How to hold an effective webinar

On 22 June, Athlete365 ran an exclusive online workshop for athletes’ commission (AC) chairs, designed to help ACs deliver their projects and activities online rather than physically, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, we break down the key discussion points from the workshop.  

  • Athletes’ commissions have had to conduct their meetings and deliver their activities in virtual formats over the past few months.  
  • To support them, Athlete365 delivered an online workshop to AC chairs showcasing best practices for holding webinars effectively.  
  • Athlete365 has a suite of other resources designed to help athletes’ commissions to be effective. 

Effective webinars are distinct from PowerPoint presentations. The interactive, real-time element of a webinar is very important, and means that you can engage participants directly and better facilitate understandingunlike with a standard broadcast or monologue. On 22 June, we invited AC chairs from five continents for an exclusive online workshop led by expert facilitator Jenna Clarke, to discuss best practices for holding an effective webinar. Here is our resulting step-by-step summary. 

Webinar considerations 

A good place to start is to find out who and how many people are expected at the webinar, and their subject knowledge. The more people there are, the more you will use the chat function – which is more efficient. When preparing your presentation, ask yourself: what do you want these participants to say, do, think and feel differently as a result of listening to you? 

Top tip: Avoid too much content on your slides, which will make them hard to read on smaller devices. 

Content and design 

Be visual when designing your webinar by using graphs, icons, quotes, images and charts. You should tell a story with your content, avoid jargon, and avoid using your slides as speaking notes. Instead, write your own detailed notes for what you will say, with prompts of when to change slides and call on people.   

Top tip: Increase the number of slides to hold the attention of your participants. 

Interactivity 

Interact early and often. The more often webinar guests participate, the more engaged they’ll be. So start off with a round table of introductions; run a few polls if your platform has that function; and call for questions, or ask questions throughout the webinar. This will create opportunities for your audience to test their knowledge or share their personal experiences during the webinar, rather than right at the end. If people grow accustomed to holding their questions until the last 10 minutes, they’re more likely to drift off or do something else in the meantime.  

Top tip: Remind participants to unmute themselves before you ask a question. This will help your webinar run smoothly.  

Getting ready 

The AC chairs agreed that practice is essential when getting ready to deliver a webinar. The more you can practise, the more spontaneous and fluid you can be, and the better you can keep to time and engage the participants. You should also close your alerts and computer windows while presenting, and log on at least 15 minutes before the webinar starts, to give yourself time to get ready.   

Top tip: Arrange a chat spotter from your commission to monitor the chat and draw your attention to questions while you are speaking 

Logistics 

Make sure you test and are familiar with the technical aspects. Test your connection to the videoconferencing platform you are using, and test your audio equipment with someone ahead of time. Be mindful of your background, and keep your computer plugged in! 

Top tip: Respect people’s time, and don’t punish those who arrive on time by making them wait for others.  

Delivery 

The AC chairs shared a number of online presentation tips, including speaking more slowly than normal; varying the tone and volume of your voice; and being enthusiastic about what you’re talking about. People need time to absorb what you are saying, and won’t be interested to listen if you don’t seem interested in saying it. But remember, it’s OK to be nervous – just try to think of the webinar as a conversation. Your athletes will want you to do well and will be receptive to your ideas.  

Top tip: Try to look at the camera – and not at your image on the screen – when presenting.  

Post-webinar actions 

Create a one or two-page handout summarising your main points, and send this to your participants after the webinar. They will appreciate this more than a 40-slide deck in PDF format! And make sure you ask for the gift of feedback, so that you can improve next time.    

Top tip: End your webinar with a call to action. Remember what you want your participants to think, do, see and feel.  

To access more resources designed to help athletes’ commissions, click here.