How to Run Webinars with Your Online Course

Webinars offer the personal touch that online courses are often lacking.

When offering an online course you should consider hosting a webinar that ties into your topic. It’s a great way to increaes learner engagement for your course. In addition, holding regular webinars can put you in touch with guest speakers that are willing to help add value to your community.

What should you talk about?

When fleshing out ideas for your webinar, choose something that ties in nicely with your course, and make sure that you provide information that is valuable. For the information to be valuable it needs to extend the course material in some capacity. Something that isn’t covered in detail but is related to the content and its application.

For example, if your course is about tips and tricks in Java development then you know that many of the folks taking the course desire careers in that field. You could supplement your course with a webinar that covers how Java developers can find high-paying jobs, and your guest-speaker could be a recruiter in that industry.

What is the general format of a webinar?

Here are the major parts of a webinar:

  • Intro
    • Introduction of the topic and host
    • Introduction of guest speakers (tease if there appear later in the webinar)
    • Make sure your slides include an outline for quick reference
  • Body, which consists of everything else: interviews, materials, Q&A sessions, clips, videos and other content.
  • Outro
    • Request user response
    • Collect contact information
    • Most importantly: a pitch for your online course, including the link.

Beyond these general guidelines, you’re free to be as simple or fancy as your topic and budget allow.

There are some core features that exist in every webinar.

Here are some features that many effective webinars use:

  • Slides: A slideshow using Apple Keynote or Microsoft PowerPoint helps you focus your thoughts and present bullets that reinforce learning.
  • Video: You can stream video from YouTube, your personal PC, or elsewhere to create visual impact.
  • Talk to an audience: You may be using a simple tool like Zoom, ClickMeeting or GotoWebinar. There are many options. The important thing is to choose a platform that allows you to talk to your audience not just at them. Most webinar platforms let you send an audio link or telephone number that allows participates to comment and ask questions. You can usually mute everyone until the Q&A session if you choose.
  • Record everything: Webinars offer the opportunity to record the entire session. This lets you capture visual and audio input for re-distribution and later use – perhaps in bonus products.
  • Chat: The host can enable a chatbox for audience input at the appropriate time.
  • Conduct surveys or polls: Look for a webinar host tool that lets you create survey or quizzes to check knowledge before and after the webinar.

Scripting portions of the webinar ensure that it comes across professionally.

No matter how great your videos or news clips are, you won’t get very far without a great webinar script. Many people try to wing it instead of writing a detailed script and practicing. That’s not the way you want to go for a webinar that’s sole purpose is establishing you as a subject matter authority. If you want your prospective students to believe you’re a great teacher, the webinar you put together needs to showcase your subject knowledge.

Building a great script takes longer, but it’s absolutely critical if you want the webinar to be a success. You shouldn’t rely solely on the script though. People want to be able to relate to you and if you’re just reading something mechanically then that comes across poorly.

Here is a sample intro script to help you promote your guests, in particular if they are the ones presenting the material:

Welcome to __[Webinar Name] .

I’m [your name] , your host for today.

Before we get started, let’s take a second to explore the control panel.

  • Instruct participants how to raise their hand, respond in the chat or when the audio line will open for questions.

OkayLet’s begin.

Today’s first guest is [read panelist mini-bio to establish credibility]

Welcome to [Webinar Name], and I am so happy to speak with you again.

At this point, the panelist will have a presentation or you will begin a Q&A conversation with them.

Choosing the right guest speaker.

If you have put together an online course, chances are that you’re a decent speaker. Luckily, you don’t have to have a broadcast’s projection and smooth-flowing prose. Your mannerisms and inflections are part of your brand.

Subject matter expertise is critical since your guest may have to field questions that require deep knowledge of the topic. When choosing guest speakers or interviewees, be sure to also vet out effective speakers and test them before the webinar. The last thing you want to discover before you open up the webinar is that your guest is camera shy or has a grating voice that will put off your audience.

When you build your webinar around interviews it helps you in several ways. As the person steering the conversation, you gain instant points for thought leadership and authority. Also, the interviewee does at least half the work, giving your webinar added depth and making the scripting required less intense.

Add variety to your questions.

Include both closed and open-ended questions. Below are examples of each:

  • “Can you share with us what at what age you start to play chess?” This is a closed-ended query that breaks the ice and helps you move into deeper topics.
  • “What moves do you suggest for novices?” This is a wider, probing question that might take longer to answer. It also gives participants a chance to pick up a few tips to improve their own chess game.

Remember, it’s not all about you. It’s about the guest speaker and the people attending.

  • Remember your audience. Never forget that your audience is there to learn. You want them to be interested enough in your topic that they take your course. Stay focused and don’t go too far off-topic β€” you may have to rein in anecdotes and stories if your guest is a great talker. Prepare your questions, drive the conversation and keep the audience’s needs in mind.
  • Make your guest the expert. Let your interviewee do the talking. Ask questions that set them up for meaningful answers. Most importantly, don’t interrupt unless you have no other choice β€” such as when they go too far off-topic or if you need to correct nonfactual information.
  • Fine-tune questions. Good questions will net you a great interview. Fine-tune your questions. Edit your questions to ensure they are geared toward your guest’s comfort zone. It’s fine to take unplanned tangents if the interviewee brings up profound or useful material you didn’t include in your talking points, but it’s a good idea to guide them down a defined, predictable path, especially for a live format, such as a webinar.

Some final tips to keep in mind.

You can’t prepare for every glitch, but here are a few suggestions to prevent a disaster:

  • Get set up in plenty of time to start the webinar on time and to ensure there are no technical glitches.
  • Do a dry run, including your speakers. Explain to them that this is in everyone’s self-interest and helps ensure the live event goes smoothly.
  • Use poll questions to engage the audience after the webinar.
  • Send the webinar link out to the participants and include promo material for your course, along with a link to your course.
  • Immediately after your webinar is a great time to send any limited-time offers to your students, or important announcements. If they attended the webinar then you know they are quite invested in your offerings.

Following these tips and preparing for every moment of the webinar can help you conduct a successful session and increase your online community, email distribution list and reputation. You may be nervous when you host your first webinar, but just remember to relax and be yourself. No one expects perfection, they just want to learn something.

Author

Justin Ferriman is the co-founder and CEO of LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by Fortune 500 companies, major universities, training organizations, and entrepreneurs worldwide for creating (and selling) their online courses. Twitter | LinkedIn

2 Responses

  1. Nice tips,but you forgot one very important issue. The webinar needs to be live captioned, especially if it is connected to an academic institution. Most web meeting platforms have a separate window for captioning, going back to when the only captioning option was a ver fast typist. Now there are a number of AI tools that do a very good job of live captioning. But if the folks who recommend webinars don’t mention the need for live captioning, they are not just doing the folks who listen to them a dis-service, they are setting them up for potential legal issues.

    1. “The webinar needs to be live captioned, especially if it is connected to an academic institution.”

      That may be true. If someone is tied to an academic institution they need to check the policy there.

      Most folks though are just doing their own thing not tied to an educational institution in any way, so while transcription would be absolutely great for them to provide, it’s not at all required. Actually, I can’t recall a single webinar I’ve attended that had this within the past 5yrs.

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