While training professionals usually prefer to teach in a live classroom, the webinar is a teaching modality that’s here to stay. With the growth in distributed teams, workforces are now too spread out to have all onboarding and training classes in a classroom. Let’s embrace this technology and use our imaginative powers to raise the bar on this type of learning experience.

Webinar service providers offer tools like polling and shared whiteboards to encourage audience participation, and there are other tricks of the trade to encourage audience involvement. On the other hand, if you are recording the webinar for permanent housing in your company’s learning management system (LMS), you will want to adapt these suggestions.

Whether recorded or not, here’s what not to do: spend more than a minute or two introducing yourself. While, of course, you want to establish your credibility on the topic, be sure to include a personal connection to the material and the audience. Learners will be much more drawn in to you as the instructor and the webinar content if you share why you find this material valuable.

Which brings us to the first tip to increase webinar engagement…

1. Generously Sprinkle Value Nudges Throughout the Webinar

Inserting “value nudges” throughout the learning experience is an easy way to ratchet up engagement. A value nudge is a reminder of why each aspect of the training is important to the audience. In other words, continually call out the benefits of the content — in small doses. A compelling webinar, even if it’s recorded, will feature value nudges every time the presenter introduces a new aspect of the topic.

Apart from the value nudge, there are other tools you have to raise webinar engagement…

2. The Set-up

Helping participants set up their own success starts with their first communication with you. If possible, create interest in your webinars by emailing them a brief message in advance. Let them know how excited you are about the event, and share the benefits they will derive from their active participation. In some cases, you might be able to send out a short (less than one minute) video introduction before the webinar as a “free sample.” Then, before the webinar starts or at the beginning (or both), help attendees experience success by reminding them to turn off distractions so they can focus.

3. Engage Fingers, Eyes and Ears

Long-distance engagement requires incorporating activities that might seem off-putting if you included them in a live workshop. You have the opportunity to be creative in coming up with ways to touch base with webinar attendees.

One way to raise involvement is break up the content (especially with compliance and technical training) with mini-tasks and easy questions for the audience. For example, ask attendees to share their location, a favorite gif, the last food they ate, and whether they prefer dogs or cats and cake or cookies.

It might feel awkward asking webinar attendees whether they preferred cookies or cake, but the response to this type of question is usually overwhelmingly enthusiastic. Somehow, this silly question can bring you closer together.

Similarly, check in frequently (every five minutes) with your audience by asking for direct feedback through questions like these:

  • On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate this webinar so far?
  • Are you finding this section helpful?
  • Would you like another example?
  • Am I going too fast?

Inviting participants to type easy answers keeps their fingers, and their brains, focused on the content you are sharing.

4. Jazzy Follow-up material

To extend learning beyond the hour you spend on the webinar, offer some form of written support material. The most common material presenters offer is the slides from the webinar — which no one will look at again. Even the most ardent fan of your content will become distracted before laying eyeballs on those slides again.

Instead, create a handout with the most essential content, plenty of white space and color, and your contact information. Send it out after the event, not during it. You might also consider creating a worksheet for attendees to use to apply the learning or to revisit the ideas one more time. A webinar participant is more likely to open a fresh document than to download a heavy file of slides that they’ve already seen. Other follow-up messages can be a quick (five questions, maximum) survey or a learning booster in the form of an easy quiz.

The four engagement tips — plant value nudges, beef up the set-up, and be intentional about audience participation and creative with your follow-up — will extend your webinar’s lifespan and enhance and extend its impact on everyone who participates.

Creative breakthroughs result from constraints. Let’s see how we can use the humble webinar to make training content better than it’s ever been.