Saturday, April 10, 2010

Three Steps to Developing Highly Engaging Webinar Content

“Friends Don’t Let Friends Launch Bad Webinars”

When creating webinars, once the presenter has determined who their audience will be, and what education need is to be served, (discussed in Part One and Two of this article series) the next step is to design the event itself.  Following three basic steps, with some creativity and diligence, the presenter thus formulates the groundwork for a positive attendee learning experience.

Step One:  Develop Learner Objectives (LO’s) – This is an absolutely critical part of the process!  Jeff Hurt wrote a great article at  his blog, Midcourse Corrections, addressing this topic.  Jeff believes, as I do, that presenters must “begin with the end in mind.”

Speakers must identify, in this first step, the major learning points participants will derive from the webinar.  LO’s propose what the attendee (learner) will take away, or gain, from the experience.  They are the compass guiding the presenter through the task of crafting their presentation. They also serve as a strategic focus for promoting the event.

Simply put, strong LO’s must be:

  • Observable
  • Measurable
  • Achieved by the learner (not the presenter)

“Your LO’s serve as guideposts along the path of your presentation to help your attendees learn and retain information. They are critical to the presentation and vital to your conference marketing materials. The ultimate test when writing a LO is whether or not the action taken by the participants can be assessed immediately upon their departure from the presentation. If not, the outcome probably does met meet all three of the characteristics.”
– Jeff Hurt, Velvet Chainsaw Consulting

For more in-depth information regarding learner objectives please read Jeff’s complete article.  There are some great tips and insights contained there.

Step Two:  Create Presentation Outline – Referring to the LO’s discussed in Step One, the presenter should write a high level overview of the key webinar discussion points.  This forces the presenter to gather and organize their thoughts.  It will also assist them in creating visual support for the event.

A couple of best practices for speakers to follow while building the outline:

  • Use simple, key words, in brief sentences, or phrases, to frame up the discussion points quickly.   A concise outline not only helps the speaker maintain an organized focus, but may serve as a terrific reference tool during the presentation.
  • Avoid lengthy or complex sentences, as they may create confusion, disrupting the natural flow of the presentation.  An outline is supposed to document the flow of discussion, not serve as a script.

Step Three:  Create Visual Support — As previously discussed,  a webinar is one of the most difficult presentation formats to engage attendees.  The most significant challenge is lack of  face2face contact, or much multi-directional interaction, between participants and the presenter.  Visual aids can be a highly effective tool to add life to the presentation.

Here are some thoughts regarding their use:

  • High Graphics/Simple Text — Create powerpoint style slides with vivid, interesting images, accompanied by simple text.  The goal is to capture attendees interest (brain stimulation).
  • Slides are for Accent, Not Focus — visual aids should add style, energy and interest in the presentation.  In most cases they should not become the major audience focus.  Just as salt & pepper adds flavor to food, so should visual aids to the presentation.
  • Create a Slide archive — Once the final slide presentation is completed, a useful value-add is to make them available online.  Sites like “Slideshare” are great tools for posting this content for public consumption.

The information outlined in this article is a solid starting point for creating a successful webinar presentation.  I am sure there are other techniques and practices that could be employed during the development process, that I did not address here.

All thoughts are welcome, as I clearly do not have all the answers.  Is there some unique or new technique or idea you have implemented with a webinar event?  What challenges have you encountered with these presentations?  Please share those thoughts and experiences with us!

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