Organising a branch webinar

You may be familiar with webinars from our series of Prospect and Bectu Live online events. Since we launched this series we’ve hosted a small number of webinars for branches, sectors or groups within the union.

Compared to online discussions, which work for smaller groups of members, webinars give you the chance to reach upwards of 100 members.

Important tips for a successful webinar

1. Know the difference

It’s really important to know the difference between a meeting and a webinar. A webinar is good for when you have specific speakers doing a presentation or talk, when the attendees watch and listen rather than being seen or heard. A meeting is better for smaller groups where everyone can contribute to the conversation.

2. Preparation

Ahead of your webinar date, make sure you describe what participants can expect – the theme of the webinar, any internal or external speakers, the start and end time. You can send reminders to members to attend, you can start running polls and you start the chat section. This means members are engaged early, and you have a sense of the opinions and concerns ahead of time. It’s also worth letting members know that connection problems are probably due to their internet, so they can change browser or reduce their dpi in their settings ahead of time to get the best connection.

3. Introduction

Once the webinar has gone live, introduce who is on the call and what attendees can expect from the session. It does usually take a few seconds for all attendees to have joined the call so make sure you wait for them. You can also welcome people in any chat bar you’ve set up, and you can remind people about improving their connectivity, answering any polls and whether they can re-watch and share the webinar afterwards.

4. Speaker Prep

Make sure speakers are in a quiet and distraction free environment and, if necessary, you can ask them to join the call a few mins early (in practise mode) to test out their equipment. If you are joining the webinar late, it would be a good idea to make sure you are muted to avoid any disruption and to keep mute when you’re not talking.

5. Zoom settings

There are lots of settings on Zoom to consider when setting up a webinar. Look out for options like enabling the host and panellists to share their video, whether you want to record the session and if you want attendees to register before joining. Once you are happy with the setting for one webinar, you can save this as a template for ones in the future.

6. Polling

You can set up polls before the webinar begins which help the audience engage more in the event as well as being a good opportunity to gauge some information that you can refer to during the session. Keep poll questions short and to the point with, say, three simple options – Yes, No and Haven’t decided being the most obvious. Polls aren’t supposed to be in-depth surveys, they’re just a snapshot of sentiment.

7. Q&A

The Q&A is a great function for people to ask questions anonymously and for you to answer in real time. Attendees can also upvote the questions to the top of the list  so you can see and answer the most popular queries. t. Panellists can type the answer or choose to answer them verbally.

8. Plan your time efficiently

Make sure you stick to time; webinars usually shouldn’t go over one hour as online focus is generally less than in real life. In general terms, the total time of presentations should be around  20 mins preferably delivered as a piece to camera with minimum slides, using simple ideas and language to avoid information overload. Allow time for a Q&A, this is an interactive part of the webinar so keeps people engaged. You can read out questions from the Q&A section or invite participants to ask their question themselves on screen.

9. Panellists

You can ask panellists to the webinar via a Zoom invitation. Display full names and titles so attendees know who they are watching, and make sure you give panellists a clear brief about:

  • the topic
  • the time limit
  • the numbers and interests of the people attending the webinar
  • expectations on presentation content and Q&a participation
  • details of the other panellists

Promote interesting panellists ahead of, and after, the event to secure more sign ups and shares of the recording.

10. Recording

You may want to record the session so you have a recording for those who couldn’t make the event. This link can be sent in the follow-up email to both attendees and absentees or uploaded to a YouTube account. You can ask people to share with colleagues who missed the session and also ask them to sign up for any future events you’ve got booked.

11. Safeguarding

If there is a chance that children may run into your shot, you can consider turning off your camera to avoid any safeguarding issues. Also, unless the session is open to anyone, the registration link should be sent round to attendees only, sharing on social media can increase the chance of Zoom bombing or unwanted guests.

12. Virtual backgrounds

Using virtual backgrounds is a fun way of making your video look more interesting and can also protect your privacy. You can select virtual backgrounds in the setting tab. In settings, there is also an option to ‘touch up my appearance’ if you would like to blur out any unwanted blemishes.

13. Speaker/gallery view

Depending on the nature of your webinar, you can choose to have panellists displayed all at once on the screen (gallery view) or so just the person speaking is visible to attendees (speaker view.) You can toggle between these once the webinar has started. You can also mute people and turn off their cameras.

14. Share screen

The screen sharing option is really useful when presenting a slideshow or conducting a demonstration. All panellists have this option though, ultimately, the host of the webinar has control over who can share.

15. Live captioning

Although Zoom does not have an option for live captioning at the moment, this is important to consider to make your webinar as accessible and inclusive as possible. A quick, free way of live captioning is on a PowerPoint presentation (only available on Microsoft 365) where you can turn on live subtitles in the ‘slide show’ setting and subtitles appear as you speak. Not 100% accurate, but an option.

How to organise a branch webinar

The union has a small number of Zoom accounts that can host webinars for up to 500 members. These accounts are prioritised for the Prospect and Bectu Live events but, where account and staff resources allow, we’ll try to support branch events. Please discuss your options with your full-time official.

It’s worth checking which platform your workplace uses and whether they’d allow you to use it. Microsoft Teams live events functionality offers many of the same features as webinars in Zoom.