Webinars have been my solution to be able to get experience and education outside my normal courses and work schedules. It has been a go-to tool to consider while waiting for COVID-19 to diminish. During the last few weeks, I have been attending multiple formats online. Some of them were good, but most of them lacked in the quality of their content or technological design. Therefore, I want to share my thoughts on both sides of the channel, both as an attendee, as well as a lecturer of a webinar.
I often think about what you can do beside studying or your profession as a student or young professional. To gain more experience in the different fields I want to later work in, I try to attend different events. I try to go to a few seminars and conferences a year. But now, no one can attend those events anymore. During COVID-19, we have been put in the home office. As I’m currently writing my Master’s thesis, I don’t have to appear on campus. But none of my university courses would have been attendable in person. And I am lucky that I can do work from home for my job as a research assistant.
So what can you do if you cannot attend any seminars, conferences or other events? You look for events online. And what can you do if you’re a student? You’re probably looking for web events which are for free. In this post, I share my experience and subjective viewpoint about webinars.
How to find and attend felicitous Webinars
Finding the right webinar
If you’re interested in more subjects your studies or job cover, it’s your chance to gain experience in connected fields. You can learn something completely new. Or you can finally learn more about that one topic you have heard but wanted to learn more about. The webinars I attendet have centered around data privacy, AI, and COVID-19’s impact on women. But I have also heard an interview about science journalism, which sparked my interest as well. Webinars are a great way to learn multiple perspectives on one topic that you might not have heard before. Hence I recommend looking for topics which have always interested you, but haven’t been covered (enough) at your university/workplace.
There are different platforms which stage events. This is, again, subjective advice, but I found eventbrite most helpful for finding webinars in fields you’re not yet experienced in. You can easily filter for events which are for free, and directly search for the field you’re interested in. There are different substitutes, of course, but I thought that workshops or online events have been phrased much more aggressive elsewhere.
In case you’re already familiar with the subject field, maybe you already know some websites or companies. Hence, another advise is to subscribe to newsletters or check according websites for updates on their ‘events’ page.
Attending the webinar
You have found a webinar which does seem very interesting and not too centered around a specific product or project? Wonderful! Now here are common mistakes and how to avoid them.
If you found the next perfect webinar, not only should you check your availability and maybe make a note on your calendar. Make sure to also set a timer for the deadline for a possible application, as not all webinars can be booked five minutes into the event.
Since COVID-19, there has been a huge amount of new streaming and online conference software applications. Do you have to download a new app every single time a webinar uses another software? Absolutely not: Oftentimes, you can watch with your browser without any download.
Not all software is safe, so make sure that you prohibit access to your camera and microphone (or even cover it up additionally) if you don’t want to be seen or heard during the conference. Just as some streaming apps state, make sure not to share too personal information in the comments. Keep in mind that some software applications do not even offer encrypted communication.
How to stage a felicitous Webinar
Now to the very interesting part of being a lecturer or online content creator who will stage a webinar! Altough there could be recommendations with no end, I try to focus on content, technology and networking. These tipps could appear as very basic for advanced lecturers, but most webinars I saw didn’t apply them. So here are my subjective learnings and tipps.
Content is key to stage a felicitous webinar. The title you apply to the invitation is the most important thing to attract future viewers. Just like for any headline, I strongly advise against clickbait or phrasing the title wrongly. If you for example offer a webinar, video or podcast series about personal branding, do not call every single episode ‘personal branding’. If it is a series, try to put the episode’s title first. Kind of explain to possible viewers that the episode won’t be about personal branding per se, but a specific subtopic in the personal branding environment. Only a precise title will attract the viewers who relate, or want to understand the specific topic you will present. Phrasing the webinar right will reduce frustration on both sides, trust me, I’ve seen it.
The title of the webinar might already tell whether it will be a presentation, an interview, or a panel discussion. However, when staging a webinar, I highly recommend to do a very good introduction, maybe with some presentation slides. This way, you will have the possibility to update the viewers to the newest developments in your subject. It will be easier for all the viewers to follow you, no matter if they have prior knowledge in that subject or not. I found it very helpful to have a few presentation slides with the most important definitions in the beginning. This is even more important for online panel discussions. How should the viewers be able to ask good questions if they aren’t up to date on the latest news?
As mentioned earlier, there have been multiple new applications you could use to stage a webinar. Due to personal experience with webinars’ lagging and low-quality tech, I strongly advise to give applications with a higher quality a shot, even if you might have to pay for them. Think about the light shed on your company or project if the technology used for your webinar doesn’t suffice. From a subjective standpoint, I so far liked GoToWebinar / GoToMeeting best.
If you’re staging a webinar, check whether you can share your presentation or your screen, and whether the picture quality is good enough. However, as a viewer, I found it much more important that your webinar doesn’t lack in audio quality. If it is bad, people might not be able to understand or follow you. No matter how good they are in a certain language, it can be very hard for non-native speakers to listen. All that while webinars are a great way to connect and share knowledge globally. In connection with the tipps on content, make sure to not talk too fast. Consider the webinar an introduction into a new field or subject instead of accumulating your whole knowledge into a one-hour presentation.
Last but not least, let me try to emphasize how important networking after the webinar is. So far, there haven’t been many possibilities to connect with other webinar participants. However, they are very likely to be interested in the same subject(s). In order for participants to later connect with each other (and you as the speaker), possibilities would be
- getting in touch with them via e-mail telling the participants how to keep up with the topic you lectured. For example, send a mail with the link to newsletters, a website or blog to follow, or a social media channel.
- offering a group on a social networking site such as LinkedIn (or Xing in Germany) and share the link. If the webinar has been staged in an academic field, your viewers are possibly trying to connect with other professionals later on.
- handing out a certificate for participation in case it has been a specific topic or longer online event. It will keep the participants connected with your project or company, and enormously helps students and young professionals with their later applications or lateral entry to new work positions.
Free webinars are often staged around some companies or products anyways. Consider the networking possibilities as a round-up for the marketing you already do with the webinar.
Last but not least: If you have experience with webinars and want to share tipps, feel free to do so in the comments!