Due to mandated social distancing and stay home orders, video conferencing has become the preferred way to stay connected for millions of people and businesses. Yet after staring at Zoom galleries for months on end many begin to have second thoughts about the ROI. All that time spent on web conferences and seminars – is it really worth it?
Webinar fatigue is real and widespread, in particular when interaction with audiences is treated like an afterthought. This has inspired some organizations to introduce virtual conferences, placing a higher emphasis on user mobilization and engagement. The recently held Paris Peace Forum brought together heads of state and international organizations plus representatives from the private sector, civil society, philanthropy, academia and other stakeholders to work on ways to build a more sustainable world. It is just one high-profile example where expert panels and actual networking coexisted side by side.
In the Middle East, EMIR (Emerging Markets Intelligence & Research) has championed virtual tech-enabled conferences as a way to drive public-private dialogue at a senior level. It’s the closest thing to the old mingling with peers and business partners but also technically complex. You are logged in on two devices and switch between simultaneously live-streamed sessions while participants message you via the chat box. Multi-tasking, writ extra large.
The verdict is still out on how lasting these digital relationships are. However, virtual meetings are the future and a test of our ability to extract real value from the core content presented in an online setting. So here are my five tips to get the most out of webinars:
1. Choose wisely
Technical platforms provided by Zoom, Webex, Microsoft Teams and so forth level the playing field, making everyone look professional. We should choose carefully where to invest our time. If a topic sounds too broad or lacks a clear target audience, chances are there’s little value in attending. And if the organizer ignores the time zones where the supposed target audience lives you probably shouldn’t bother to attend either. Pick webinars that make it easy to attend, feature the best speakers and topics close to your interests while also leaving enough time for interaction.
2. Don’t get sidetracked by low participation numbers
An online event hosted by a reputed organization does not mean there are going to be thousands of participants. According to Search Engine Journal only 2% of all webinars secure between 251 and 500 attendees. The vast majority, just over 70%, have 50 or fewer attendees. That means your participation matters greatly. If you look at it that way, you are on course to take advantage by actively engaging.
3. Make it about getting real insight
Now that sounds pretty obvious. But consider this: webinars could in fact become as useful as going back to university. By listening and learning from the best we can really broaden our knowledge in our chosen field while getting to know more experts than we could possibly meet in person. Following them on various webinars increases the chances of accumulating exclusive insights that set you apart. All it takes is to get serious about it and put in some homework.
4. Submit your questions beforehand
Don’t wait until the Q&A part because that puts you in competition with everyone else while diminishing your chances of placing an original question that will in fact be read out live. By submitting your questions before the event you are doing your host and yourself a favor. It means you’re less distracted and more likely to be heard even if the allocated time for Q&A is running short.
5. Always use a headset
If you’re not hundred percent focused, webinars can easily turn into something more akin to watching TV, with all the mental tuning in and out. It’s clear why: when we’re online there’s always that temptation to quickly check email or post a tweet. However, if you plug in your earphones you’re instantly drawn in and more likely to stay laser-focused on the topic. It’s another trick to make those 45 or 90 minutes worth your time.
That’s it, five simple things to consider when signing up for that next webinar.
Virtual events have become a key marketing tool for think tanks, NGOs, educational institutions and companies. There are here to stay as they extend brand reach, add followers and grow the subscriber base. There is plenty of excellent and free content available and the opportunities to connect are virtually limitless. Going back to Virtual Uni could just become a thing in 2021.