Conducting an online webinar

Some thoughts about online webinars and how to conduct them effectively

What might good practice look like? 

  • Introduce regular pauses during proceedings so that participants can ask questions.
  • Implement comfort breaks if longer than 45 mins.  The webinar format means that sitting still/wearing headphones etc can become uncomfortable for long periods.  Bear in mind that research suggests people are only fully engaged for 15 mins.
  • Try to avoid participants using built-in computer microphones/loudspeakers.  Not only are these less effective than a headset (for example, they can pick up background noise) they can also cause acoustic feedback.  Ask participants in large groups to “mute” unless they have something to say.  A particularly good PC headset is the Microsoft LifeChat LX6000 as it connects via USB, has a stereo earpiece and in-line mute/volume buttons.
  • Diagnose noisy calls by un-muting each participant in turn.
  • Ensure that participants know that taking recordings / screen grabs is not permitted without consent.  If necessary, have some rules of conduct.
  • Make sure your invite is security protected (e.g. needs a participation code).  Don’t put this code in the email invite as it may appear in shared calendars.
  • Encourage participants to broadcast video and not just sound.  However, while this is socially more acceptable sometimes turning off your video broadcast can improve your sound quality .  Try having a “hat” competition to get people to turn their video on – but be weary that some people are not comfortable on video.
  • Be sure to set an agenda and have a facilitator.  Give people materials in advance.
  • Lock yourself away to avoid distractions or interruptions during a call.  Get a wired connection for maximum stability – if WiFi is the only option then position close to your router, ensure family members are not zapping your bandwidth (e.g. with video streaming), interfering with signal (e.g. Microwave Ovens/Vacuum Cleaner) or set-up “QoS” rules inside your router to prioritise your data packets.
  • Do not insist on a “strict” starting time.  Let people have 10-15 mins to ‘settle-in’ and ensure that their technology works.
  • Have a plan for if the webinar drops-out, such as encouraging participants to join again or at a certain time.
  • Keep your webcam lens clean with an alcohol wipe.  Invest in a good model with auto-focusing, zoom and tracking – many “built-in” laptop webcams are comparatively poor quality.  Logitech C920/930 are good models.
  • It is easy for participants to get distracted by backgrounds.  Microsoft Teams has the ability to “blur” backgrounds.  A “book case” is a good choice as it reflects positively about you and you will often see this scene used.
  • Make sure your name is correct in your webinar profile (“name tag”).  Put your job title in there too.  If the title becomes too long to display on-screen, think about using your first name only.
  • Test your system before starting, including the participation link.  Send out participation links in good time.
  • Take advantage of “breakout rooms” (e.g. in Zoom).
  • Tell people about keyboard shortcuts (for example, what buttons mute/unmute your sound).

What are the challenges with this format?

  • There are often limitations on seeing everybody –and when people do enter the debate they can have different quality video and sound.
  • It’s easy to get distracted by the ‘side-text-chat’.  Keep the window closed unless needed but think about how you are going to respond to it.
  • It’s hard to speak to an empty room as you don’t get any feedback cues.
  • Sometimes not easy to hear participants due to internet blips.
  • Sometimes participants drop out (leaving and entering regularly), sometimes tech drops out, sometimes people just forget to un-mute.  Having a mobile phone or text system handy can be a useful way of getting help outside the webinar format.
  • Webinars typically involve individual participation (i.e. not group)
  • Online participation tends to reinforce individual stances (i.e. participants become entrenched)
  • Theoretically it is easy to hijack this format.
  • Some solutions are not GDPR compliant.

Implications of CV-19

  • More people than ever are equipped and familiar with the technology.
  • The solution market is expanding, the need to select the ‘right’ platform is important. 
  • There is a shortage of equipment (e.g. headsets)
  • Health and safety implications for homeworking are becoming overlooked.
Last updated byAnonymous on April 17, 2020
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