Here are 10 Tips That Will help you Get Started
The COVID-19 pandemic has reached an unprecedented scale that no one has ever imagined.
Companies of all shapes and sizes were forced to adopt new work routines, and every activity that required physical attendance of multiple people has been canceled in a blink of an eye. Conferences were called off, courses were put on hold, managers and employees alike were forced to work from home. These hectic times we are living in are raising many question marks around the continuity of training activities remotely in digital formats such as live webinars.
So how do you deliver remotely content that was designed for a classroom?
Would you need to make adjustments? and if so, what will they be?
I thought I’d share a few tips that will help those of you who are facing these very same dilemmas. After all, I had the privilege of delivering dozens (if not hundreds) of webinars in previous positions, and I hope that they will save you some of the mistakes I had to learn the hard way.
So without further ado, here are my two cents for you:
1. Cut the Fluff and Get Straight to the Point
It may sound obvious, but a learning experience in front of a screen is different from sitting in class.
If you ever sat in a class recently during a lecture or a workshop, I don’t need to tell you how challenging it can be to keep your attention for a long time.
Studies show that if you are teaching a class, you have somewhere around 18 minutes to hold your audience’s attention before they will start losing you. That is, assuming you are an amazing speaker. Which you are. But if you weren’t, it would be much less.
In a remote learning environment, you can rest assured that this time frame is getting much shorter.
Learning from home is not always ideal. There can be kids or other distractions in the background, people feel much more comfortable leaving before the end of class, and generally, it is much harder to sit still in front of a screen and consume content for a long period of time.
So, whether you already have existing content or you are planning on building it from scratch, make it short and to the point. Keep it dynamic in pace and try to give value right from the start.
2. Practice Practice Practice!
You have your presentation ready? Great!
Now you should practice delivering it out loud and in front of a camera. I even recommend recording yourself doing so. I know, I know, it can be super embarrassing to see and hear yourself presenting in the first few times. Believe me, I’ve been there. But despite the initial awkwardness, I still think this is one of the best ways to learn and improve yourself for the upcoming training.
It will receive fast feedback loops and quickly gain confidence knowing you are improving at this craft. If this is your first time using the webinar software, it’s also recommended to test it out well in advance so you could feel comfortable operating it during the training. Sometimes learning the ropes of the software can get a bit tricky and the last thing you want to do is messing around with settings and features during the webinar.
Now you should practice delivering it out loud and in front of a camera. I even recommend recording yourself doing so. I know, I know, it can be embarrassing to see and hear yourself presenting the first time. Believe me, I’ve been there. But despite the initial awkwardness, I still think this is one of the best ways to learn and improve yourself for the upcoming webinar. It will allow you to receive fast feedback loops and quickly gain confidence knowing you are improving at this craft.
If this is your first time using the webinar software, it’s also recommended to test it out well in advance so you could feel comfortable operating it during the training. Sometimes learning the ropes of the software can get a bit tricky and the last thing you want to do is messing around with settings and features during the webinar.
3. Take a Deep Breath and Relax
Trying any new skill can be frightening. Although I had quite a bit of experience standing in front of a crowd, I was very intimidated and uncomfortable sitting in front of a camera and talking to a screen knowing that there are dozens of people listening to me on the other end.
While I couldn’t completely eliminate the fear factor, I did use some powerful techniques that help me deal with it quite well. After I got settled with my gear in the meeting room, I started this relaxation ritual before each training session. I sat quietly, closed my eyes, took some deep breaths to get my heart rate down to normal. Then I would put on my earphones and play in my favorite song that would spark me up and get me in a cheerful mood. Only then I would jump on the line and see who already joined. I started a small talk with early participants to “break the ice” and tried to understand their background and expectations from that session better. This calmed both me and my audience down, and the best part – it gave me some good material to work with later on in the webinar.
4. Get Ready Well in Advance
That’s right, the one from Murphy’s law. He made sure to remind me (the hard way) how important it is not to be ready for the webinar enough time before the start time and not “wing it” at the last moment. Every time I used to arrive a few minutes right before the webinar, something went wrong.
Once it was a microphone problem, another was a bad internet connection or a conference room that was suddenly taken. The earlier you’ll be ready before the webinar (10-15 minutes minimum), the less likely Murphy will come and bite you.
5. Set Expectations
Setting expectations with your audience is important in any kind of training, but in remote sessions, it is even more so.
Start the webinar with a short self-introduction, and explain to your audience what are they going to go through in the next hour (assuming that this is the time you have chosen).
Keep in mind that everyone is looking for a sense of certainty and control. The only thing that will be on your audience’s mind is answering these three questions:
- Who are you?
- What are you going to give me?
- Why should I care?
Give them a sense of certainty and control right from the get-go, and regarding section 3, always try to boost up the importance of why they are there. This will be your “hook”, the reason that will make their time with you worthwhile.
6. Give Them a Quick Win
Most likely, you are facing an audience that encounters your material for the first time, and they have no prior knowledge about it. Therefore, if you discuss in length about complex ideas with professional jargon, you will probably cause them to feel overwhelmed and frustrated early on in your webinar, and the drop rate will quickly follow.
To avoid that, I always tried to give early on in the training a simple exercise of a few steps, in which I explained what needs to be done to make the best use of the software I was training on. This exercise was stripped down from any factors that could potentially make it more complex, and it focused only on the core process.
Whatever your subject matter is, you want to give your audience a simple exercise right on the start and give them that quick win. If you will succeed in doing so, you will have their attention and motivation to keep going.
7. Talking Head, Presentation or Both?
I’m afraid there is no one right answer for everyone. Each delivery method has its pros and cons.
Turning on the webcam during a webinar creates a personal connection between you and your audience, which is a very important factor to break barriers and keep them engaged.
On the other hand, doing so throughout the whole session can take a lot of bandwidth and cause technical issues like delays in voice and image, especially when there is a large number of participants on the line. Furthermore, if you have important content on a slide deck, a talking head might block some of the content when presented on the screen and distract the audience’s attention from it.
I usually prefer to open the webcam for the introduction section, just as an ice breaker, and then turn it off and dive right into the content, but it is totally up to you to decide which method works best. I would just add this – if you had decided to turn your webcam on, make sure to position it right in line with your eyes, organize a nice background behind you like a tidy work station, and light up the room with soft natural light. You want to make a professional impression even though you are having the webinar from home.
8. Take a “Pulse Test” Every Few Minutes
It is somewhat harder to get a feel for your audience during a webinar than it is in a classroom. You can find yourself speaking for long minutes without knowing what your audience is doing and if they are still there.
More than once I have found myself talking to a muted mic or demonstrating something with my screen sharing turned off. As you can imagine it was pretty awkward.
That is why it is very important to make these “pulse tests” every once in a while, just to check in on how your audience is doing. Allow them to ask questions after every section and ask their permission before moving on to the next one. If the software allows you to take surveys or quiz them, make use of these features and encourage them to take an active part in the session as much as possible. This will help them to better absorb the content, and help you get quick feedback on how you are doing during the session.
9. Call to Action
After you delivered your content and allowed enough time for questions, it is time for the call to action. Give your audience at least one action that they can do right now to implement what they learned. Review the main points you discussed. Remind them that this knowledge they have just acquired will be valuable to them only if they will make good use of it, and thank them for the time they invested in learning with you.
10. Leave Room for Improvement
Do you know what’s better than a perfect webinar that was never delivered?
The answer: An average webinar that was!
So here is the good news: There is no such thing as the perfect webinar. A good webinar, like any training session, is a process of constant improvement, and you can only begin to improve it after you delivered it in front of an audience.
As Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn likes to say: “if you’re not slightly embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late”. The key words here are “slightly embarrassed”. I’m not saying you should be sloppy, but perfectionism is your enemy.
I wish you would all be able to go out and stand in front of a real audience, without restrictions. Until then, have fun and effective webinars.
Got any tips of your own? Don’t keep them all to yourself, please share them in the comments below.