How to Manage Time in Webinars

By Sharat Sharan, John Carucci

A webinar is not like a Bruce Springsteen concert that can run for hours without a predictable end and nobody minds. You have no such luxury with a webinar, nor do participants clamor for it. When it comes to time management, nothing is more important than respecting your audience. If you plan on delivering a 60-minute webinar, you’re making a commitment that you’re going to deliver what you promised.

Consider the following:

  • Don’t run late: Never go over your allotted time. Even if it’s a great webinar with a lot of interactivity and you just want to keep going, don’t. Your audience members may have prior commitments or other stuff to do.

    You’re forcing them into making a decision that they don’t want to have to make. You made an agreement to start and end at a specific time. Make sure you stick to it.

  • Have a leisurely start time: It’s become an acceptable norm to start slowly to give participants time to move from one meeting to the next, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go live at your start time. It’s not about starting late, but more like starting off with a long hello to give people time to get settled in before you get to the good stuff.

  • Take a few minutes to explain the basics: Tell the audience what to expect for the presentation and explain the technology to them. If there are interactive tools, they need to be highlighted. Describe the Q&A area of the console and the integrated Twitter conversation.

Basics of accurate schedules for webinars

Viewing times are going up, and audiences are willing to stay for an hour. But audiences are savvy and can detect when you’re delivering filler, so the golden rule is to create a webinar length that corresponds with length of content that you have to offer.

If you’ve got 20 minutes of great content, advertise a 30-minute webinar. Do 20 minutes of content and a 10-minute Q&A. If you got 45 minutes of great content, do a one-hour webinar with a 15-minute Q&A. It’s okay to end a little early, but it’s not okay to end a little late.

How to set a realistic webinar agenda

When it comes to planning your presentation schedule, you need to account for all the different elements, not just the presentation. That includes the interactive elements, the housekeeping, the Q&A, and so on in terms of planning your time. To assure that it works, you need to rehearse it.

In rehearsal, you’ll learn where you are going to be in terms of length. It’s important to remember to respect that amount of time to honor the contract that you are entering with your audience.

Speaker direction

Depending on the structure of your webinar, it’s important for the speakers to understand their role. That’s the job of the host, and it all begins in the planning stage.

Host a call in advance with all of your speakers to talk about ideas for the presentation. Then have another call to discuss the presentations themselves. You should also have a rehearsal call. You don’t always have to have everyone give their full presentations in rehearsals, but rehearse the flow.

The host runs the calls and tells all the different speakers what’s going to happen.

For example, “I’m going to introduce everybody, do the housekeeping, and welcome everybody. Then I’m going to introduce the presentation and the flow of the webinar. Next I’m going to introduce Speaker A. I’m going to say a few more words and do a poll, and then I’m going to ask you for your thoughts on that poll. When you’re done, I’m going to introduce the next speaker.”

It is the host’s responsibility to make sure that everybody understands their role and where the handoffs are going to be between speakers. That includes understanding who is going be administering the Q&A.

There are tools within some webinar consoles, that you can use to help alert people to where they are in the presentation. For instance, most webinar platforms allow for speaker chat where the speakers can chat with each other without the audience’s knowledge. So you can say, “Hey, you’re going a little long,” or tell the next speaker to get ready because they’re up in five minutes.

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