4 Types of Interactions for Webinars

By Sharat Sharan, John Carucci

Like recess or gym class, participation from everyone (presenter to participant) is a big part of the webinar process, so there’s not one set of rules when it comes to interacting with your guests. The value of interactivity is that you want to have a real conversation with your audience. Remember, you don’t want to talk at them; you want to have a meaningful discussion with them.

These days you have quite an array of tools at your disposal to allow you to interact in various ways. Think of each as using the proper club when playing golf. Each situation on the course has its own unique solution, just like your presentation. Like golf clubs, interactive tools can serve your presentations in a lot of different ways.

You need to pick the interactive tool that works best for the type of conversation you want to have with your audience. Before getting into the different value with each type, take a look at the three basic kinds of interactive conversations:

  • Presenter to audience: Basically, it’s a talking head seen by the audience on their screen.

  • Audience to presenter: Whether it’s responding to a poll or asking a question during the Q&A portion of the presentation, the participant plays an active role in the live webinar.

  • Audience to audience: Your participants can communicate with one another through social media during the presentation using Twitter and Facebook, for example. The group chat widget facilitates communication within the environment, too.

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Here’s a rundown of some webinar interaction tools. They all have different benefits, so pick the ones that are right for your needs.

How to use chat in webinars

Chat is a way of creating a secondary dialogue for conversation within the webinar experience by allowing participants to communicate amongst each other. Some producers have mixed feelings about it, however. It’s something you’ll have to experiment with to decide whether it’s right for you. Part of the reason some producers don’t like it is that it creates a separate conversation during the presentation.

Depending on the type of discussion you’re having, that can be good or bad. The positive side is that it encourages dialogue and participation. It’s a good idea to have one or two people monitoring the chat to maintain order and answer questions. The downside of chat is that you can get negative comments, which can be a distraction.

How to use polls and surveys in webinars

Polling is a nice way to bring the audience’s voice into the presentation. You get to hear the voice of the audience and bring it into the discussion, and they get to do the same. Most audience members have a natural curiosity about what their peers are thinking and doing.

By seeing the results of polls, they can find similarities or differences with others. “What’s someone else doing? Am I the same?” That’s a big part of what’s on an audience member’s mind during a presentation.

Basics of Q&A in webinars

The Q&A is the most interactive tool in the webinar experience, and it’s probably used in about 85 percent of webinars. (Who knows how much longer the other 15 percent who don’t use it can survive?)

Typically, it’s done at the end of the presentation, but an increasing number of webinars integrate Q&A throughout the presentation. The expanded use of Q&A can be effective at creating a real conversation, but the downside is that it slows down the presentation.

That’s why you must allot enough time to adequately answer as many questions as possible. If you promise a question-and-answer period in a one-hour webinar, but your presentation lasts for 58 minutes and you only allow two minutes for your Q&A, you’ve reneged on the promise of having a discussion with the audience.

You want to make sure you deliver your presentation on time, so depending on your structure, plan for it accordingly.

If the time allotted doesn’t allow you to answer all the questions asked, develop a Q&A document with unanswered questions and then provide that to attendees.

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Social media integration and webinars

The magic of social media has increasingly become an effective tool for webinars today because it continues the discussion by broadcasting the conversation beyond the console and beyond the webinar participant to an extended audience.

If someone is impressed with your content and they tweet about it, it goes out to an extended network. Of course, the downside is that they’re not always pleased, and they let others know about that, too.

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