There are good webinars and death-by-PowerPoint bad ones. Very few of them provide a measurable learning experience, however. Here are some tips for turning this common online business practice into a viable training medium.
Online webinars are one of the most common ways for companies to hold a “virtual event,” usually a lecture, a panel discussion, or a product presentation. Sometimes, they’re even a source of revenue, if the presenter’s information is in high demand. However, webinars seldom provide a measurable means of skills training or reinforcement. If your goal is to convey practical knowledge and have your trainees retain it, some re-thinking is in order.
Live vs. On-Demand
Let’s begin with the notion that a live webinar is only the beginning of a training workflow. Webinars, like in-person events, provide a moment in time where experts and their audience can meet and share ideas. However, if the event is not captured and re-used, its enduring training value diminishes rapidly.
The favorite “cure” for this is to make the slide deck—or the full video recording—available to participants, or to those who could not attend. This does nothing to help retention, as your hard drive full of unread PowerPoints and PDFs will attest.
It is important to make webinar video content available after the event, but there is a right way to do that, and make it a truly interactive training experience.
A long, boring webinar will never be part of a good training experience. Best practices include:
- Above all, keep it short! 40 minutes to an hour is the conventional wisdom, but consider breaking it into smaller chunks afterwards—for online consumption.
- Limit the number and “word density” of slides.
- Wherever possible, use valid, informational graphics and actual demonstrations.
- Use more than one speaker or expert. A one-speaker webinar is an engagement killer.
- Use a moderator to process and prioritize chat questions or polls—which should be handled in short Q&A “intermissions,” not all saved for the end.
- Always rehearse the webinar before you go live.
Merely repurposing a webinar as is (by posting the entire video) is risky—especially if the goal is to provide a good training experience. Consider editing or re-recording the webinar, adding the Q&A and polling bits where they create value. This will eliminate the debris of “ahs” and “ums” and “we’re still waiting for more people to arrive.”
Also, when re-recording, you can create logical segments which can be viewed as separate videos.
Add Interactive Content
Like any other form of online video, webinars can be just passive viewing experiences—very likely to be ignored and/or forgotten. Be sure to use a video platform that lets you add expert comments, relevant links, and even questions to the timeline. You should also be able to add relevant documents to the secure video, and monitor who has watched it, and for how long.
Make it Measurable
The essence of real training is not just conveying knowledge, but also giving the learner opportunity to respond. To be effective as part of a training scenario, a webinar must also allow for users to record their own video or audio responses. These must in turn allow the team leader and/or team members to provide feedback—again, in the timeline—and evaluate each submission on the basis of presentation, subject matter understanding, or whatever measurable criteria is most important.
Think of webinars as a starting point—a base from which to assign learning exercises. These can be role-play or rehearsal scenarios, team discussions, or other ways to engage members and reinforce important knowledge and skills.