Webinar Wisdom

The principles of developing and leading an effective Webinar are the same. How you apply them may be different.

Do you do Webinars? That’s still a fair question these days. Not all trainers do. But Webinars are becoming ubiquitous. It’s like e-mail. There was a time when people asked, “Do you have an e-mail address?” Now the question is, “What’s your e-mail address?” We simply can’t conceive that anyone, at least in the business world, would not have one. But conducting a Webinar—and leading it effectively—are two very different things. Today, I lead all kinds of Webinars—many for learning, but also for lead generation to sell a particular product or service. The principles of developing and leading an effective Webinar are the same. How you apply them may be different.


I was at an ATD TechKnowledge Conference, speaking on the final day. My topic was “Creative Learning Strategies for Webinars.” Approximately 200 people showed up for the 8 a.m. session, and 40 people logged on from around the world. I wanted to demonstrate the techniques, not talk about them.

There are good reasons for conducting online courses either synchronously (all at the same time) or asynchronously (at a time of attendees’ choosing). What we need to realize, though, is that it takes more time, energy, and preparation when people are not in the same room at the same time. Here are some pointers from my session:

  1. Participants need to be familiar with the tools that are available within the learning platform being used. Two days before the Webinar, we held a mandatory 45-minute orientation for participants. My producer and I helped them gain experience using their microphones for breakout discussions (after they learned to check to make sure they were working). They also learned how to raise their hands, use the polling devices, use the whiteboard in their small groups, report out to the larger group, etc.
  2. We started the Webinar at 8 a.m. for the remote participants. The first 15 minutes were spent reacquainting them with all the tools (and making sure their microphones and speakers still worked!). Then I joined them (after already orienting my on-site audience) and we modeled a one-hour Webinar.
  3. As I joined them, we locked the doors to the online classroom. Anyone more than 15 minutes late could not get in. Why? Because it is much more difficult to help people catch up in an online setting than it is in a face-to-face classroom. I wanted to focus on the 40 people who were there—not the three or four who were not.
  4. Two producers worked behind the scenes to solve any problems individual participants were having. In my regular Webinars, I usually use a single producer, but since I was demonstrating for a live audience, I wanted some backup. They also ensured that discussions went forward as intended in the breakouts and prompted group leaders to prepare their groups for reporting to the larger group.
  5. Murphy probably invented the Internet. During the session, the convention center Internet connection dropped for almost two minutes. Because the producers were not on the same connection, they kept things going. Because the Webinar platform we were using senses drops, when the group rejoined, the presentation started from where the group lost the connection and gradually accelerated to where I was. People in the live audience didn’t even notice the snafu.
  6. Plan on covering at least 25 percent less content in initial sessions on the Web vs. live in the classroom. As people gain experience with Webinars, that percentage might be reduced to 10 to 15 percent, but it always will be lower than live face-to-face learning. Plan accordingly and work within that limitation.
  7. Always do a post-session debriefing with your team. Work on continuous small improvements and always get feedback from your participants. You can build real-world connections on the Internet, but it takes time. Do you have Webinar tips or horror stories? Share them with me via e-mail at: Bob@CTTnewsletters.com. Use the subject line: Webinar article. Do you have a question about Webinars? Use this link: http://bit.ly/2S4UR8W to ask your question. Until next time, continue to add value and make a difference.

Bob Pike, CSP, CPLP FELLOW, CPAE-Speakers Hall of Fame, is known as the “trainer’s trainer.” He is the author of more than 30 books, including “Creative Training Techniques Handbook” and his newest book, “The Expert’s Guide to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) to Training.” You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook using bobpikectt.