5 Things We Learned About Webinars

Author: Ash Mann

On Friday 17th April we held the first wholly-online Digital Works, Digital Works #10.

At Substrakt we have done hundreds, if not thousands, of remote meetings, pitches, workshops and training sessions but this was our first webinar.

So, as more and more people are having to consider this type of format to deliver everything from product launches to conferences and workshops,  I thought I’d share a few things we learnt.

1. Zoom Fatigue is a real thing, so try to keep it short (and include breaks)

We’ve been mindful of the fact that video calls are fatiguing and I had already made some tweaks to the format to try and make things more manageable, but at ~2.5 hours the event was  probably too long.

Even though the webinar was comprised of  4 quite intentionally separate sessions from 4 different speakers the length, and lack of breaks was something I’ll be making sure we address for next time.

2. Visual aids are important

Moreso than with physical events, visual aids (graphics, slides, etc) play an important role in helping the audience to focus and keep track of the point is that’s being made.

This relates to some of the research outlined in the research around Zoom Fatigue, but also the reality that watching a talking head for any amount of time isn’t very interesting!

3. Preparation is key

Make sure that you and your speakers are all comfortable with whatever platform you’re using.  And that your speakers have a decent internet connection, camera and microphone (the internet connection and microphone being the two most important items on that list).

If you are going to be using functionality around breakout spaces etc then make sure you’ve practiced with that and know how it works, and that you have enough colleagues to help moderate those sessions.

4. Your audience is more likely to be international

This may not be true for everyone but in going fully digital with your event delivery it’s more likely that folks from countries other than your own will be joining.

This presents considerations around language, references and terminology – that your speakers should be mindful of, but also around timezones  – are you organising your event at a time that is convenient for the most people? We tried to hit a sweet spot that meant European attendees could conveniently join as well as people on both the East and West coast of North America, but in doing so we had people in Asia and Oceania having to stay up very late to join us. There’s no perfect answer to this but again, it’s worth thinking about.

5. Community is great, but it’s more work

We had a lot of great questions from the attendees at Digital Works #10, however there is work  involved in reading and replying to the questioner, and incorporating the question into your session – and this may not easily be able to be done by the host.

It’s likely that your attendees may be discussing the session on other platforms (we focused on Twitter), and again it’s probably sensible, if you can, to have someone focused on engaging with discussions on that platform as again it’s unlikely to be something the host can sensibly multitask to do.

We had also hoped to allow the attendees to discuss the session(s) with each other in the text chat but we got Zoom-bombed and the comments were quickly flooded with over 400 (very very offensive) spam comments, so we had to turn that off as we didn’t have enough people on hand to moderate that as well as everything else.

This issue was probably exacerbated  by the fact we weren’t forcing validated sign-ins (i.e. requiring people to have a Zoom account in order to join the session) because we wanted it to be as easy for folks to join as possible but this obviously created its own set of problems.

I’m sure there are numerous other considerations and I’d be interested to hear what people think I’ve missed, but these were the key things that jumped out at me when I was reflecting on our first webinar.