Your audience is the most important webinar asset you have, so it’s crucial to ensure they remain engaged during your whole event and that they stay until the end.
But when it comes to sharing information, sometimes it can be hard enough to keep the attention of people sitting in the same room as you, let alone those who may be watching your webinar from the comfort of their home office, while sitting on a bus or even when exercising at the gym.
And shutting down a webinar, or simply taking off your headphones and minimising your screen, is a lot easier to do than trying to sneak out the back door of a conference room.
Thankfully, the best webinar providers now make it easy to access a range of interactive features that will help you keep your audience engaged for longer. Here are a few you should consider when planning your next webinar.
Private Q&A or Open Box
Every webinar should have a Q&A session — whether it is live, hosted in a chat room or based on questions supplied by your audience before your event.
Your webinar platform should have a private chat feature, and you should encourage attendees to post questions in it for your moderator and speakers to read.
Another option is to enable public chat, which creates more opportunities for more voices to be heard and gives experts in your audience a chance to ask questions as well as contribute their own answers to questions from the audience.
Open chat also allows attendees to talk to each other which boosts opportunities for networking. Read our blog on 9 ways to take questions in your virtual events for more advice.
When it comes to polling in webinars, our mantra is ‘poll early and poll often’.
You should poll early because a live poll will engage your audience from the word ‘go’. Holding a poll early gives an immediate sign to your audience that you’re interested in their opinion, and you want to understand their challenges and opportunities.
They’ll also feel part of a like-minded group instead of just an individual sitting and watching alone.
A light-hearted quiz can also be a great ice breaker at the start of an event — especially for smaller groups — and you can even make a competition out of it and offer a prize to be announced after the last speaker to motivate people to stay until the end.
Quizzes can also be used to test your audience’s knowledge for Continuing Professional Development standards and benchmarks, as well as accreditation purposes.
Insert a slide into your presentation deck when you’re about to launch a poll to let everyone know it’s about to take place, including your moderator, audience and speakers.
Using video as part of your webinar is another great way to connect with your audience — no matter how big, or small, it is.
Our brain reacts differently to moving pictures and sound than it does to text and static images alone, so much so that video can increase information retention by stimulating particular areas of the surface of the brain.
In fact, it’s estimated that 30% to 50% of the surface of the brain is devoted to processing visual information, compared with around 8% for touch and 3% for hearing.
Pre-recorded video also lets you effectively introduce new concepts and accommodate visual learning styles in your event, and you can do it as easily as uploading a file or streaming directly from YouTube.
Much of the face-to-face human connection we lose when we go virtual can be replaced by a simple, inexpensive webcam that allows you to broadcast video webinars.
Putting a face to a presenter’s name creates a greater connection between your audience and speakers which will also increase engagement during your webinars.
If bandwidth is an issue, make sure your webinar provider offers an audio-only or teleconference option, or consider activating webcams for your introductions, Q&A sessions and when your moderator takes the mic.
Surveys are a great way to capture feedback from your attendees while your webinar is still fresh in their minds.
On the best webinar platforms, such as Redback Connect, surveys can be activated at any time during your webinar which allows you to increase response rates and encourage attendees to ‘opt-in’ for future lead-generation activities.
Similar to polls, surveys also help your audience to feel included by letting them get involved in a non-confrontational, even anonymous, way.
One thing to remember when it comes to using interactive tools in your webinars is don’t overdo it. Your virtual audience is listening, watching and learning, as well as blocking out distractions, so choose the interactive options that best suit your objectives, content and audience and engage your audience in the best possible way.