instructional design

Lessons Learned: Webinars

Over the past week, members of my Planning & Facilitating Live Events class have been taking turns presenting short educational webinars (myself included!) No matter how much you prepare, there are always unexpected takeaways. Here are mine.

Lessons Learned from Presenting

Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse

Rehearsing a webinar multiple times with all the software components running is essential.

This was especially true for the live demo part of my webinar: running Zoom and TechSmith Relay simultaneously created some unexpected complications that could be planned for once identified. For example, I needed to share my full screen in Zoom instead of just my browser because once Relay launched there was no way to switch over.

Multiple practice runs also made it easier and faster to navigate during the webinar (e.g. turning on the poll, uploading a file, switching between Powerpoint and other apps.)

Even with all that rehearsal, things can go wrong

In my case, I had to reschedule when a snowstorm knocked out my power. Didn’t see that one coming.

A webinar doesn’t feel like a classroom

With years of in-person presentations behind me, I didn’t expect to have more than the typically butterflies.

Much to my surprise, I found that the webinar format is more anxiety-producing for me than presenting in person or asynchronously. This might be because I couldn’t easily see my audience + I had to be thinking about and doing multiple things at once instead of focusing just on what to say plus when to advance the slide deck. Time for more practice!

Lessons Learned from Participating

Say “yes” to webcams

I tried to leave my webcam on when possible so presenters could see who they were talking to. Doing so made it easy to give visual responses when they asked for input (e.g. a head nod or thumbs up) and seemed to make presenters more relaxed.

Say “no” to waiting room purgatory

Zoom Waiting Rooms are awful.

I tried to drop in on two webinars I hadn’t signed up for and found myself stuck in waiting room purgatory for both: never let in.

For the waiting rooms that I was signed up for, I found myself anxious about whether or not I was in the right place at the right time, growing increasingly worried until –sigh of relief!– the presenter admitted me.

I much preferred the Zoom presentations that had an introductory slide up as attendees trickled in.

Handout formats

The most popular option for handouts seemed to be via Google Docs. While these worked, I found I much preferred PDF handouts that I could quickly and mindlessly download + save for later. There are fewer things that can go wrong.

What’s behind you?

Some webinars looked more professional than others simply because of what was visible behind the presenter in Zoom.

Home office or blank wall = professional.

Bedroom, pile of laundry, etc. = not so professional.



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