Running an efficient webinar

In the corona and Zoom times it is important to be a webinar guru and not to waste time. After a successful webinar with GBIF and Pensoft, I thought to capture and share some experiences from this event, modified with notes taken at the virtual training by MBK, Copenhagen with Mette Bloch. This is my personal summary and highlights, but most of the tricks, are, of course, invented by someone else.

Plan

  • Think if you really need a live session – can it be as efficient as a forum thread, a shared Google doc, a blog post, or a Slack channel?
  • Define scope, title and goals to achieve
  • If possible, run the event in the language of your target audience, even if it is more difficult for presenters
  • Choose date, avoid Mondays and Fridays
  • Remember time zones and summertime, use meeting planner
  • Ensure call support is available: minimally, you need a experience technical host: do not host and moderate
  • Obligatory registration improves troll resistance and gives organizers idea of who and how many are coming: remember account limits
  • Registration generates a list of contacts and calendar events
  • If possible, agree to have a dedicated question master
  • If possible, arrange social media support for before-, live-, and post-webinar posts
  • Avoid making events longer than 1 hour, but reserve half an hour before for setting up, and half an hour after for overtime buffer and reflections

Prepare

  • Have a compact web page ready with all key info and links
  • Create an attractive title and call to action, a click-bait
  • Title, first sentence, image and caption tell most of the story
  • Set a simple agenda, if possible, highlighting the most important section
  • Put hook(s) and take-homes in the beginning
  • Include a simple advance question collector, could be as simple as commentable Google doc
  • Stimulate activity by adding a few “naive” questions yourself
  • Consider prerecording the “telling” video to save time for live Q&As
  • If needed, think how do you capture and measure the success of the event: design survey, welcome feedback (channels), monitor social media (which)

Announce

  • Once date is decided, send your “save the date” to all
  • Good horizon of planning is two weeks, announce the meeting on Day minus 14
  • Make a long version of the announcement first (for mailing lists incl. calendar invite), then compress it into and a Tweet-sized version for social media
  • Add key links to the web page and all announcements
  • Tag partners and speakers
  • Send one reminder in 48 hours before the event (day minus two) through mail

Run

  • Host has full control of the event, including content of private branches of chat.
  • More than one host is a good precaution
  • Host, speakers (panelists), and attendees should have different roles and rights in the call
  • Panelists and host need to tune in 15-30 minutes before the start of the public call
  • Have a “webinar starts soon” screen and waiting room enabled with attendees, all joining with muted mics.
  • Host: remember to hit the Record button
  • Moderator: start with a greeting, if appropriate, set the informal, friendly and relaxed tone from the beginning
  • Explain ground rules, allow only typed questions, say where: chat or Q&A?
  • Limit introductions to a few sentences per head, presenters only
  • Jump into the subject matter as soon as you can
  • Remember the Fish model with hey-you-see-so structure
  • Remember the pace, but control time for each slot
  • Repetitions and reminders of key points and take-homes are important
  • Change the activities, avoid long stretches of lecturing
  • Good breaking techniques are shared screens and polls (need preparation)
  • Be ready for grave silence moments with own questions or give them to others to ask
  • Leave generous room for discussion, handling Q&As, and chat.
  • If vocal interventions are allowed, let people use the Raise Hand function. Note that the order of names under Partcipants for everyone will be i) you ii) host iii) all hands ordered chronologically, iv) all the rest
  • Close and wrap-up with clear steps after the event
  • Close the public part: attendees leave
  • Before you close the call, keep only speakers, panelists and host on, and share with each other the immediate impressions, agree on actions
  • Before you close the call, copy and save Chat and Q&A content; host also have access to archived log

Share

  • Quick-check the recorded video
  • Start the upload of the recording to your Vimeo and YouTube channels as it takes time
  • Add only minimum metadata to the video, including a webpage link
  • Work on the minutes and updated Q&As immediately after the event
  • Make panelists and speakers confirm the minutes and updated Q&As asap
  • Publish updated Q&As at the webpage, or linked from there
  • Send messages through social media with a link to recorded video, updated Q&A, ideally within 24h after the event
  • Consider mass-mailing registered attendees with the summary report and updated Q&A
Additional resources

Experiences and links from iDigBio. Very nice resources inluding lesser known Zoom features

Example 1. Nature Metrics: eDNA

Webpage on eDNA
Webpage webinar announcement
Archive of recorded webinars
Published Q&As online

Example 2. GBIF and Pensoft: Q&A on data papers (in Russian)

Webpage on the subject of the call
Google doc question collector in the final state
Published Q&As online
Recorded video in Vimeo and YouTube
Annoucement tweet and Facebook post
Follow up tweet and Facebook post

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