ilinc Webinar Best Practices

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1 ilinc Webinar Best Practices Webinars have become a standard mode of virtual communication for sales and marketing departments. To help our customers be the best at this exciting, but multilayered form of communication, the ilinc Product Training Group has teamed up with our Event Services Group and several of our most polished webinar customers to assemble a Webinar Best Practices course. It s our goal that you incorporate this content into your online event processes, in order to deliver the best ilinc webinars possible. The Four Phases of a Successful Webinar Over the years, the ilinc Event Services Group has worked with countless clients to devise a proven approach to delivering webinars. The process consists of four phases, as illustrated below. think the only important phase is Execution. Our experience has proven that this sort of confidence can lead to problems later on in the webinar process. To ensure those invited have a fantastic experience and look forward to your next event, it is essential that everyone involved in the Webinar Inception two weeks prior one week prior Webinar Delivery PLAN Objectives Budget Technology/Audio Scheduling CONFIGURE Objectives Budget Technology/Audio Scheduling PRACTICE Objectives Budget Technology/Audio Scheduling EXECUTION Objectives Budget Technology/Audio Scheduling Common Webinar Challenges Depending on your specific role, one or more of these phases may sound more important than another. For example, those slated to be the leader or moderator of the event tends to production of the event practices. Similarly, those in project management roles often lean toward dragging out key decisions during the Plan phase, which can lead to a time crunch for the final three phases. 01

2 This document and corresponding course will guide you and your organization toward a balanced approach appropriately emphasizing all four phases. If you have questions or comments about how we re doing or how we can better help you and your organization, please send us a note at PHASE ONE: PLAN As part of your webinar planning, you determine your target audience and message, the date and time of the session(s), your speakers, and the basic marketing plan to invite your guests. You may also decide to limit the size of the session, charge a fee, or screen the registrants before they are allowed to join. Objectives Since most webinars are aimed at teaching the attendees something about your products, services, company, or a specific topic, clearly it s important to nail down the objectives within the content itself. However, identifying the objectives of the webinar itself early in the process is paramount to ensuring the webinar attracts the right people with the right expectations. Here are a few items that must be decided on during this part of the Planning phase: What is your target audience for this event? What are the specific goal(s) or learning objective(s)? Can you identify specific topics or content to be covered? What specific approach (e.g., lecture, group discussion) would best fit your topic? Identify a working title for the webinar, a rough agenda and outline. How much time is necessary to adequately cover the topic (e.g., content should be minutes with minutes set aside for Q&A)? Identify resources that should be incorporated into the content. How will you market the event? (See budget section below). If this is a lead generation event, what is your sales follow-up strategy/plan? Draft a document containing proposed webinar details and share with team members for review and revision. Budget This may seem obvious, but it can certainly alter the approach you take with future phases. The following list should help you nail down areas in which you may need to spend money: How much can you spend on lead acquisition? What type of marketing can you afford (e.g., blasts, direct mail, etc.)? Would you draw more interest in your topic with a well known personality as lead presenter? Webinar Technology Decide on the right webinar technology. Depending on the specifics of your webinar account, you may need to control registration to keep attendance within a pre-determined limit. 02

3 ilinc Webinar Best Practices This can be managed in one of two manners: Directly invite a small, pre-selected group. If you will be marketing to a large pool of potential participants, you can send out a general marketing message first and require people get in touch with you directly to receive login details. Be sure to let people know up front (i.e., in the original message) that registration will be on a first-come, firstserved basis. Audio Decide on an audio solution, either conference bridge or VOIP, and make sure your audience will be able to participate depending on your decision: Conference Bridge: Will participants have access to a phone? VoIP: Will they have access to speakers (to listen) and a mic (to participate verbally)? Scheduling Schedule the webinar for a date and time that s agreeable to all team members, invited guests, and potential participants. Other suggestions include: If you know your webinar will attract a lot of interest, try to offer multiple sessions and/ or set aside one or two back-up dates for additional sessions. Tuesdays and Thursdays are typically the best days to run events. Stay at least one week away from major holidays. Eleven o clock (11:00) a.m. Pacific Time is a good time to schedule webinars that will target a national audience. Build in at least a half hour before and after the official webinar time slot to allow for technology setup at the beginning, and for the possibility of running over at the end. Schedule practice session(s)! Schedule a webinar rehearsal at least one week prior to the live webinar at a date and time agreeable to the team members and guests who will be presenting at the live session. This webinar rehearsal will help you discover any kinks in the content, presentation format, or technology prior to the live webinar, and will help you gain confidence with the presentation tools. This practice session should be conducted just as it would be for the live webinar, if time for sufficient development allows (see Practice section). PHASE TWO: CONFIGURE Phase Two focuses on configuring the various technology aspects of your webinar. In the planning phase you chose a virtual environment and audio solution; now, in this phase, you will need to make sure they are configured correctly to meet your webinar requirements. At this time, you will also want to initiate your content development process. Virtual Environment Of course, we hope you choose ilinc to deliver all your webinars. This section will guide you through how to configure ConferenceLinc to best serve 03

4 your webinar leaders, assistants, and participants. As you start the process of creating the new ConferenceLinc activity, or session, here are our recommendations for your virtual environment. scale to the expected number of attendees. Be sure to communicate the actual time and date of the event and ask them to verify that there s not an unusually high amount of traffic SECTION SETTING(S) SELECTION / RATIONALE Key Information Teleconference/VoIP Visual If you re using a phone bridge, add the appropriate numbers, passcodes, moderator codes, etc. If you ve chosen VoIP, do not change the default options for quality, etc. unless guided to do so by ilinc Technical Support. **Additionally, see Audio Decisions below. Attendee photographs only. Video is not recommended for large events. Schedule Allow Join Set to at least 30 minutes before start time Security Unrestricted Chat De-select this option so that attendees will be restricted to sending chat messages to the leader and assistants only. Registration TBD Dependent on Registration Process Content Image Size: Quality: Primary content items should be imported PowerPoint slides 1024 x 768 Photos/Gradient (JPEG) s TBD Dependent on invitation method Attendees In-Session Sharing Set up any needed Assistants before session begins Enhanced (Cable 100K) Advanced Session Defaults should suffice, but you can customize the interface Audio Decisions Don t assume that your technology can support any type of webinar. There are important, seemingly simple, items that are often overlooked until it s too late: Audio Conferencing Bridge Capacity: Confirm with your audio conferencing provider that your current plan can easily and safely expected that day and that no scheduled maintenance is slotted for the same time. Sub-Conference: If you re using a conference bridge, always have the operator bring all presenters and assistants into an audio subconference immediately before the event (at least 15 minutes). Not only will this allow for last minute decisions and private conversation, but it s the perfect time to ask the operator to 04

5 ilinc Webinar Best Practices do a sound check for everyone to ensure the microphones are positioned and configured well. In case of technical issues, bring leaders and assistants back into a sub-conference to discuss next steps. Leader Audio: Ensure that leaders and moderators (or anyone who will be speaking to the audience) will not be using a speakerphone or cell phone. Set Audience to Listen-only Mode: Throughout the session the audience should be in listen-only mode. The only exception to this is during Q&A sessions. Internet Audio/VoIP: If you ve chosen this option, be sure to spend extra time with anyone who will be on microphone during the practice phase and allow a little extra time immediately before the event. It is very important that anyone that will be speaking has a quality headset with good noise cancelling technology built into the microphone. Content Create a PowerPoint presentation to organize the content of the webinar in an easy-to-follow fashion. Even if you plan on having a highly interactive session and/or have participants navigate an application or website with you, you will still want something to appear on the screen when participants first connect into the webinar so they know they have come to the right place. The slide show or other document can also be used to display the session agenda and list references and resources cited during the webinar. Here are some suggestions for the PowerPoint presentation: Include cover (with dial-in phone number technical support number), closing, Q&A instructions, and speaker bio slide(s). Number the slides. Use dark text on light background. The presentation should be under 4 MB and contain no animations. Keep fonts no smaller than 22 point for better readability. Keep graphs and charts simple. List additional resources on last slide (contact info, website address, etc.). If using a teleconference, include on the first slide or screen of your webinar the phone connection details (see sample below); some participants may log into the webinar but forget to also dial into the teleconference. Attendee Materials Convert any documents you will be using in the webinar to PDFs for distribution via to participants. Sending PDFs of the session materials beforehand helps participants prepare and allows them to take notes; it also allows you to have a Plan B for working through the session if you or participants have technical difficulties with the webinar. Evaluation Prepare a webinar evaluation to be given to participants. To generate more responses, launch the evaluation at the very end of the session. Participants are more likely to give feedback while still in the webinar environment, when the material is fresh in their minds. 05

6 Webinar Messaging Determine how s will be distributed (Outlook, ilinc, other). Once that decision has been made, craft a marketing message/invitation detailing the scheduling and agenda of the webinar. Things to consider when creating designing your messaging: If you are sending login information with the initial invitation, include the webinar description, login details, and teleconference information (if applicable). If you are controlling registration and asking people to get in touch with you before you give them connection details, you will need to send a marketing message with general webinar information, but no connection details. Potential participants must then contact you or another team member directly to get connection information. Launch/distribute marketing message through designated channels. PHASE THREE: Practice When it comes to webinars, the old adage is especially true; practice really does make perfect! Scheduling at least one practice session with all presenters and behind-the-scenes personnel can be the difference between a mediocre session and a great session. Many times, organizations will discover challenges to the plan that can easily be corrected at this point in the process. We suggest scheduling a comprehensive rehearsal session approximately one week before the actual date. This session is essential to acclimating presenters to the format, reminding everyone of their role in the event, testing content flow, planning transitions, and potentially identifying technical challenges. Try to make the run-through as realistic as possible, including having colleagues and/or reviewers connect to the webinar and phone systems that will be used. Secure access to a second computer (preferably a laptop) that you will be able to bring into the room from which the webinar and optional rehearsal will occur. If your webinar account allows, you can connect this second computer as a participant so that you can see what the participants see (it s not exactly the same as what you ll see on the computer you re using to run the webinar). Roles and Responsibilities Finalize presentation and roles and responsibilities with staff and other presenters. Typical roles include: Leader/Moderator: Typically (but not always) this person starts the session and is the primary speaker. Subject Matter Expert/Assistant(s): In some events these users are the primary presenter(s) and in others they may be content experts answering chat questions. Prepare appropriately for your particular case, bearing in mind that these people may not be astute with the technology and may need extra coaching in rehearsals. 06

7 ilinc Webinar Best Practices Support Personnel: Depending on the technology and audio solutions chosen, these individuals may be operators, content experts answering chat questions, planted participants who will ask prepared Q&A questions, etc. Using Virtual Tools In session, leaders will have a series of tools to help deliver content. Some tools to consider using in your webinar include: PowerPoint: PowerPoint presentations are easy to create, convert, and upload for use in an ilinc session. PowerPoint presentations require no additional coding or modifications in order to synchronize in an ilinc session. They are simply converted to a series of images when you upload the presentation to your ilinc Server. You then run the file using the ilinc Powerboard. Powerboard: This feature provides a set of highlighting, drawing, and coloring tools that you can use to enhance your content as you present. Powerboard mark-up tools include the following: Highlighter Text Tool Graphic Tools Color and Line Weight Tools Import Picture Tool The Powerboard Pointer Sharing: ilinc s application or desktop sharing tool allows the leader to share an application or desktop on his or her computer with everyone in an ilinc session, even when the other users do not have that application installed. As a leader, you can use Sharing to: Show your actions with other users while you use your applications. Enable a participant to use the shared applications as the rest of the audience watches. Enable a participant to share his or her own applications with the session. Synchronized Browser: The Synchronized Web Browser is an add on to your Web browser. When you are the floor holder in an ilinc session, you can use the Synchronized Web Browser to lead all attendees as you navigate Web pages on the Internet or intranet. Q&A: Use Q&A to ask your attendees a series of multiple choice questions during a session. You can make up questions before a session or add them on-the-fly. When you ask a question, attendees see it and all its possible answers in their Q&A tab. Transitions An important part to virtual presentation is a leader s ability to transition from slide to slide without a noticeable pause in the delivery of the presentation. Practicing the presentation is the most obvious way to ensure a seamless presentation. Another strategy is to use the problem/solution ladder when presenting ideas and concepts. This is done by introducing a real world problem to which your attendees can easily relate. Once the problem has been introduced, you solve the problem by introducing the idea/ concept that you want them to understand. By employing this solution, you have an easy way to transition from idea to idea while keeping 07

8 your audience engaged by presenting relatable problems and the strategies to solve them. Plan B Discuss strategies to deal with possible interruptions to the webinar or audio technology: Leader loses his/her Internet connection: Have the assistant run the slides while the leader speaks using a printed version of the slide deck. Webinar technology failure: Continue with audio until the issue is resolved. If needed, bring the Leaders and Assistants back into a sub-conference to discuss next steps. Audio failure: Inform audience through chat or Powerboard that the issue is known and keep the audience up to date on next steps. If you have done a prior recording (see Prior Recording) below, you can refer the audience to that recording. Prior Recording If you record the Webinar in advance of the live session, you can have the recording available immediately after the event. This gives your attendees the ability to forward the recording link to peers as soon as the event finishes and while it is still top of mind for them. You may choose to replace the prepared recording after you have had a chance to edit the recording of the live event. PHASE FOUR: Execution The final phase of the process includes the final prep (a few days before the webinar), the lead-up on the day of the event, the webinar itself, and the follow-up procedures following the event. Final Preparation Appropriate time before the Webinar Send a reminder to participants that repeats the login information and housekeeping details a couple of days before the webinar. You may want to send any slide show or other written materials for your webinar to participants in PDF format in the reminder . This benefits participants who would prefer to have session materials in hand, allows them to take notes, and allows for a Plan B should you or participants have technical difficulties during the webinar. Event Delivery In the hour before your webinar is to begin: Set up, turn on, and log into the computer you will be using to host the webinar. If using the recommended second computer to log in as a participant (to see what participants see), set it up, turn it on, and log onto it as well. Set up conference phone and test for dial tone and volume. If using a slide show presentation or other documents during the webinar, open the file(s) on the computer you will be using to host the webinar. Gather the following materials to have on hand during the webinar (and make copies for other presenters with you in the room): Hard copy of any materials that will be presented during the webinar 08

9 ilinc Webinar Best Practices Hard copies of the registration list (if available) for taking attendance Connection information for phone conference system (if applicable) Any technical support instructions or contact information, in case you need to go to Plan B Log the host computer into the webinar. Make sure all Leaders and Assistants join as early as possible. A few minutes before the webinar is to begin: Greet participants already on the phone (or ask the operator to do it if it s a large event). Acknowledge participants as they connect into the teleconference and webinar. Troubleshoot any difficulties participants are experiencing. At the appropriate time, begin the session: Start the webinar with an opening script that sets participants expectations for how the webinar will be run and provides any housekeeping tips. Other best practices include: Address how questions will be taken. Review how the chat and other feedback features work. Instruct participants either to ask questions at any time or to save them until the end. Alternatively, you can ask participants to questions to you or a colleague during the course of the webinar. These can be addressed during the session or held to the end, depending on how you wish your webinar to be structured. When moving between slides or screens during the webinar, periodically read out the slide number or slide/screen title to help participants know they are seeing the same thing you are. Event Ending End the webinar with a closing script that thanks the audience for their participation, reminds them to fill out the evaluation, and supplies information on how to get additional help afterwards if necessary. When finished, log out and close all webinar windows. Make sure you have stopped the webinar recording and have saved any relevant files or chat logs. Lastly, hang up the teleconference line (if applicable), shut down computer(s), and clean up the room. Post-Webinar De-brief Immediately following the webinar, have a meeting with all primary participants (Leaders, Assistants, Technical Support, Content Developers, etc). The purpose of this meeting is to discuss the various aspects of the webinar including things that worked, things that didn t worked, and plans for improving future events. This meeting needs to be scheduled in advance of the session. Perhaps schedule it as you re scheduling your prep meetings and/or rehearsals. Post-Webinar Follow-Up Send out a prepared thank-you message to participants.typically, this communication should include any additional resources promised to 09

10 participants during the webinar as well as a link to the recording of the event. Include instructions for completing any post-webinar evaluation. Other items that you may want to include in postwebinar follow-ups are: Responses to individuals who asked unanswered questions during the live event. Follow up with any one-on-one training or technical assistance promised to specific participants in the course of the webinar. If this event is a lead generation effort, have prepared instructions ready for your sales team on how to follow up on leads, especially ones that are very hot. Depending on your sales processes, you may even wish to distribute follow-up instructions prior to the webinar as well as sending a reminder immediately after. Good Luck with Your Next Webinar If you have questions about running webinars or any other kind of online session, the ilinc team is here to help. Please don t hesitate to get in touch. For training or webinar-related questions, reach out to For general or sales inquiries, contact us at or

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