We had a great time on Association Chat this week contrasting what webinars have become with all the amazing things webinars could be – with the right strategy. Here’s a recap of the best insights.
What’s happening vs. what should be happening
The vast majority of webinars are boring, long, unidirectional, and clearly not designed to be learning experiences. Webinar technology was designed for virtual interaction. It has the potential to be a powerful player in the learning portfolio – but we’re doing it wrong. Its potential is stifled by repurposed info-lecture content and painful “are you still here” poll check-ins.
Call a full stop on how it’s been done and consider how you can transform the experience.
- What is the purpose of webinars in our learning portfolio? Is it to discuss how hot topics impact professionals throughout the year? To host coaching conversations after in-person or eLearning content deep dives? Facilitating networking around content and offering next step learning opportunities from your catalogue? Priming learning events or extending the learning after a key event? Could you put webinars to work solving learner’s problems with content rich discussions? Notice the valuable social learning and co-creation opportunities here! Maximize these powerful motivation triggers for learners — which require less content and more facilitation from content experts.
- What problems do our learners want to solve? Go on a listening tour where your target audiences chat about their pain points, problems, and aspirations. That’s where you’ll find the best topics of conversation for webinars. Resist the urge to address every aspect of a topic in one webinar session. Learning doesn’t happen that way. Build pathways of learning across a series of touchpoints – which may include webinars and other rich digital content – to guide learners to new levels of skill and competency.
- Is this information or is this education? Webinars can serve both purposes – just know which you’re intending so you can design an experience to match that outcome. If we’re shooting for a learning experience (vs. an info update), that means we have to design for learning. Which means we need to support speakers who are not versed in learning design, offering them much more than a tour of the tool.
Designing for Learning
The webinar interface is a learning space. Utilize the strengths of this technology to drive toward your learning objectives. Every element – registration, content, media, conversation, handouts, links, post-session content – should contribute to your objectives. Resist the urge to use webinars as a dumping ground for content designed for other purposes. Consider how you will frame a conversation to facilitate learning through your webinars, embracing this technology’s superpowers.
- How can we work with our SME’s to design learning experiences? My go-to strategy is the 10×10 model. When I deliver webinars, my goal is to present 10 minutes of content and then facilitate 10 minutes of conversation about it. Repeat, repeat, until our co-learning time is up. Maybe your content needs 15 minutes of presentation and 15 minutes of discussion – that works too. The object is we are all present in this holy webinar room to address something important to you and me, so let’s have a conversation trying on some new ideas. The 10×10 framework is a great entry level structure for SMEs who are accustomed to lecture only presentations. If you have an instructional designer on your webinar team, you can leverage many more ways to engage attendees to see those learning objectives made reality.
- How will we create engaging visual presentations? Webinars lean heavy on visual media, but unfortunately, we’re not taking advantage of this superpower. Consider what standards you should set for visual presentations offered in your webinars (no sliduments, please). Consider rehearsing with your speakers so they become comfortable presenting at least a portion of their presentation with streaming video. Introductions and discussion segments make great candidates for turning on the camera and really connecting with the audience.
- What valuable downloadables can we offer attendees? I recommend not offering slides as the session handout. Instead, extract the process, checklist, model, or workflow from the deck and specifically offer that – the things attendees need to put this new content into practice. Offer a template or tool, additional resources for learning more, or related course recommendations. Consider what your attendees will need to make use of this content after the conversation – and offer that.
Webinar Revolution Building Blocks
We’ve talked about designing for learning. Check that box and then also do these things.
- Production Values: You are working in a visual communication medium – think about how you will produce the experience. Beyond logistics, what choices are you making to develop an experience that leverages the best webinar tech has to offer? How are you using music, speaker video, video clips, engaging visuals, interaction capabilities, useful downloads and links, and social media before, during and after the presentation. Your webinar platform is a studio – think like a producer.
- Webinar Host: To produce an amazing experience, you need more than a webinar administrator – you need a full on host. Someone who will facilitate the experience from the first invitation, through the entire event experience, to the post-event follow up. Your host works closely with speakers to ensure the session is designed to meet its objectives and downloadables are on point.
- On Demand Recordings: Planning to post recordings? Consider how that may change how you produce the live program. A recorded program is a different type of digital content asset and a different experience. You may choose to edit and present the first 10 of each 10×10 content segment – reserving the value of the interaction for the live experience only — creating micro content chunks for on demand access.
If you’re disappointed with webinars, take heart! They are capable of so much more if we only allow them to be the powerful visual and interactive super heroes they were meant to be in our learning portfolio.