This is a guest post from Brenda Bence, who is a corporate branding and personal branding expert. She wrote this as a tip for Speaker Net News subscribers and gave me permission to reprint it. You can read more about her at www.BrendaBence.com.
Brenda does live keynotes but then often follows up with “virtual keynotes” for members of an organization who are located elsewhere. These are small groups of 12 – 15 team members who are usually in Singapore, Hong Kong, Mumbai and/or Shanghai/Beijing. Here are 8 techniques that she uses to make her webinars super interactive. Note that she uses WebEx webinar software.
- Sign in: Get attendees to “sign in” when they first call in. I have a slide with all participants’ names on it, and they have to “sign in” (using WebEx Center technology). They also have to write a one-word description of how they are feeling about attending this program. This starts team members engaging and reflecting and helps me get a sense of the “energy in the room,” just as I would want if I were presenting live.
- Ground rules: Make a game out of generating attendees’ own “ground rules” for participation. Then, once the list is created, they have to raise their hand in the sidebar to show they will abide by those rules. Inevitably, someone will offer up ideas along the lines of “focus,” “put away cell phones,” “close up other computer windows,” etc. This avoids my or anybody else’s having to suggest that people pay attention — the audience has set their own rules and are more likely to abide by them.
- Notification: I let them know within the first five minutes that this will be a very interactive two hours and that I will call on them randomly throughout the program to answer questions. This keeps people on the alert.
- Executive presence: I always suggest to the client to have a senior-level executive participate during each session, too, and ask him/her to (a) introduce me at the start, and (b) comment a few times throughout the program. Knowing that a senior exec is participating keeps people paying attention and wanting to speak up.
- Prizes: I offer prizes for participation (just as I would in a live program), particularly for attendees who take risks and share something personal. Prizes are e-prizes, like a free e-book, an Amazon gift certificate (be careful, though — Amazon certs don’t always work in certain countries), etc.
- Experience: Every critical point I make includes some sort of interaction to not just “hear” and “see” the point but also to experience it. There is sooo much you can do today with technology to keep it interesting and engaging! — linking answers with lines, writing on whiteboards, drawing arrows to indicate preference, conducting a poll, having people pair up and go into breakout rooms (replaces the old “turn to the person next to you and share”), showing videos, writing in the chat room, having various attendees come on with their webcams and talk so that we can see their faces, etc.
- Webcam: Whenever I tell a story, I switch to “me” on camera so that they can see my expression, as they would if they were live.
- Feedback: I also ask for feedback at the end (just as I would in a live program), and it’s done as the very last thing in the form of a poll (while I play upbeat music, another feature easy to add in during a virtual program). We ask specifically about what we could do to make the program more engaging. After fine-tuning this now for two years, we rarely get any answers to that question except “nothing!”
It’s been a rewarding journey to learn how to engage remotely, which I think is definitely a trend that is here to stay. And, of course, I’m sitting at my desk, I didn’t have to travel, and I can reach people who wouldn’t normally have a chance to have access to this information. All good!
What do you do to make a webinar interactive? One specific question is how you manage this with larger groups, let’s say 100 or more. Also, how do you get feedback? Leave a comment!