Written by Gayle Knepper, Rotary Coordinator, Zone 24 West
Webinars are an outstanding tool to reach district leaders. They give us the ability to offer new information and provide training much more frequently than trying to meet face to face. Webinars are especially ideal for connecting with Rotarians in districts that are spread over large geographic areas. In addition to sharing information with others, webinars accomplish more: stimulate conversations between leaders, foster requests for district-specific programs, and lead to invitations for in-person training.
There are a number of best practices to consider when planning a webinar. One of the first steps is to ask, “What is the objective of this webinar?” This will include both the training goals to be achieved and, from our own perspective, “What do we want to happen as a result?” An advanced training outline is also essential and the key factor to keep in mind is that the participants cannot see us. Our challenge: how can we keep them interested? A few tips:
- Include four or five poll questions in your presentation. These polls can provide a lead in to upcoming content, “test” attendee knowledge on a certain subject, or assess current activity in the districts.
- Use visuals as a dominant element. Although important in most presentations, visuals are especially important in a webinar. To capture and maintain interest, the majority of the slides should include interesting, action-oriented photos or other images that illustrate the point being discussed. (In other words, use text sparingly.)
- Invite Rotarians as guest speakers. In addition to changing the voice and style of the presenter, it gives these Rotarians the opportunity to share a success story or best practice from their districts and illustrate a key learning point.
- Encourage attendees to submit comments and questions at any time via the question and/or chat features. Discuss these comments at the first relevant opportunity, usually at the end of the current topic. It helps participants to feel a part of the webinar.
- Based on the number of attendees online, participants with questions or comments may also be unmuted for a discussion in his/her own words, creating a greater feeling of involvement.
- Plan for at least 15 minutes at the end of the formal presentation for questions and discussion. This “open” time is often the liveliest segment of the webinar, with attendees sharing success stories and common issues, and making connections.
An effective webinar will motivate participants to immediately take action. To reinforce that action, it is important for us to follow up to ensure attendees have the resources they need to achieve success.
- Review the key action points and share resources at the end of the session, along with the immediate “next steps” for participants.
- Post the presentation and recording to a download website, such as DropBox, and send a link within 24 hours of the webinar. This gives attendees a useful reference to the information discussed in the webinar and to share it with others.
- Post resources on the webinar topic in an easy-to-find location. These include best practices, specially-developed tools and information gathered to fit the needs of districts. My zone uses www.GreatIdeasToShare.com.
Webinars are a valuable tool for information, training and focused outreach. They complement the support and training provided by coordinators and advisers, and provide a flexible and lower-cost option that is highly effective in addressing the needs of districts. If webinars are not yet an active component of your team’s plan, it may be a tool to include during the upcoming year.