screens, test audio from shared computers, ensure live streaming is ready to launch, and ensure co-hosts and coordinators comfortable with their assignments.
Request all speakers to connect to the webinar 30 minutes before showtime to test their connection, audio and video capabilities and make sure they are all set before opening the webinar to attendees.
Mute all mics, disable all cameras, play welcoming music and display a welcoming screen. Once all of this is done, move from rehearsal mode to live, welcoming participants to enter the webinar. Do this at least 10 minutes before the scheduled start time of the session.
Start on time and keep the course set on the run-of-show. All your preparation will pay
7. FOLLOW-UP WITH REGISTRANTS
Once your webinar is over, offer your participants a feedback survey. This will help you learn a lot for your future webinars and virtual events. Within a couple days of the webinar, offer your participants the opportunity to share the recordings with others or watch on demand.
Have your webinar's reporter prepare a document or article with the most important information generated during the meeting for future action, and share with stakeholders and speakers. You can also use this opportunity to connect with people who signed up for the webinar but did not attend.
8. CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION
The ideas shared during the webinar shouldn't only live there. Utilize content created during
the webinar in follow up communications to your audiences to expand the reach of
what was shared. Share key quotes and calls to action to tell the story of what happened during your webinar!