Ever sat through a webinar involving a sales rep, slide deck and a few minutes of tokenistic Q&A? It’s not a good look for any organisation, but in a sector like edtech, the risk of alienating attendees is real.
It goes without saying that ‘sage on the stage’ isn’t the most modern approach and not what anyone wants prospects or customers to associate with their brand. Then consider that these prospects or customers are probably teaching practitioners, university educators or corporate learning officers who will be evaluating the event through an expert lens.
So how can an organisation make sure that an online event is making the right impression? The answer, perhaps, is to think like an educator. Here are some pointers to get us started:
1. Excite your attendees
The best educators think carefully about their learners and their specific needs. They plan ahead, skillfully differentiate content and always place their students at the centre of the learning experience. In much the same way, the best online events form part of a wider marketing strategy and are carefully considered to fit the precise needs of the attendee and their stage in the customer journey.
Consider these questions: Who is my audience? What are their challenges? Why did they sign up to this? What do they want? What would be valuable to them, genuinely? This is where personas are useful. An event can be educational, product-focused, or panel-based, but the most successful will offer thoughtful, relevant, engaging content that attendees absolutely love.
2. Find the ‘hook’
To pique interest in a topic and set a purposeful tone for the session ahead, educators will often prepare a short ‘starter activity’. Like a restaurant starter or appetiser, the idea is to whet the appetite for the session ahead.
So, rather than beginning a webinar with lengthy introductions, think about a hook to spark creativity or interest in your topic. Corporate events can be perceived as tedious, so the more engaging or unexpected, the better. A thought-provoking question, short video clip or arresting image could work well. Better still if this links to trending industry news.
3. Embed formative assessment
Formative assessment is an educational term relating to the way an educator evaluates a learner’s understanding, needs and progress. Popular techniques include questioning and quizzing. In a webinar context, a skilled presenter can use formative assessment techniques to tailor content delivery in real-time, clarify any points of muddiness and home in on areas of particular interest. From Kahoot! to Poll Everywhere, there’s no shortage of interactive polling and quizzing tools for this purpose.
Formative assessment strategies can also contribute to a more personalised experience and help ensure that event follow-up is targeted and relevant.
4. Encourage peer learning
People love to connect with peers, and many say this is the most valuable part of in-person events. With this in mind, you might consider ways to extend the conversation during and after your virtual event. This can be as simple as making content available for attendees to share with teammates.
When managed carefully, online ‘breakout rooms’ can be an excellent forum for asking questions, reflecting on challenges or sharing best practices during a larger event. And a branded hashtag and follow-up questions can facilitate social media conversation.
5. Flip your webinar
Flipped learning is a form of blended instruction where students are assigned materials to study before a session to allow for deeper conceptual engagement within it.
Likewise, a short blog post, provocative statement or engaging video on a topic relating to the event can encourage attendees to think about issues beforehand. Position this not as ‘work’, but as a way to spark creativity or inspiration.
6. Use your data
Ever used webinar software that measures attendee engagement? Just as educators use data to inform their practice, it’s useful to see where attendees might be zoning out or dropping off. It’s rarely perfect, but often gives us clues as to what we might do differently next time.
Feedback forms can also provide valuable information as to what the attendees were really thinking. Consider this data and then …
7. Take time to Reflect
A great educator will reflect on every session and using these learnings to modify future practice. So, take some time to celebrate what went well and consider what you’d do differently next time.
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