Improving Webinars

I design and deliver or support a fair number of webinars. Last night, as I de-briefed a webinar that had just wrapped with a colleague of mine, we felt the content was good. The delivery was good. The interaction was good. But we still ran into a very severe flaw.

People’s phone etiquette!

People calling in after the webinar had begun, and being interrupted every 60-90 seconds by an automated voice that announced the latest webinar participant had joined the meeting.

People having conversations with others in their office and not placing themselves on mute.

People cutting out… and then hearing the automated voice re-introduce them to the webinar.

After my colleague and I complained to one another about this for several minutes, we thought the best way to mitigate this in the future would be to have a conversation with webinar attendees. We’re fortunate enough to have an in-person meeting next week with many of our webinar attendees. The only question that remains is: how do we go about telling people that their phone etiquette is so poor?

We plan to use this video as a tool to introduce the topic:

We’ll follow it with a discussion about similarities and differences to our own webinars and we’ll begin to articulate some ground rules for future webinars.

Sometimes the thing that holds back an effective presentation isn’t the design or the content or the delivery, it’s something more fundamental.

8 thoughts on “Improving Webinars

  1. Brian, this definitely sounds like a software issue. I tried out a number of services before settling on GoToMeeting/GoToWebinar. We used to limit audio just to a telephone conference bridge, and heard from participants that they would prefer a choice. Now we offer each participant the option of using their phone or VOIP through their computer. For large groups we mute all participants as standard practice and use the raise hand feature or have questions submitted via chat, then unmute the questioner to respond and have some dialogue as opposed to just a standard Q & A.

  2. Does your software allow you to mute everyone until they raise their hand to speak? I love that video of conference calls and it will be effective. In your face-to-face meeting ask them to decide on their rules of etiquette for webinars. (people don’t argue with their own data) Then send out their etiquette rules reminder prior to the call.

    • Thanks Priscilla – our software actually doesn’t allow us to mute everyone until they raise their hands (or perhaps I’ve been too lazy to figure out how to do that if indeed there is such a feature). Yes, I’m 100% with you on having them create their own rules… we may also need to talk about accountability (what to do when people break their own rules).

  3. Another option is using VOIP–we’ve had some greater success compared to telephone lines with participants even in developing countries!

    I wonder if maybe because you guys do webinars so often and so smoothly your participants are spoiled.

    Here’s a creepy, weird art project about conference calls:

    • Thanks Kirby! That’s interesting about VOIP – we’ve stayed away from it because we hypothesize that bandwidth issues will lead to poor connections; we’ve also stayed away from it because many of the computers used by our attendees don’t have built-in speakers/mics.

      Of course our participants are spoiled… the webinars are designed by me! 🙂

      That is a creepy, weird video. But definitely made me laugh. Out loud.

  4. I would also consider the software you are using the webinars I have attended in the past include telephone dialling in but this did not allow you to converse unless the trainer allowed it on the “system” this would also stop the issue where people talk over one and other.

    I myself tend to do pre-recorded stuff and take questions when someone has watched it but obviously there was a need for this to be “live” I would be interested to hear what suggestions others have for using webinar software their successes and perhaps even the dud ones!

      • Generally, how to videos, presentations etc. For example my most recent will be auto enrolment, what I do is record the presentation then arrange follow up call or meeting to discuss the webinar and deal with bespoke one to one business questions.

        I have participated in other live webinars with other businesses but a lot of my clients and prospects tend to prefer watching it in their own time so the pre-recorded works well.

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