Three months ago, pretty much everyone who wanted to stay in touch with their clients, contacts, or community learned how to use one of the video conferencing or webinar platforms that are out there. We did too. And we learned fast. We practised, we read, we joined other webinars, we spoke to our peers, and we got used to this exciting new way of communicating. And as we learned, we realised that there's a whole new subset of rules for running a successful webinar, and they might not be the obvious ones, but they could be the most important ones! Our real life webinar wisdom is shared below.
The chances are that everyone involved in your webinar has rocked up for the rehearsal with their own personal stress. Whether your speakers have come straight from teaching geography to their 9 year-old, haven’t spoken to another human for a few days, are stressed about furlough or their job, or have never been part of a webinar before, people are going through a whole load of different things right now. So be kind, reassure everyone, share a few of your own lockdown woes to show them they aren’t alone, and remind them they are in safe hands with you and the team.
Prepare for the unexpected
If there is one thing we’ve all learned, it’s that things will go wrong on a webinar. Practice makes perfect, but unexpected things will always happen. Rally your speakers at the start and have a loose plan in place for what will happen if a speaker’s internet connection goes down, a video doesn’t play, or slides can’t be used. Also, never let there be dead air (industry speak for a period of silence, but it feels cool to say). If something goes wrong, make sure you or the host is ready to jump in, engage with the audience, and keep things ticking over until the problem is fixed.
Coordinate your outfits
This one is close to my heart, and it is important to get right, because there are no rules right now, and no rules can be chaotic. Bring up the dress code during the last rehearsal with your speakers. I think we’ve all seen now that some people are wearing full business dress to their living room office, whilst some are in fourth day joggers and a rock t-shirt. I’m somewhere in the middle with dungarees, red lips and hoop earrings, but there is room out there for us all. However, do bring up the dress code, and at least give your speakers the chance to match and coordinate on the day, so no one will end up feeling bad about their choice of outfit. If nothing else, you might have an awkward giggle about it. Alternatively, you might end up coordinating like Steps…
The best webinars we have been part of are the ones where we agree to have fun at the start. If the host and speakers enjoy themselves, then hopefully your audience will too, because even as we live life through small squares in the screen in front of us, we still feed off each other’s positive energies. And goodness knows we need those positive energies right now! A wise man (my Dad) told us that producing a webinar is actually very close to live TV, and it’s true. Whilst we might not all have the same chemistry as Holly and Phil on This Morning, we can still be real, human, and have some laughs, meaning you connect with your audience, which in turn enables you to get your key messages out there.
So that's what we have learned so far, and we will undoubtedly learn even more in the next three months. But organising webinars is fun, and rewarding, and they are a great way of communicating with your audience. If you would like to know a little more about them, and how we could help you to organise one, don't hesitate to get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org. It would be great to chat to you through those little squares on our screens.