Make your webinar a magnet for audience participation
If you’re planning your first webinar, don’t forget to plan for audience participation. People who participate learn more and will give you better evaluations. I first
learned this when I developed and led custom workshops on “How to Do Business with the Japanese” back in the 1980s. My financial writing workshops have only reinforced this lesson. In this post, I’ll share some practical tips I learned preparing for my first webinar.
1. Ask up front for participation
People won’t make comments or ask questions if you don’t encourage them. Tell people at the beginning of your presentation that you’d like them to participate.
2. Tell your audience where and how to pose questions
It may not be obvious to your audience where they can type in their questions. Tell them where to go. You might even point to it in one of your slides.
3. Ask them questions
Prepare questions to ask your audience early on. This will get them involved. Plus, it will give you a sense of how they’re responding to your material.
You have options.
- Polls are easy for your audience to answer.
- Yes-no questions require only a little typing.
- More complex questions can also work.
4. Don’t expect instantaneous responses by your audience
It takes time for people to input their responses, even when they simply click a button to answer your poll. Don’t get caught off guard by this. Instead, plan some patter to fill the time as you wait.
5. Encourage participation by responding
If you ask for participation, but fail to acknowledge audience participation, your audience will stop responding. Plan to integrate audience responses into your presentation. Answer their questions and mention at least some of their responses to questions you pose. I took this one step further by basing a blog post on some of the responses I received to a question I posed in a webinar.
6. Have a colleague help you
You may find it overwhelming to sort through your audience’s input. So, don’t go it alone. Ask a colleague to view the audience’s questions or answers and feed them to you. I found this very helpful in reducing my stress while I was presenting.
Can YOU add suggestions?
If you can add suggestions for attracting audience participation, please do. I look forward to hearing from you.
It’s always helpful to have a few “canned questions” available, too, just in case none come in. Sometimes these will help encourage folks to ask questions. When I chair conferences, I always prepare a few, as it’s not unusual for attendees not to immediately raise their hands when I ask “are there any questions.” But after I ask one or two, often someone will then raise their hand. These “canned questions” often help to “get the ball rolling.”