Webinars have become popular as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Here at Andela, we continue to bridge the gap between Software Engineers in the continent and global tech thought leaders via our webinar series dubbed Talks at Andela.
In the past, we’ve been able to host amazing guests such as the VP of Technology at Expedia, the Director of Engineering at Facebook, the VP of Engineering at Digital Ocean, and the Developer Advocates at GitHub and Cloudinary, respectively. All these webinars have seen us host hundreds of technologists across Africa, and beyond for discussions around tech and tech-thought leadership. (See all the previous episodes).
Given the institutional knowledge our team has been able to gather in the course of putting together numerous cross-country and cross-continental webinars, we’ve decided to share a brief guide on how you can set up one for your community, company, or department, as the world continues settling into a remote-first work culture.
To successfully organise a webinar, you have to structure your planning into three phases: pre-webinar, webinar, and post-webinar plans.
- Topic/theme: Decide on a topic/theme depending on your webinar’s goal. This can be guided by your program’s objectives, company goals, etc. It is OK — recommended, even — to have a number of topics or themes that the guest speaker can choose from.
Pro tip: Remember to leave room for them to also share topics they think they can deliver in line with your theme/webinar goals!
- List potential guest speakers: List out 1 to 3 potential guest speakers who can deliver the content of your topic. You can get information and contacts via Twitter or LinkedIn (most speakers have put this out on their bios).
Pro tip: You can also follow then send a Direct Message with a polite request as a 1st point of connection if, say, you do not have their email address. Make sure to reach out to a list of 1 to 3 within the desired timeframe, so you can have options.
- Reach out in order of priority: Speaker’s priority can vary depending on the timeframe you have to execute the webinar, or availability of contacts to reach-out to speakers, amongst other determinants.
Pro tip: When reaching out, you’ll want to have a TL;DR or abstract version of 2 things: Your webinar series and its overarching goals, and The topic/theme you’d like the speaker to cover. (This gives them a more-defined scope to explore.)
Move your discussions to a formal platform e.g. email, slack channel, where you can continue the prep conversation ahead of the webinar
- Preparation; Host: Set up a kickoff meeting with guest speakers. Give the layout of the webinar, as you lock down key details with the speaker, such as: proposed date/time, time duration of webinar, and a breakdown of webinar segments (intro, housekeeping, session, Q&A, et al). Also share a doc/repo, where the speaker will share details of his/her webinar talk/discussion.
Pro tip: Have a standard template that allows speakers to enter their bio, online info, talk abstract, a tl;dr to attendees, RSVP link, etc.
While this is on-going, be sure to kick off preparation of creatives, and a landing page with your team.
Creatives: You can work with a designer to create posters/banners for the webinar that can be used in various owned (and external, if possible) social media platforms to amplify the webinar ahead of time.
Landing page: This is the public site where attendees can register to attend the webinar, and also view more details about what to look forward to. You can choose from several available options like Hubspot, Eventbrite, Splashthat, etc when deciding on a tool to use.
Pro tip: Set up your email notification process flow (confirmation emails, reminders, etc) at this stage and test to ensure all is set.
- Preparation; Guest Speaker: Set up a walk-through meeting a few days to 1 week before the webinar with the guest speaker. Use this meeting to mimic a dry run of the actual webinar, agree on the agenda from beginning to end and share best practices here too.
Pro tip: Some best practices might seem obvious but make a huge difference if followed through; for example. using a headset to ensure audio is clearer, ensuring presentation is on full-screen during the webinar, and so on.
The kick-off call also lets you better understand the following: How the host handles webinar sessions generally, the key items the host desires to pass on to the attendees via your talk, and the timelines and activities leading to the webinar.
- Both the speaker and the host should join 10 to 15 minutes ahead of time. This allows time for a final run-through of the webinar. The speaker and host can also use this time to conduct an audio and visual check before the webinar kicks-off.
- Kicking off the webinar:
- Host welcomes participants and shares the outline of what to expect from the webinar.
- As part of the introduction, also take a moment to explain the platform and how attendees can participate. If you’re using Zoom Webinar, explain the use of the chat feature vs the Q&A feature. (Pro tip: Think of cool/fun icebreakers depending on the demography. Yes, online icebreakers are fun! And they set up good energy for the webinar!)
- Share applicable code-of-conduct with everyone to ensure every single participant feels safe and welcome to participate. Keep it short and simple! (Pro tip: If recording the webinar, encourage participants to not interrupt with questions till the Q&A session, so that the recording is ‘clean’ when being uploaded. They can also keep the questions coming via chat or Q&A functionality in the course of the talk.)
- Proceed to formally introduce the guest speaker. You can read through a brief bio, and then hand it over to them to kick off the session.
- The Guest speaker may introduce themselves once more, perhaps including a fun-fact not covered by the host.
- Remember to put the presentation in full-screen mode, sit-up or stand upright (whichever is most comfortable) to ensure you are projecting your voice well into your mouthpiece.
- The host can share a time-check with the speaker every few minutes to ensure they are aware of the remaining time throughout the webinar.
- After the presentation, the host or someone else designated beforehand can then moderate the Q&A, reading out the questions and pausing for the speaker to share responses.
- Ensure you keep time down to the minute. Do not extend beyond allotted time, as participants have other activities to get to.
- Wind up the webinar by thanking the speaker and sharing what participants can expect as next steps (content links, feedback form, etc).
- Share a thank-you email shortly after or a day after to all attendees, including links to the content shared on the webinar. Also include a feedback to ensure you keep refining your content and webinar structure, as well as collect other topics of interest from participants.
- You can plan to do a social media recap of the webinar the week after, especially for those who couldn’t attend to access the content as well. If the webinar is recorded and all stakeholders agreed on publicizing the recording, you can refer people to the link where it is hosted.
Retrospect… Improve… Repeat!