When it comes to a convenient, time-efficient way to get a message or lesson across to a large audience, webinars are hard to beat. Quickly becoming an indispensable part of the e-learning world, webinars are simple and cost-effective to put together and you can even create one without leaving your office!

Webinars also cut down on travel and administrative time needed to coordinate in-person meetings, and allow you to reach a broader audience than ever before (all your participants need is a computer). For all of these reasons and many more, it is easy to see why webinars are edging out traditional learning experiences in popularity.

But putting a webinar together, while simple to do, doesn’t mean simply sitting in front of a camera and talking. Tiny tweaks can make or break the experience, and can ensure that you attract the right audience, and keep them engaged so that they retain the skills or product information you are teaching them. Follow these six simple tricks of the trade when incorporating webinars into your e-learning or training program.

  1. Keep it brief. Since you do not have the visual cues from your audience that you do in a traditional classroom, you have no way of knowing whether they are sitting in rapt attention or yawning and checking Facebook. Since you are competing against more potential distractions, aim for your webinar to last 20 minutes, or the length of the average adult’s attention span. If you are also incorporating a Q&A portion, you can certainly up that timeframe by an additional 10 to 15 minutes. If you cannot fit all of your material into 20 ticks on the clock, break it up into a series of webinars instead.
  2. Think visual. Remember the importance of visual aides. Once again, it comes down to your audience’s fickle attention span. Giving them more to look at will ensure you are holding their attention, so now is the time to take advantage of the many tools available to you. Add in photos to further describe your topic, experiment with split-screen video demos and select a lively host. This can be the difference between a ho-hum presentation and one that people will remember and really learn from.
  3. Spread the word. The slickest webinar will not do anyone any good if no one knows about it. Now is not the time to be shy! Build up momentum early and start to spread the word at least a month ahead of time. Create a hashtag on Twitter, start posting links on your Facebook page, create a promotional invitation email to send to your company contacts (enlist their help in spreading the word, too), and distribute a flyer, anything you can think of to get more hands on deck.
  4. Get ready for your close-up. Whether you are hosting a webinar yourself or you have hired a host, you will want to follow some simple on-camera rules. If possible, opt for natural lighting, stand or sit in front of a solid background, and wear a solid color that contrasts with your background (if your background is dark, for example, opt for a light-colored shirt, and vice versa). Steer clear of wearing distracting patterns, and to avoid the dreaded face shine, press some matte powder on your forehead, cheeks and nose. Don’t forget about glasses, either — make sure you have anti-glare lenses so your audience can actually see your eyes. Using a webcam? Place it right above your monitor so it looks like you are looking right at your audience even when you are sneaking a peek at your presentation.
  5. Engage your audience. The buzzword with media these days is “interactive.” Play the same game with your webinar. By keeping it less like a seminar and more like an interactive learning experience, you will keep your audience’s attention. Live polls, quizzes, chat, Q&A sessions and that designated Twitter hashtag help participants find each other and spark discussions that will go a long way toward webinar success.
  6. But don’t stop there. Remember that the experience isn’t over after “class is dismissed.” Keep your momentum going by following up and thanking your participants (provide links to the highlights and surveys to keep them engaged after the fact). Also, for those who weren’t able to make it, have your webinar archived so they can find you after the fact.

Webinars are here to stay in the world of e-learning, and will continue as an indispensable and convenient training tool. By following these simple tips, you can make the most of the advantages that this popular form of training offer, and keep your audience coming back for more. Good luck and see you online!