By Angela Stringfellow
Few words in a busy professional’s world can cause such deep sighs and rolled eyes as “webinar”. The virtual meeting held via the Internet is often perceived as a schedule buster, a mundane exercise in futility, a manager’s way of keeping tabs, a corporate executive’s way of hearing his or her own voice. It’s only mildly comforting that 200 of the company’s best are feeling the same way; each receiving the same mandatory “join” invite.
In that moment when you realize you’re not alone, you also quickly realize that a webinar of such magnitude is going to lead to either a very boring, moderator-driven call or complete chaos with participants speaking over one another, asking the same questions over and over, or providing too much information and extending the length of the call indefinitely. Is it really necessary, and more important, is it really effective to have this kind of meeting?
Webinars are a crucial tool in the business world. They provide mass audiences with crucial and timely information in situations where emails cannot convey the importance, the urgency or sometimes even the emotion that is needed.
For many, putting together a successful, interactive online meeting is a daunting task. Here are five tips to help make your next online collaboration a success.
1. Moderator Interaction: Nothing is worse than listening to a moderator speak for two hours straight. It is essential for a successful remote meeting to have some sort of interaction among the participants. Whether it be through instant message or verbally, ask participants questions. With larger groups it’s often difficult to see if everyone has interacted, so it’s up to the moderator to call on participants to answer questions. By keeping the participants on their toes, they’re more likely to retain the information being presented.
2. Best Practices/Questions: Allow the group to share best practices or ask questions of other group members. Often, the moderator has the expertise on the topic, but the participants are in the trenches. For example, in a sales environment, management may know the figures, the analytics and strategies, but the sales professionals know the market and the ins and out of the field. They are able to share best practices with one another or ask questions of their colleagues.
3. Preparation: When working with a large online group, providing the attendees with necessary documents prior to the meeting is essential, unless breaking or bad news — like corporate down-sizing or mergers — is being shared. If it’s simply a sales plan or projections, send the slide presentation or accompanying files ahead of time. This will help attendees come prepared, with questions already formulated, which will help with interaction.
4. Keep an Open Mind: People are going to be multitasking as the meeting is taking place. There will be moments when information is missed. If the moderator calls on someone who missed the question because he was attending to another matter, give that person a do-over, a mulligan. Allow for one mulligan, one trip to Bermuda or one siesta with no questions asked. Then, perhaps, pose the next question to that same person.
5. Follow Up: Assign someone to coordinate the questions and answers that are raised during the meeting and to get them to the participants as soon as possible. There is nothing more frustrating that being told that the answers to the questions presented will be emailed shortly, then nothing comes. Following through with requests and sometimes demands, will build trust among the participants and they will be more willing to participate again.
In addition, provide opportunity for feedback. Let the team members have the opportunity to share their thoughts and views on the meeting.
With the advances in today’s technologies and more and more opportunities available for remote meetings, the days of traveling to meeting centers is quickly coming to an end. Creating a forum for meetings is essential. Creating one that fosters teamwork and interaction is paramount.
What do you do to keep your audience engaged during webinars? Let us know in the comments.