Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Deadly Webinar: Three Things You Can Do to Keep From Boring Your Students To Death!

I'm sure this has happened to you: You get an email about a webinar. The topic sounds just like something you have thought about/wondered about. Oh, look! It's free! And on your lunch hour! What a great opportunity to do a little professional development and munch your sandwich. What could be better?

When the appointed hour arrives, you are settled at your desk, sandwich in hand. You log into the webinar site, and the technology works fine. The presenter begins and, after a few minutes, you begin to zone out. Between your instant messages, signing a few expense reports and vacation requests, and checking email, you suddenly realize that 20 minutes have passed and you have heard nothing. You have not a clue what they are talking about now. Oh well, they will make the slides available to download at the end. Maybe you can listen to the recorded version too. Only you never do.

Sound familiar? Yeah, me too. And here's the worst part: that's how most of your participants are behaving during YOUR webinar. Here are three really simple things that you can do to make your webinars more engaging.

First, don't be afraid to give your participants pre-work to accomplish. Even if your students haven't completed the assignment, you don't have to begin from zero. A little of the information will prime your audience, and you won't have to wasted as much precious time reviewing the basics. It also sends a subtle but clear message that the participants are going to be actively involved in this engagement, and not be able to just sit there, like blobs, munching sandwiches and zoning out. 

Second, to draw your student in, tell a story, and focus on the why. I actually heard a great webinar yesterday, given by Ray Jimenez on story telling and training. Ray did a great job, and his webinar was the inspiration for this post. Ray gave several examples of how a good story really grabs your learner and makes them tune in. He used a Mercedes commercial to illustrate this. This commercial really grabbed me. I was ready to go out and buy one after watching it, and I never respond to ads like that! If only the car wasn't $100,000+! Telling stories like this is really establishing the "why" that Simon Sinek talks about.  (You can read my post about that here.)

Third, engage your students by asking them questions as you move along through your talk, and - here's the important part - respond to their comments by name. When Ray read my response to one of his questions and said, "Clare, great point," I was hooked! I was no longer just an anonymous participant. I was Clare, with the great point. I wanted to be recognized again, so I listened hard and tried to make good replies to his questions. Ray didn't do this once or twice, he did his all the way through his talk. It was very energizing and engaging, and contributed to the success of the talk.

I'm sure that there are more things/different things you could do to make your webinars engaging. But nothing works like involving your audience. Give these a try and let me know what you think!


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