Running a webinar often feels like speaking in a cave. You’re in the complete dark. You don’t know how your participants feel, whether they are enjoying your webinar, or doing chores around the house. And you’re left wondering: Are people even listening to what I’m saying?
Presenting online really is much harder than speaking to a live audience.
That’s why we’ve put together this handful of tried and tested tips on how to facilitate your webinar and make it a success. Give them a go at your next online presentation gig and actively engage your virtual participants.
1. Log in early and facilitate the waiting time
Allow yourself 15 to 20 minutes to get everything ready. Log in to your webinar platform, open your presentation and test the interaction tool (if you are using one).
When you’re all set, facilitate the time while online participants are tuning in. Check how many people have already joined the call and comment on the situation.
Our webinar expert, Zuzana Bozikova, starts her webinars by saying: “I can see there are X people already connected, let’s just wait two more minutes for the rest of the participants to join us.”
2. Greet your participants and learn about their background
Once all the people tune in, kick off your webinar with a warm greeting and thank your participants for joining. If you know where they are calling from, greet them more personally, for example, “Hello to Paris” or “Hey, guys in Berlin!”
Then follow with a simple icebreaking poll to learn about their background or expectations. After showing the results, don’t forget to comment on them and explain what you are going to cover in your slides.
- What’s your current role in the company you’re working at? (open text)
- What is your main objective for attending this webinar?
a) Learn new practices
b) Broaden my skills
c) Advance my career
d) See how others do things
- Which of these topics would you like to focus on today?
a) Increasing traffic
b) Improving SEO
c) Building the email list
d) Getting more followers
- How extensive is your experience with the tool X? (star rating)
3. Introduce your content
Once you break the ice, comment briefly on the agenda of your webinar. Give your attendees a little context into what’s going to be discussed and plan out the structure of the whole session. You can summarize this in a few bullet points and make it your opening slide.
Or as Janelle Raney, Head of Product Marketing at Zoom, suggested: “Tell people what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you just told them.”
Helping people to navigate through your content is ever more important in the online environment, where the participants rely heavily on your verbal delivery.
4. Do continuous check-ins
Throughout your webinar, do regular checks on whether your attendees understand the discussed topic. This kind of interaction will help you keep your attendees engaged with your content and see if you are getting your main points across.
Invite your participants to vote in a poll and share their thoughts with you after any larger chunk of information. This will get you invaluable real-time feedback that you can act on immediately.
- On a scale of 1 to 7, how clear is the discussed topic for you so far? (1 = unclear, 7 = very clear)
- How comfortable do you feel about using these features?
(1 = not at all comfortable, 5 = very comfortable)
5. Quiz your audience to insert some fun
You can also flip things around and engage your audience with a quiz poll. A quick quiz is a fun way to raise curiosity among the participants and hold their attention.
There are many ways you can approach quizzing your online participants, depending on your objective. If you want to help people to loosen up, pose a quiz question with a fun fact on the topic of your webinar. For example:
- How many videos are watched on YouTube every single day?
a) 900 million
b) 2 billion
c) 5 billion
d) 1 billion
Another option is to use the quiz question as a bridge to a topic which you’re about to tackle. For instance, if you’re running a webinar on digital marketing, you can ask something like:
- What does CPC stand for?
a) Consumer Protection Committee
b) Cost per click
c) Community produced content
d) Custom PC
6. Collect questions throughout the webinar
Since webinars don’t have the benefit of in-person participation, crowdsourcing audience questions through a Q&A tool during your presentation allows your attendees to engage with you and ask additional questions in real time.
Keep reminding your attendees to send their questions in, or upvote the submitted ones if the tool you’re using allows upvoting. This will help you turn your audience from passive listeners to active participants, and allow them to shape the content.
As the questions start flowing in, you can address those that are directly relevant to the content that you are currently covering.
If you’d rather follow your flow, acknowledge the questions and address them at the end. You can take inspiration from Zuzana and say: “Thank you, Mark, that’s an excellent question. I’ll address it by the end of this webinar,” or “I can see the questions are coming in. We’ll get to them in ten minutes.”
Extra tip: For larger webinars where you expect plenty of questions, invite a sidekick, e.g. your colleague or friend, to monitor incoming comments on chat and respond to them. As a speaker, you won’t have the capacity to do that.
7. Facilitate the Q&A
Once you get to the Q&A session, remind the participants once again to send their questions in. Then take the first question with the highest number of votes. It’s great practice to read each question out loud so your participants know which one you are addressing. Only then give your answer.
Then continue with the remaining questions until you cover them all. In case you have too many of them and not enough time, you can prioritize the most upvoted questions.
Slido and other tools then allow you to download the outstanding questions and address them after your webinar.
Related story: 6 Tips to Handle Outstanding Questions After Your Q&A
8. Ask your participants for feedback
To wrap things up, you can run a simple survey to get feedback on how well you did. Make it short, so it’s easy for the attendees to fill out. Don’t forget to encourage your participants to complete it right on the spot. This way you are likely to get more responses.
Example feedback survey:
- How would you rate this webinar? (star rating)
- What was your main takeaway from this webinar? (open text)
- Any suggestions for the speaker? (open text)
9. Finish your webinar with a call to action
Instead of just closing the conversation, provide ways for your participants to keep in touch with you. Share your contact info with them, prompt them to follow you on social media for more relevant content, or invite them to register for your next webinar.
If you have resources that your attendees might find useful, like a blog post, ebook or a guide, direct them to it at the end your webinar or send them links in the follow-up email.
Over to you
With these practical facilitation tips, you will be able to run a more engaging, useful and enjoyable webinar. Use the techniques above to become a better online speaker and help your virtual participants to get the most value out of your webinar.