Thursday, August 16, 2012

How to Host a Webinar Properly

There’s a difference between presenting a webinar and hosting a webinar: a webinar presenter delivers material, and a webinar host provides the best environment for the presenter and audience. In this article, we’ll look at what you can do as a host.
Keep in mind that if you’re running a webinar yourself, you’ll probably be taking on the role of both presenter and host. But it’s still useful to separate these roles in your mind, so you can engage your audience at both levels.

1. Preparation

In the weeks, days and hours leading up to the webinar, help your audience prepare for it effectively:
  • Send reminder e-mails to participants, with the date and time, a link to add it to their calendar, and any technical requirements (such as using a headset and microphone). Some webinar technology sends these reminders automatically, so you just have to check their content and frequency.
  • Send any handouts and other preparation material in advance.
  • If you want participants to send questions in advance, invite them to do so by simply replying to an e-mail message, completing an on-line form, or commenting on a Facebook page (for example).
  • Answer any questions you get from participants (one of the most common is whether a recording will be available).

2. Starting

The start of the webinar can be a crucial time, because it sets the scene for what’s coming up next. If you start strongly and confidently, you reassure the audience they’ll be getting full value for their time and attention. Here are some techniques:
  • Log on early and test the technology yourself (and with other presenters and panellists, if necessary).
  • Welcome participants as they join the webinar. The way you do this varies on each audience – for example, with a small intimate group, you might welcome each person individually and mention their name.
  • Start on time!
  • Explain how the webinar “works” – how long it runs, how the audience can participate, whether a recording is available, and so on.

3. During the Webinar

As the host, it’s your job to keep the audience engaged and involved, especially during the interactive segments. This is also the presenter’s job, of course, but here are some things you can do as the host:
  • Explain again how participants can ask questions.
  • Tell them whether you’ll be announcing their names, and explain how they can remain anonymous if they choose.
  • Choose which questions you’ll address, and in what order. Some might be better deferred until later in the webinar, and some might not be relevant at all for this webinar.
  • Have a list of other questions ready (for example, the questions sent in advance) if nobody asks a question at the time.

4. Wrapping Up

Wrap up the webinar elegantly:
  • Thank the audience and the presenters.
  • If you’re providing a recording, remind them again, and explain how you will send them the recording.
  • Make any final announcements (for example, the next webinar in a series).
  • Hang up!

5. Follow Up

Tidy up any loose ends after the webinar:
  • Do whatever is required to upload the webinar recording, and notify the people who registered for it.
  • If you’re sending a follow-up survey to attendees, send it now (some webinar technology does this for you).
  • E-mail the people who registered but didn’t attend, reminding them of the webinar and perhaps any special offers that are available to them.

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