Saturday, March 6, 2010

Five Learning Lessons of Producing a Webinar

Its amazing, in this new world of robust online technology, just how much there is to learn.  Over the past  year, I have personally spent quite a bit of time investigating the “ins and outs” of creating and producing online events, such as webinars and webcasts.  It has been a rich educational experience.

To date, I have been involved, in various capacities, with a half dozen webinars.  Through experimentation with these events I discovered I have a natural ability as a facilitator, or moderator to lead panel style presentations.  Over time I am becoming more and more comfortable in this arena, although I still have much to learn.

This week I participated, as both a facilitator, and panelist, in a webinar, hosted by PCMA (Professional Convention Management Association).  Our presentation was entitled Engaging Attendees Today:  How to Combine Virtual and Face-to-Face Meetings.” For a recap of the event please click here for that article.

By most accounts the webinar went very well.  There was a terrific audience, nearly 200ppl.  The topic is very popular right now in the events business, so there was a lot of interest around it.  Our panel was very well prepared to address the learning objectives, for the event,  and we had a strong Powerpoint presentation to support the discussion, which is a key component to a successful webinar.

However, there were some challenging moments, and therefore some learning lessons to this experience.

Learning Lesson #1: The Moderator/Facilitator is the Gatekeeper — As I was the facilitator, it was my responsibility to keep all of us panelists on track, and aligned with the expectations of the event.  See Learning Lesson #2 below — I learned the hard way!

Learning Lesson #2:  Get to your learning objectives as soon as possible — This webinar was a one-hour session.  We spent the first thirty minutes in the Introduction phase, which was entirely too long.  There was an important story, which added credibility to our presentation talking points, but we should have been more succinct in “teeing it up” to the audience.

Learning Lesson #3:  Make absolutely certain the Webinar technology is completely functional — We had two tech rehearsals for this webinar, but neglected to verify one important detail; that the webinar chat window was operational.  It wasn’t.  As the facilitator, I was supposed to monitor the questions and comments from the audience … I could not see them.  We eventually resolved the problem, but it created some awkward moments.

Learning Lesson #4:  Always have a conversation “back channel” available — All three of us panelists are Twitter fanatics.  Yet, we somehow forgot to promote a Twitter Hashtag channel, for the event, ahead of time.  It happened anyways, as our attendees created one, on their own.  But… that was slightly embarrassing.

Learning Lesson #5:  Close the Webinar Platform Immediately After Event — If you plan to have a post-event briefing (a good idea) with panelists, it is wise to first close out of the webinar.  One panelist and I thought the platform was already shutdown to the public, and continued conversing, after the event, only to discover, through feedback from attendees, that we were still live.  Not a good thing!

Looking ahead, I will leverage these lessons in future webinar opportunities.  I tend to be hard on myself, as I strive for perfection, but if life were perfect, it would be boring, for sure.  :)

Question:  What learning lessons have you benefited from, in your experiences with webinars?  If you attended this session, did I miss anything?  Please share your thoughts with us!

Follow Michael McCurry on Twitter

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeff Hurt March 6, 2010 at 10:22 am


I’ll add one more: Relax, be yourself and enjoy it.

The energy from the butterflies in the stomach is perfectly normal as you body goes into fight or flight syndrome from the fear of making a mistake in front of others. I like to say it’s not so much about making a mistake, because you will. It’s how you respond to those mistakes. And, the audience will follow your lead. Respond with humor and everyone laughs with you. Respond with OMG and the audience feels bad too.

Just be yourself and enjoy the ride.


Michael M McCurry CMP March 6, 2010 at 12:43 pm

@Jeff Hurt,

True words of wisdom Jeff… Laughing at yourself makes others see the humor as well, and overlook mistakes. I laugh a lot, as you know. :)

By the way it was a pleasure to work with you on this webinar… I know we will do many more together, and I look forward to it.

Thanks for contributing to the conversation.




Mike McCurry March 14, 2010 at 6:33 pm

This is a test to check the plugin


Jenise Fryatt March 6, 2010 at 10:58 am

I caught the last 30 minutes of the webinar and really enjoyed it. You gave a lot useful information and I was kicking myself that I hadn’t encouraged the rest of the team here at Icon to attend this webinar. I will certainly point everyone toward the slides and the archive when it becomes available. Thank you!!


Michael M McCurry CMP March 6, 2010 at 12:48 pm

@Jenise Fryatt,

I am so glad you were able to join us, for the last 30 minutes anyways.

Jeff did a great shareslide embed in his website which can be located at this link

Thanks for your comments!




Dave Lutz March 6, 2010 at 1:35 pm

Mike, exceptional job of identifying what can be made better for next time. As a participant, I had very similar thoughts to your list. The real biggie is digging in and getting to the meat of the presentation quickly. If I didn’t know you guys and participated in Event Camp, I might have checked out before you got going.

With that said, we’ve all seen great feedback from participants on Twitter. I’ve also seen kudos given on MeCo. So even with a few areas identified for improvement, you guys outperformed most webinars and will be even better next time around. Great job by all!


Michael M McCurry CMP March 6, 2010 at 11:37 pm

@Dave Lutz,

I could not agree with you more… I just love these learning moments!

We feel good about how the webinar went and thanks for validating that with your comments, Dave.

Undoubtedly next time will be better.

Thanks for contributing to the discussion.



Cameron Toth March 6, 2010 at 6:02 pm

Great webinar and I love the blog follow ups. It really enhances the learning experience.


Michael M McCurry CMP March 6, 2010 at 11:38 pm

@Cameron Toth,

Thanks Cameron, for your positive comments… they are much appreciated!



Swan March 15, 2010 at 8:14 am

Mike, Thx so much for this after action review. You don’t know what you don’t know until you try things sometimes.

If you are looking to merge a video stream with a hashtag chat, you know where to go…..twebevent. :) Brighttalk is one webinar host that provides an embeddable option so that it can be plugged into twebevent. Procaster with Livestream is another option to merge slides and video/audio into a single video stream.

A bit more info in my Video 2.0 article.

All the best,


MichaelMMcCurry March 16, 2010 at 3:40 pm


You bring up an excellent point! Incorporating Twitter with a webcast or webinar platform is a powerful thing indeed. I appreciate your calling that out!

Thanks for contributing to this discussion..



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