4 Ways to Improve Your Webinars (And Keep Your Audience From Dozing Off)

By definition, a seminar, unlike the traditional lecture, is small enough to allow all participants to actively engage. But the digital-age child of the traditional conference table seminar, the webinar, hasn’t always retained the interactivity of the bricks and mortar seminar.

Often more of a broadcast than a conversation, the webinar is not exactly beloved by everyone (this link was chosen for its lack of profanity — if you have the stomach for it, simple google ‘hate webinars’ for far stronger opinions) and, in less than ideal circumstances, they can descend to become downright boring. Is this fate avoidable? Is there a way to restore the original sense of  an engaged conversation to the webinar?

These questions have stirred up a smart discussion over at business Q&A site Focus this week, as community members and experts weighed in with tips on how to keep webinars truly interactive. What were some of best?

  • Prizes. Take a leaf out of the playbook of elementary school teachers everywhere and put the innate human love of competition and free stuff to use. It’s a technique that works well for Patricia C who wrote: “Sometimes I offer a prize to responders if it is possible to reward them in some way. For example, I gave a training meeting via webinar today. It was about how to use on-line software to edit or make comments in translated files. Boring stuff, right? But after I completed a few of the steps, I did a recap OR asked a question of the audience about what I had just done. For example, what button should I click next?… People’s competitive nature will often kick in even if there is no prize.”
  • Use the tech to your advantage. Used badly, webinar platforms can create some stultifying results, but the same tech, when used correctly, can also promote interactivity.  For example, you can use the chat feature of many platforms to your advantage, suggests Michael Dennis. “I encourage the use of the chat feature, and I address questions received using the chat as soon as possible,” he wrote. Got a poll feature? Don’t let it go to waste either. It’s a good way to gauge how much of the material the audience is already familiar with.
  • Call in reinforcements. Sure, you might have mastered all the material covered in the webinar, but that doesn’t mean you should be the sole presenter. “It’s often a good idea to have multiple presenters so that you can create some ‘banter’ — this type of exchange will help people to stay tuned in,” writes Jamie Wallace.
  • Make sure the subject is meaningful to the audience. This sounds simple, but we sometimes forget that the most fundamental way to make a webinar engaging is to make sure the information being presented is actually of interest to the audience.

What other tips of tricks have you used to keep your webinar audience awake and alert?

London-based blogger Jessica Stillman covers generational issues and trends in the workforce for BNET.com.

(Image courtesy of Flickr user normalityrelief, CC 2.0)