As some of you will know, MGS ran its first webinar last week (7th March). I have to say that the idea initially made me a little nervous. The potential to use it to deliver training – therefore reaching far more museums for a fraction of the cost to participants – helped overcome the anxiety. So basically we bit the bullet and started our planning!
But where to start?
Having someone to help with the content was a lifesaver! Our chums at Stripe Communications, who are working on the PR around Festival of Museums, kindly took up the mantle. They came up with some fantastic content themed around ‘getting your town talking’. The key to the content was to have clear, simple slides which didn’t contain too much text and to concentrate very strictly on the topic to ensure the information fitted into the allotted time.
We kept the webinar to 30 minutes as we felt this was a reasonable amount of time for anyone to take out of their diary (especially as the majority will still be sitting at their desk for the duration!) and would keep people’s interest. We also felt confident we could fill the time without either padding or rushing content.
There’s a bunch of different formats you can use for webinars (who knew!?). We considered:
- Straight presentation format with a voice over. We felt this was a little dull and we could simply do a recorded session which would look exactly the same. Also – slides can get boring right!?
- Panel format, where two or more presenters discuss a topic. This has the benefit that the presenters don’t have to be in the same room as long as they have webcams and can be engaging. Perhaps a little ambitious for our first foray into the webinar world!
- Interview format – where one presenter asks other presenters questions. This is done on screen or via audio. We were keen that the audience were able to ask questions live, so didn’t go with this format either.
Finally, we plumped for the presentation format with on-screen presenter. We felt comfortable using this format with an experienced presenter (Shaun from Stripe was a webinar veteran!). Presentation slides are a tried and tested technique and the on-screen presence adds a human element to engage the audience.
Plan and promote!
I did research. Lots and lots and LOTS of research! I took part in webinars. I read articles. I read blogs. I ate, slept and breathed webinars. By the end of it, we pretty much had a list of anything that could possibly go wrong. Ever. Basically we (over!) prepared as much as possible before running a webinar, but beware. Unforeseen things can always go wrong. The lovely thing about a webinar is that it is, by it’s nature, a more ‘organic’ and ‘human’ (and therefore mistakes aren’t the end of the world!)
We also figured out a pretty robust promotion schedule which involved recruitment via twitter (a couple of tweets a week reminding people to sign up – and some hilarious gifs to get their attention!) and direct emails out to the core audience (this was primarily aimed at Festival of Museums event organisers).
Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3…
We actively recruited two audiences. The first involved people organically signing up based on the promotion of the event, and the second comprised a hand-picked ‘test audience’. This was basically to get more rounded (and consistent) feedback. The test audience were asked to tell us more about their experience and will be in place for three webinars to measure improvement. The organic audience were asked to feed back on what they had learnt via the content of the webinar, how they felt the learning experience was etc. to help us improve content in future.
We also ran a test webinar where we ran through all the content and had people from the office dial in to ensure everything was working.
So what did we learn?
Planning is essential!
The content was excellent and Shaun was a fantastic presenter. However, without the run through, reading, and support of the team here, the entire webinar wouldn’t have run as smoothly as it did.
You can’t plan for everything
Although the webinar went pretty well, we had a few issues with the sound and we will buy a new microphone in time for the next webinar. This was just one of the unforeseen things that can happen, no matter how much planning you put in!
Finally, Click Meeting’s interface on iPhones and iPads turned out to be a bit rubbish. Dammit! We might change the platform in future, but for now we’re simply advising people to attend the webinar on their laptops.
Systems are a pain!
Certain local authorities require you to ‘unlock’ access to restricted websites (like Click Meeting – the platform we used) before you can use them. This could take a week or more. Several people couldn’t take part due to the site we used (along with a whole bunch of other websites) being blocked.
Oh – and we also found out that our emails were being junked by some servers. So people weren’t getting them. Which turned out to be a bit tricky. Next time we’ll be asking people to check their junk folders!
People like to engage
Our questions took longer than we thought they would. Way longer. People really engaged with the presentation and wanted to know more, which was great! We’re thinking next time we’ll have to put a time limit on the Q&A session just to ensure we don’t run over, but it was so fantastic to get so many people interacting.
Also, it was great how many people were holding a conversation and helping each other during the webinar. People were sharing their own experiences and advice on certain topics which really added so much to the session.
We’re DEFINITELY doing another one! We’re planning a second webinar around the subject of evaluation in late April (date tbc), so please do get involved and sign up to be part of it!
Missed the first webinar? A recorded version is now available on Vimeo.