For much of the twentieth century, the notion of simultaneously facilitating and engaging scores of remote clients from your own desk would have seemed an unfathomably alien concept. But in the age of the webinar, this has all changed.
At the touch of a button, we can communicate our ideas—with the aid of graphics, Q&A features, and interactive tools—with hundreds of participants. The way businesses interact has been revolutionized through the introduction of web conferencing services such as webinars (a portmanteau of “web seminars”).
But while it’s one thing to have this technology at our disposal, it’s quite another to put it into action. For the uninitiated, moderating a webinar on behalf of a client speaker—under the weight of juggling multiple activities at once—can feel a little daunting. Thankfully, there are actions that a newbie moderator can take in the pursuit of seamlessly moderating a webinar.
Having Someone’s Back
Before you moderate a webinar yourself, it’s always a good idea to gain experience supporting someone else—particularly someone who’s been around the block a few times. This will serve two purposes: 1) you’ll get a sense for the chief components and requirements of moderating a webinar; and 2) you’ll come to understand the importance of having another person backing you up during a live session.
Understanding Webinar Tools
For webinar rookies, the full range of webinar tools that services offer can sometimes come as quite a surprise. Whether your company utilizes Webex, GoToWebinar, Zoom, or other web-conferencing services, it is critical that you, the moderator, familiarize yourself with the features of that service before going live with a client host. Thankfully, the aforementioned services allow users to run webinars in a test environment, so take the time to become comfortable with the program in question.
In all, there are multiple key tools with which you should be become accustomed, namely those outlined below.
Mute/Unmute Feature—This will become increasingly important the more participants you have. You’ll need to understand how to toggle the mute/unmute functions, so as to protect the main speaker (whether that is you or someone else) from the distraction of audio feedback. Thankfully, most web-conferencing services mute all attendees by default, but you’ll still need to understand the mechanisms for muting and unmuting individual participants during Q&A sessions.
Presenters and Panelists—For webinars that include speakers other than yourself (or that include multiple speakers), it’s important to understand how to toggle between “Presenter” (i.e. the individual whose screen will be shown to participants) and a panelist (or additional speakers).
Polls/Interactive features—Webinars provide a great opportunity to collect, from attendees, meaningful qualitative and quantitative data. Polls are typically pre-loaded and are launched within the webinar, with attendees responding in real-time. Poll results can then be extracted and analyzed offline. Becoming comfortable with the process of launching polls and other interactive features will be important.
Attachments/Handouts—Most services allow webinar administrators to pre-attach documents (such as presentation slides or supplemental literature) to the webinar control panel for attendees to access and download in real-time. This can be a valuable feature since it will allow attendees to follow exterior content referenced during the webinar.
Comments/Questions—The great thing about webinars is that communication doesn’t have to go one way. Speakers will usually make use of the service’s questions feature, in which attendees are manually unmuted and invited to verbally ask a question during the Q&A portion of the presentation. Become familiar with the questions pane and consider practicing a consistent greeting when bringing a participant on the line.
Now that we’ve looked at some common features of webinars, there are one or two other highly important things to keep in mind before going live.
Ahead of moderating your live session, it is important to set expectations with the main speaker (assuming that isn’t you) around webinar protocol. While this might sound trivial, it will serve to nullify confusion, particularly in the following areas:
Introductory Speech/Welcome—Before handing off to the main speaker, chances are you’ll want to not only introduce them, but inform the audience of other house-keeping notes. Providing a heads-up to the speaker that you are going to do this will ensure that they don’t unwittingly cut you off once the broadcast is underway.
Slides—If you yourself will be responsible for advancing slides within a presentation, the speaker will need to notify you when he or she is ready. Suggest that they adhere to a short, consistent command, such as “next slide”. Communicating this need ahead of time will remove ambiguity, keeping the speaker and yourself on the same page (literally) and allowing the webinar to flow smoothly.
Questions—When it comes time for a Q&A session, it will likely be your responsibility to unmute attendees and to bring them on the line. Once again, setting this expectation will alleviate confusion around responsibilities when a question is asked.
Taking Your Time
If you take nothing else away from this article, be sure to remember the following tip: don’t be in such a hurry! Yes, the role of facilitaor does necessitate a certain level of multi-tasking, but instead of thinking that you have to rush through each of the functions in order to stay on schedule, allow yourself to move at a comfortable pace. After all, you’re more likely to make mistakes while in panic mode. Remaining calm and understanding that no one can physically see you is a hugely important step. Good luck!
Briljent has moderated webinars across multiple federal and state projects. For more information, contact Briljent today.
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