With all of the various features that can be used with Webinars these days, it can be hard to determine which ones are the most beneficial.
Since Webinars can cover a variety of topics, there are times when some features may be more appropriate to use than others. So we asked a wide audience to tell us what old and new features should be used when hosting a Webinar.
Questions and Brainstorming
The most popular recommendation was to allow the audience to ask questions openly. Many hosts do not keep the question box viewable to everyone watching the Webinar, which doesn't leave a lot of room for questions or discussion. Even more interactive than questions, is using the webinar for brainstorming purposes, as suggested by Jim Vetter from the Education Development Center.
"We've recently been having good results from using on-screen brainstorming in our webinars. In Adobe Connect, we create a chat pod that, at the right time, appears over a PowerPoint slide containing the prompt question. Participants then type in their ideas, which appear on a growing, scrolling list. This strategy has significantly increased participation with groups that are too large for us to leave phone lines unmuted for brainstorming. With the right brainstorm topic, the activity has increased participant engagement and learning as well as contributing valuable, user-generated content to the session."
With web cameras becoming standard equipment for most laptops these days, video has now become an option in most Webinar software. Many who responded to our questions felt this was a very underutilized feature and something that has been available for a while. It creates a personal experience when you can see the person who is talking on the phone, or others who may be participating as well. Anthony Russo from Infinity Conference Call claims that many people come to him asking for the feature and then never actually turn their web camera on because they forget.
"I find that video is a feature that winds up being under-utilized, even by those that specifically are looking for it when they come to us...What happens after the first few meetings is most people never turn on their webcams...live video gets forgotten once the 'novelty' wears off, and people don't bother to turn it on to see each other."
The final recommendation that was consistently made was the use of a live Twitter feed while the Webinar is running. Adem Sengul from omNovia, believes that using social media is very important with live web events. Assigning a Twitter hashtag to your event in the invitation is helpful when people want to reference your Webinar and see who else is talking about it, especially while the event is going on. (Putting a # in front of a word it then makes it searchable). "By adding the conversation in social media to the live webinars, companies can significantly increase the reach and the impact of their online events. I believe as the demand for social networking increases, more web conference providers are likely to offer similar modules [like omniTweet]."
Having been a Webinar participant many times myself, I know that all three of these recommendations would have greatly enhanced my experience. It would be great to be able to interact with the host and participants using chat boxes, video conferencing and Twitter (based on Hashtags). As more and more features become available, it will be interesting to see if these three actually make it up to the top, or if they continue to fall by the wayside.
What has your experience been with Webinars and underutilized features? Are there any features you feel are important for webinar hosts to use in order to enhance the webinar experience?
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