Social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic has some of us video conferencing at a frenetic pace. Here are six practical tips to keep in mind if you are hosting a webinar.
I have a confession: I have a crush on Zoom, the video conferencing platform. As a program officer at GlobalGiving, I use it for our one-on-one catch ups, our staff meetings, crowdfunding training, and our worldwide Peer Learning Networks.
As entire countries move “in person” conferences and events to virtual ones in the time of COVID-19, I want to help out. If you are suddenly tasked with turning an event into a webinar, these nonprofit video conferencing tips are for you.
Here are my top six tips for Zoom (or your favorite video conferencing platform):
1. Practice and prepare.
It is not enough to do a quick test run before you present for the first time, especially if you are organizing a set schedule webinar. Practice with your colleagues, practice inviting your friends who have never used Zoom before to understand how they join, practice sharing your screen… you get the idea.
Nothing should be new to you by the time you start the presentation. If you have multiple speakers, make sure you are prepared by having everyone’s slides on one person’s account, to help with the flow, and to minimize the chances of technical difficulties in switch screen sharing constantly.
It’s always helpful to have another person have the full set of slides, and even a backup host, because you never know if it’s your computer that’s going to time out!
2. Set ground rules for etiquette.
When we enter a new social situation, we pick up on nonverbal cues on how to act in that scenario. You don’t have non-verbal cues on a webinar or video conference. In order to make everyone comfortable and the session productive, it’s important to include slides introducing some ground rules. Consider addressing how to interact with others during the virtual session, how to ask questions, the goal of the session, etc.
3. Use more slides than you think you need, and think visually.
When we give a talk or chair a meeting, the focus is on us. People are watching our hand movements and our body language. We need that visual to concentrate and engage with what is being said. When we are presenting virtually, the focus is on the slides. Extra care should be taken to make them as engaging as possible. Do this by writing a bullet point script before, covering every point you want to make and add slides to match the main points. These slides relating to specific points will also serve as reminders for you as you present.
4. Be abundantly clear about the topics discussed and your strategy.
Your audience should know the objectives for the session before they join, and they should feel like they meet the objectives by the time the session closes. If you have speakers, schedule a test run before to ensure they are effectively communicating their points.
5. Reward attendee engagement and thank your speakers with virtual giveaways.
If you can appropriately find the money, it’s great to offer digital gifts to boost attendee excitement and thank your speakers. Gifts can be offered as a raffle to a select number of random winners, and given as a reward for participation. Our GlobalGiving eCards also allow you to incorporate a charitable giving angle into your event.
6. You don’t have to be impersonal!
If we met in real life to go to a webinar, we wouldn’t sit in little coded cubicles parallel to each other, all watching the same speaker. We would in a theater or a shared space having a conversation! Virtual meetings don’t have to be impersonal, in fact, they can be rather intimate. If you can, try and start your session off with an icebreaker that people can engage with as they want.
7. Steer the conversation.
When we present in person, going over time by 5-15 minutes can be common. It’s easier to rearrange things when people are gathered in conference space, for example. But virtual events are harder to dip in and out of, and should really stick to the script. Keep points concise; if there is a discussion occurring, set a timer and make sure everyone gets a fair go at speaking fairly. Be honest with yourself and your audience about how much time you need to leave for a question and answer session.
As nonprofit video conferencing becomes more common in the time of COVID-19, remember these six tips—practice, set ground rules, think visually, be clear, don’t be impersonal, and steer the conversation. Best of luck!
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