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Now that the ill-effects of COVID-19 have been spoken and felt for many weeks, it time to move on to what it is making us learn. And not every learning, fortunately, is a bad one.

Come COVID induced lockdown, and webinars are suddenly in. Every single industry is doing many a day and why not. People are hungrier for views and have the time to consume them too. The best of both worlds.

Long after it could be called the first, but long before it became a norm to attend or host one, we did our first one as Alchemist and I got the natural opportunity to moderate and run it. As luck would have it, a very famous editor-in-chief of a business magazine [any guesses who?] rated it – we got a 10/10. Flattering it was, to hear he found it the best ever he had attended, till he asked me to write a note on how to create successful webinars and then it became seriously complimentary. So, here are the 10 most important learning I have, spelt clearly on his insistence and behest

Disciplined and motivated team over an anarchical star-studded one who has to be pushed

Like in any other game, you need the most motivated and disciplined soldiers to put a webinar together unless you have all the time in the world.  Don’t choose people who would be there because you have power over them and you nominated them. Let them choose themselves from the crowd. They need to feel for the subject, the heroes in the panel or the very fact that you have hand-picked them, anything. But you need them to be super-motivated to put this together for you. Let them be an in charge of one or the other buckets of work you create and leave it to them. All you do is a monitor with good frequency. Typical average rules of leadership

Either get a monologue or get a poly-logue, nothing in between

Your panel cannot be with 2 to 5 people unless you are dying short of time. You either do a clear monologue with someone who can, out of real or assumed power, can hold the audience for long, or create a diversified and multi-faceted panel who have enough to debate or add to each other. A lot of people think that a size of 8 is too much, but we had it, an all-powerful 8 people panel with heavy designations and portfolios and the people had fun  

Magnets work to get the audience

Names get you audience and then content from those names hold their attention for them to stay. Err on the side of getting the right names or titles rather than concentrate too hard on the content. Counter-intuitive? Well, good names are often due to the content they have and if not, that can be helped. The first name you acquire while building your panel will set the tone of who else you would get. The first one should be like a water balloon – you aim it high so that even if the next few are lower, the average doesn’t drop drastically

Prepare the Panelists with content nuggets

Successful people often get lazy and over-confident. They may search and vomit from the last session they have heard or been a part of and not think again, even if your subject is slightly different. Help them, arm them. Create a content team who will help each with relevant content, challenging data and facts, throw questions to them and allow them time to draw insights from all of them. Let them ‘earn’ their place once again in the panel. Nudge them to prepare, even Amitabh Bachchan does!

Technology needs to be tested if you don’t want it to test you

Everything that can go wrong will go wrong Prepare for glitches. Handle them before they kill you on the d-day. We did a pre-panel meeting and disguised it as a ‘chemistry meeting’ and slipped it in as a dress-rehearsal with everyone testing their internet speed, that one corner in the house that looks worth their name and the MBPS. Tame the technology and the other variables as much as you can. New problems can still happen if you are unlucky but typically, it’s the age-old problems which irritate. Make sure your panellist has two internet connections just in case the primary one fails. Prepare for non-tech problems too. Your panellists will need their water, coffee or snacks and many of them can run successful companies but find it difficult to keep the right distance from their screen. Check for all these possible problems in the pre-panel

Propinquity, promise and peer-to-peer marketing are the key to its promotion

We all know the marketing of an event or e-event is extremely important. Even though you start early, like TV programmes, the biggest thrust is the one made towards the last. The automised and yet tempting slogans you send 3 times in the last 24 hours can make sure the least RSVPs getting lost. Have a clear promise in your communication. What do you hope the audience will be left behind with, after the session. Communicate it to them. And yes, make sure they are the ambassadors to your event. Unlike paid events, free webinars mean that those who subscribe will be happy to tell their friends that they are doing this and you need to create virality option in every communication that you send to people who have pre-registered

Disrupt the audience, if you don’t want them distracted

Audiences feel all webinars are similar and there is a constant drop in viewership or participation if yours make their feelings come true. Innovate in the format, surprise them. Create a new way of holding the session, throw questions and odd trivia in between and do e-polls amongst the audience every now and then. It is very easy for a non-physically present audience otherwise to get distracted, press their mental remote or even leave. We created a zero hour at the beginning where every panellist set the mood by speaking up their quick 3 points in 3 minutes and an end discussion with an additional media panel. Both were relatively newer ideas and got the best out of the panellists and for the audience. Do make your webinar interactive

Keep it short, or you’re stupid

Like any content nugget, keep your webinar shorter than what people can take. It is understood that most people’s interest can waver in two hours. That is a sweet size. If the webinar is likely to go longer, give your audience a good break in between. Talk to them, not just the panellists. It’s easy to miss those audiences as they are not sitting right in front of you

A webinar doesn’t end when it ends, it doesn’t begin when it does

The time of the webinar should be the easiest effort. Only of implementation. It is the 7 days of preparation and 2 days of post-logs that you need to be more interested in getting right. All invites, follow ups, audience marketing nuggets and every other bucket’s calendar needs to be prepared and implemented. Once the webinar is done, a POV, collection of salient points to the registered database and a thank you must go in the next 24 hours

Improvise

However much you plan, something will go differently than how you did. Improvise when the panelist doesn’t hear your question right or gets lost on his connection while in the middle of an interesting point. Have an order, but be open to break it if its not going well. Throw more humour than face to face meetings and ask every now and then if you are audible and the audience and panel can hear you well

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors’ and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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