Webinars are powerful online communication tools because they are live and interactive. The experience of attending a webinar stands miles apart from going through a website or a blog entry even if it offers online live support. Fact is, the more a virtual communication mimics a face to face experience, the more engaging it becomes, the more it appeals to our natural sense of human contact.
Whether in the real or in the virtual world, Q&A sessions are often the measure of an eventís success. An audience that found a presentation engaging will have questions to clarify points or know more about the topic. Audiences may even ask questions because they disagree with some of the things that the presenter said, but that only means they listened and it got them thinking.
This is why anyone who wants to host a successful webinar, to leap from just having a good webinar to achieving a great one, will include not just a thoroughly planned out and well executed presentation but also a lively and well managed Q&A segments that will really allow audiences to interact and speak their minds. How can this be achieved? Here are some ideas:
1. Planning The Schedule
Also, as the presenter, you should be the one to set the stage, so decide if you want to allow Q & A in during the presentation or reserve it for after. This type of planning is crucial because it will allow you to stick to a preset and organized schedule and to make sure the presentation runs according to that plan.
2. Avoid ‘death by monopolized conversation’
Don’t drown your audience with hearing only one voice talking all throughout the webinar. Plan out the structure of your webinar by doing ìbite-sizeî chunks of the presentation and inviting questions or comments from attendees in between. This way, you are able to maintain an interactive atmosphere all throughout the webinar.
3. Do not oblige your audience to raise questions
There is a thin line between feeling that your ideas are welcome and feeling obliged to ask questions you might not want to share or donít even have. A presenter should learn how to invite questions naturally. Give your audience a few seconds after you ask if they have questions, then move on to the next point in the discussion before the silence becomes deafening.
4. Leave verbal clues that you are open to questions
Once in a while, do tell your audience that they are welcome to ask questions or share their thoughts when they are ready to do so. Sometimes, a simple ‘Did we get that clear?’ from a presenter could spark interest or encourage an attendee to speak up.
5. Provide your audience with supplemental venues to raise questions
Your audience need not raise clarifications or ask for a follow-up only after you tell them to. Sometimes, there are attendees who would feel uncomfortable identifying with a particular question in front of all other attendees. Questions could also dawn upon attendees who might think it rude to interrupt your talking.
Opening a chat room for questions such as these will encourage your audience to ask when the need arises. You can then answer questions as they arise or at least acknowledge that you read them and will answer later on.
6. Establish eye contact
It’s rude talk to people without looking straight into their eyes, and there’s no way you should forget this when doing it online. When presenting online, you will have to establish eye contact by looking straight at the camera, especially when you acknowledge a question and move on to answer it.
7. Be conversational
There is a time to present and a time to converse, and this holds true even during online presentations. You might not be sitting in the same room as your audience but that is no reason why you should be caught up in how you look on camera. You need to engage your audience, and sometimes all it takes is to be yourself.
8. Ask input from your audience
Keeping things interactive does not stop with your audience asking and you answering their questions all the time. You may use the device of asking your audience for input on a question presented in order to invite interaction among them. This is especially helpful when you want to weigh in on a topic by first getting the pulse of your audience, or when you want to punctuate a point by having the last word.
9. Tell your audience what you are doing
It may be as simple as saying that you are reading their questions or you are accessing information you want to share with them. The point is, never let an uncomfortable silence leave your audience guessing what in the world you are up to or if something wrong happened with your internet connection.
10. Minimize verbal clutter
Your ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ are the last thing you want your audience to focus on, especially as these unnecessary sounds are amplified when you are speaking online. When you need some time to think, just pause or inhale briefly and then get it right on.
11. Share resources to your audience
When your audience wants clarification, sometimes the best thing to do is show, not tell. Point your audience to resources such as websites, charts, PowerPoint slides, images and other stuff to support your response.
You can either show them these resources from your screen as you speak or you may copy and paste a URL to your chat box and share it with all attendees so they could check it out later. This way, you can give concise answers while also sharing more information with your audience.
The bottom line
Achieving a successful Q&A within your webinar is not so much different than when you do it offline. Keeping things engaging and interactive may not always be an easy task but if you prepare well by anticipating what your audience will most likely ask, thinking your answers ahead and remembering to be yourself will give you an arsenal of tools to make your whole webinar a success.