Let’s face it. More and more people are now networking through the Web—Facebook; Myspace; Twitter; Linkedin— you name it, and it’s available. Even businesses have caught on and Webinars are becoming a very proactive tool in eliminating additional company costs and promoting positive time-management.
A Webinar can best be defined as an interactive training session offered live on the Internet. Webinars differ from a Webcast in that the Webcast is uni-directional (one-way) and the Webinar is bi-directional where the audience has a chance to actually interact with the instructor. Broken down in the simplest of terms, a Webinar has five basic components: the audience; the presenter; the facilitator; the presentation; and the tool or software used to host the event. Any successful Webinar must consider each one of these functions independently as well as how they will interact with one another. Simply accounting for the presenter and the audience without taking into consideration how they will interact with one another could lead to disaster.
The best way to run the perfect Webinar is to distill it down into its basic functions and then create a checklist so that no function is missed. Whether you are running your first event or if you have been running many events by now, it is important to think about the basic functions that will make any event a success. Organizers can segment the Webinar process into three focus areas—the planning, delivery and the post-mortem.
Most events will consist of invites being sent out to attendees and/or a registration process put into place in order to capture data of the planned participants. This data is critical to capture for several reasons. First, sending out attendance information to those that wish to attend so that they have the proper links to the Webinar room is one key reason to capture registration data. Another is for proper post-mortem follow up and reporting. It is ideal if you can report the registered attendees against those that actually attended. We have always tried to follow-up with each category of people in a slightly different manner. Perhaps you are sending out links to a recorded event to those that were not able to attend for instance.
Depending on the capabilities of your Webinar hosting software, you may also need to control registration to a limited number of people. You can do this by either directly inviting a specified group of participants or by requiring general registration but allowing participation in the live event on a first come, first serve basis. It is a good idea to offer multiple session dates if you know your topic will attract a lot of interest or to record your event so people that are not able to attend the live showing may watch the streaming version of your Webinar at a later time. This is a very popular thing to do to reach a more global audience.
The best time to hold events are Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2:00 p.m. Eastern (11:00 a.m. Pacific). This is not too early for West coast attendees and not too late for East coast attendees. You are also not interfering with anyone’s lunch. Mondays and Fridays are always bad days. Monday’s people are busy starting out their work week and Friday’s people are trying to get out of the office. You are set for success if you use these time slots.
Before the actual delivery, it is essential to have a trial run. The practice session, or sessions, is as much for the facilitator as they are for the instructor of the event. The facilitator is given a chance to make sure the technology they are using to host the event is functioning properly. The instructor is given an opportunity to develop their presentation and check the timing and flow of their delivery as well other mechanisms pertinent to their presentation.