This lockdown season, it’s been raining online sessions!!
I haven’t hosted many so far. But I did jump into a lot of them.
I am a bit of learning aficionado and any source to add to my knowledge is worth exploring.
However, session after session I witnessed the same shortcomings that gravely affected the communication, quality and engagement of the session.
At some of them, I left the session in 15-20 minutes because I could stand it no more!
This prompted me to put together some pointers about being successful in a virtual session (I already have tips out for virtual interviews, team meets and sales calls)
(PS: The terms webinar and virtual sessions are used interchangeably in this post. Most tips apply to both)
I have not mentioned names but cited examples from sessions I have actually been in.
Here are a few things to follow that will definitely take your session to a new level:
INTRODUCE THE HOSTS/SPEAKERS PROPERLY
This was a training webinar by 2 trainers who were going to talk about becoming a successful trainer.
When I logged in, the screen was already shared and the first ppt was on display. The 2 hosts introduced themselves. One of them shared slides of his accomplishments and I can not pick him out of a line up, even at gun point. Because his face was hidden behind the slides!! I don’t know who was talking for the next 60 minutes!!!
Virtual communication is hard enough. Strive to make it more human by personally appearing on the screen.
So, put yourself on the screen in the first few minutes. Greet people, let them see you and know who you are. Use that time to connect with people before you jump into your content.
MIND THE LENGTH OF YOUR INTRODUCTION
This was common to most sessions I attended – the interminable introduction of the speakers!
There have been at least 2 sessions where I left in the first 15 minutes because the speakers intro hadn’t ended yet! (Despite comments in the chat box to get on with the content)
One communication trainer actually had snapshots of his/her certificates on the slides and a whole photo gallery about the awards won and sessions conducted.
Firstly, attention spans are low – more so at such times when our days are unstructured.
Second and more importantly, people are already present in your session. Stop selling yourself now. Include your credentials through the session at strategic places where they make sense and leave an impact.
GET TO THE POINT
Shorten the preamble and backstory of your topic. Make space for it where it might be more appropriate.
There were times in some sessions when people started commenting in the chat box requesting the speaker to get to the point (which also didn’t work and you’ll see why as you read on)
You might be super successful at what you do and your promise is to share the secrets during the session.
You could be an influencer and promoted a session packed with tips.
Get on with it!
Bring your credentials out through stories rather than a series of slides.
This way participants get what they came for plus you get a chance to talk about yourself too.
DON’T HIDE BEHIND SLIDES
Some sessions had slide share from start to finish. I had no control over anything – like switch to speaker view or even have myself heard (or read, in this context)
Remember that virtual communication is already once removed from physical presence. Adding slides further alienates your participants.
Cover the gap. Don’t add to it.
Show some slides if you must. But do you really need a 40-slide deck for a 60 minute Zoom session?
Is the session just about the content or do you want people to know you for the warm presenter you are?
KEEP AN EYE ON THE CHAT BOX
The chat box is there for a reason.
During webinars especially, the chat box is the only option for the participant to say what he/she wants to.
And not getting a response to the comment seems like being ignored.
I was in a social media mastery session where I sent in my question 4 times but never got an answer. The comments were moving too fast for the speaker and some of them got leaked out of the gaps. (read on to know how facilitation skills can help deal with this)
So, keep an eye on the chat box.
Acknowledge people’s comments and questions. Nothing works better than connecting with them.
One of the ways to do it is to build in time for comments in your content.
If your session is for 60 minutes, plan your content for say 30-40 minutes. This way you definitely have dedicated time of 15 minutes for questions. You can scroll through the one word answers and locate the questions to respond to them.
LEARN BASIC FACILITATION SKILLS
You might be an expert in your domain. But basic facilitation skills can help you translate that into a great session that everyone liked and learned from.
Some of the advantages of facilitating your session well are:
- You’ll be more confident as a speaker and more credible as an expert.
- You’ll summarise points a couple of times during the session just so the listeners can keep track
- You’ll be able to keep up with the comments on the chat box
- The quality of your session will definitely be a cut above the rest
ASK CLOSE ENDED QUESTIONS TO KEEP AUDIENCE ENGAGED
It is easy to get distracted in a virtual session. And the onus of keeping the audience engaged lies with the speaker.
A simple way to do that is to have close ended questions built into your content. If enough people respond, you know the majority is still with you.
The questions could be simple things like –
“Are you with me so far? Type YES in the chat box if you are”
“Shall we move to the next part? Say yes in the chat box to affirm”
“How many of you agree or disagree? Say yes or no in the chat box”
This is a simple way to keep the audience engaged virtually.
GIVE CLEAR TAKE-AWAYS
I know that most sessions/webinars are held to promote products and services that bring in business. And I am all for it.
But as a participant, did I just spend 90 minutes of my time just so you build your pitch and end by saying I need to join a paid course to learn more?
I ain’t falling for it because you lost my trust right there. If you don’t value my time, I am not sure you’ll value my money either.
Sell by all means – but also have clear take aways so people get value out of the time spent.
When I did a session on 5 steps to effective personal branding last month, I was clear that the session will have 2 of them in detail. The participants knew when they signed and that’s exactly what they got.
They could enrol in a paid course if they wished to move to the next steps but the session ensured that they can work through the first 2 successfully.
I gave them the value I promised.
If you promise a 3 step guide, deal with at least one in detail. This way the participants get a peak into your real mastery. They get to know the depth of your knowledge.
Include feedback in your content time. We are all new to this medium. There’s no harm in asking the audience themselves what worked and what didn’t.
It could be a google form sent on the chat box before the session ends (a better option) or emailing it later to the participants.
Get people to give you feedback on the session, especially about things that you can do better.
In short, the sessions that worked the best for me were without ppts, lively discussions and conversations and loads of scope people to ask questions. Like human sessions, not mechanical ones.
Which ones have you been hosting – the ones that are centered around you or the ones that are audience centric?