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12 activities to put interaction into webinar training

Humans are social learners. The more involvement there is, the more likely they are to connect with and remember the content. However, it is very common for webinar training to be a more passive, “sit and get” journey rather than an active and participative experience. It should be remembered though, that when there is less involvement, retention is diminished. And when delivering webinars it is even more critical to check in with the audience, as you don’t have the same visual clues as found in face to face context or the proximity control for the matter.

With the right interaction, webinar presenters can create deeper, more meaningful learning experiences as well as developing more focused and engaged participants. Following are 12 activities that will enable you to put more interaction and energy back into your webinar training.

  • Agenda Voting – This involves providing an agenda for the session and inviting the students to vote on the most important content for them. This helps the trainer to prioritise the focus of the training. Build a branched scenario for discussion topics and move through each based on user responses in the chat box or a poll.  You can make the paths interactive with a PowerPoint presentation that has linked slides or with a non-linear, navigable Prezi (www.prezi.com). 
  • Polls/surveys - You can engage your attendees by creating custom polls and surveys which quickly gauge their collective perspectives on a range of issues and topics. These can then be tabulated and shared back to the group or compiled over a series of sessions to analyse any changes in responses.
  • Audience Chat – This involves using a chat window function in the webinar to invite responses to questions. These should be open-ended for the most part to elicit more in-depth responses. This will extend the learning for all participants.
  • Break-out Rooms – This is the process of dividing a larger group of participants into smaller, more intimate discussion groups where they can share information and bounce ideas off one another. This is particularly useful if you have a large volume of webinar participants.
  • Show of hands – Many webinar platforms have a button that can be clicked which enables participants to raise their hand. The presenter can invite attendees to respond to closed questions. For example: “Show of hands, who thinks this is a good idea?” The show of hands can also be used to conduct quick polls on the run, without having to set up the alternate responses ahead of time.
  • Photo share – This involves inviting the participants to share a webcam photo of where they are or perhaps what the weather looks like in their part of the world. The presenter can reciprocate to enable stronger connections to be made. Not everyone will feel comfortable with this sort of sharing. Therefore, as an alternative they could share where they wish they were joining the webinar from. Hawaii anybody?
  • Stretch break – At about the 45 minute mark of webinar training, participants will often need a quick physical break. Therefore a 30 second stretch break may give them the kick they need to keep them focused for the remainder of the session. It also gives the webinar presenter an opportunity to re-energise and rehydrate before bringing the session to a close. 
  • Quizzes/Tests – Most commercial webinar platforms have quiz or test features. This provides a nice checking for understanding component during the webinar and also helps to reinforce key points.
  • Shared whiteboard collaboration – It’s often said, “don’t do for them what they can do for themselves”. Therefore, asking participants to add to information on the screen using the shared whiteboard function is an easy way for learners to be involved in their own learning. It will help to promote reinforcement and show value in their input. I common way to use the shared whiteboard is to have a continuum on the screen and they have to circle or mark where they fit on this continuum. E.g. from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree. Alternatively, they could be given a visual image or diagram and asked to annotate their response on the screen.
  • Teach back – This involves giving opportunities for learners to take content they have learned and teach it back to others in the group. Set it up by providing learners with exclusive content pre-webinar that they will then summarise and share back to the group during the webinar. This could be used as part of a “flipped classroom” approach.
  • Fill in the blanks – When creating workbooks or handouts, leave space for students to add their own ideas and leave blanks in content, which is completed by the participants as they go. In this way they will be creating a living resource, rather than a static resource.
  • Action Planning – This provides participants with an opportunity to record important ideas that they are going to be able to use in the future. This could be done as part of a closing activity.

Finally, if you want a sure-fire way to ensure involvement, give some perks for participation. Providing a prize at the end for a lucky participant pulled from a list of those who were first to volunteer answers could be a great way to garner involvement. Rewarding good participation will be a source of encouragement for the rest to do the same. Personally, I prefer to give a link to a freebie (e-book, template or some other content-related resource) for all those who stay until the end of the webinar. This acts as a bonus reward for their contribution and participation. However, I suggest that you mention this in your introduction, so they know to expect it.

So good luck in building more involvement and interaction into your online presentations and be sure to make your next webinar a webin-AHA moment for your participants.
By Marc Ratcliffe