Just because you are delivering your course through a webinar doesn’t mean you have to give up interaction! We all know adults learn best by participating. Not only is engagement important for retaining information but it also serves to keep learners focused and more apt to make a connection with you.
As you are designing your course, be sure to include an activity or interaction about every ten minutes, and make it relevant to the learning. When I go through my design process, I add activities keeping in mind the features available to me through the webinar tool. Here are five tips to keeping your webinar course interactive:
Interaction Before the Training
Some webinar tools allow you to upload documents, video links or create tests prior to the live training. Take a look at your course outline and see where you can create activities that can be done outside of the live webinar, then add them to the pre-course materials. Use social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Yammer) to encourage feedback and discussion before the session.
Welcoming learners goes without saying. But I encourage you to call out participant’s names and welcome them individually when class size allows. If it’s a larger group, I use the chat to welcome incoming learners with “hello,” “welcome,” “how are you today” or “thanks for joining me.”
If my audience is less tech savvy, I may take a few moments to introduce the webinar tool. I have a slide that I use to demonstrate how attendees can interact with me during the training. I do a brief test with handraising, the chat and understanding audio to ensure everyone feels comfortable.
Some webinar platforms include webcam capability. If your group is small enough, briefly go around to each participant and have them introduce themselves via the webcam. Note that if you decide to use this kind of introduction, warn participants well in advance – like in the confirmation email that outlines your agenda. No one likes to be called out in their pajamas or on a bad hair day!
With a little bit of creativity, icebreakers are actually fairly easy to do in a webinar. I often have the icebreaker up while we wait for participants to join. Some examples:
- Display a map and give participants draw tools. Ask them to mark where they are joining from. If the training is within your organization, perhaps a diagram of departments and have participants mark the one they belong to.
- Create a “matching” exercise: Display a page with two lists that participants must match up using draw tools. This is good for introducing concepts that will be covered in the training.
- Some online training tools, such as GoToTraining and Webex Training Center, include a testing feature. Launching a pre-test is another way to introduce concepts. It can also help you establish the level of knowledge the group has on the subject matter. You can then customize the training on the fly. Once you close the pre-test, introduce the concepts for the session by giving high-level answers.
Written and Guided Exercises
There’s nothing wrong with throwing in a little old school written or guided exercise to an online training…
- I encourage you to create an activity sheet that participants receive and print before your course. They can then use it to follow along, add notes, consider ideas before responding in chat, or complete an activity to share with the rest of the group.
- To keep an activity on track, use a timer (GoToTraining has one built in).
- Guided practice can be done by passing the presenter role (viewing a learner’s desktop) or giving a learner keyboard/mouse control. Involve the rest of the group by letting them guide the person to complete a task.
Discussion can be done verbally (unmuting audio) or guided through chat. Verbally works for small groups, chat for larger groups. If you choose to do verbal discussion, you may want to give guidelines first (like give your name before speaking or mute your line when not), or use handraising and unmute one person at a time. If using the chat, read responses out loud and remember to call out the participant’s name.
- Present an image and tell a story that creates a scenario for learners to problem-solve. Have them discuss verbally or through chat.
- Create a role-play, either scripted or with general guidelines. This should be done on a worksheet that participants have prior to the training. Ask for volunteers to act out the role-play. Invite participants to provide support, insight, ideas and feedback.
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Corena Bahr is a webinar developer and producer determined to end the average webinar snoozefest. Through her consulting company, YourWebinarGuru, she teaches how to transform one-way marketing webinars into two-way interactive learning experiences that deliver value, build relationships and add income.