Is hosting your own webinar on your radar screen? Perhaps it should be.
When I say webinar I mean a synchronous online event that is free to anyone who registers. An event where a subject matter expert presents something, and where (hopefully) there is time for questions, answers and discussions.
A webinar has 3 components: a. Something visual on the screen - ideally a deck that is image rather than text heavy. b. Someone talking - ideally in a conversational tone and in a way that invites questions. c. Some participation by the attendees - most often in a question and answer session in a chat pod, but also by polls or other interactive exercises.
I'd like to suggest 3 reasons why your department (or division or unit or whatever) should plan, produce, offer, run, and host your own webinar.
1. You Have Something To Say:
You have expertise. The people in your department, division, section, workgroup, or team have developed deep knowledge about some topic. You have collected data, introduced a new program, run an experiment, rolled out a new service.
Normally you would present what you have learned or what you have done at some in-person meeting. Maybe this would be at a presentation on your campus or your workplace? Perhaps you'd submit a talk to a national meeting. Or maybe you are creating slide decks and working papers and sending them around to stakeholders.
What if you did your presentation in a webinar instead? Made it open to anyone that wanted to participate. Invite local people, but also anyone else in your network of colleagues that might be interested.
2. You Are Part of a Community of Practice:
Do you collaborate with colleagues at other institutions? Are you interested in what is working and what is not from your peers? Do you see the value of sharing your experiences and knowledge with people who are working on similar problems at other places?
If the answer is yes to any of these questions then a webinar might be a great vehicle to accomplish these goals. My guess is that interactions with colleagues outside of your institution is occurring on ad hoc basis, through e-mail and phone calls, or at conferences and professional meetings.
Why not bring these interactions and discussion to the format of a webinar. You may build on existing relationships, but also discover new colleagues that you have not previously collaborated with.
3. You Are Interested in Learning:
The people who will learn the most from a webinar are the people that host the webinar. Figuring out how to communicate what you learned in the webinar format will force you to think hard about what you have actually learned. Running a webinar is a terrific teachable moment.
Don't worry about the number of people that may or may not participate in your webinar. If only the members of your department, division, section, workgroup, or team show up during your first webinar than call it a success.
Your community will grow over time, as you will get better at both communicating about your webinar and in then hosting the discussion. They key factor is not audience size, but having something to talk about.
Some Concluding Thoughts: about Running Webinars:
Hosting a webinar requires more practice than special knowledge, more guts than expertise. The only way to get better at running a webinar is to run lots of webinars.
The cost of running a webinar has gone down as competition has increased. You don't need to run your own software, as cloud based services abound. You don't need to pay for phone, as VOIP works really well.
Spend some time talking to the folks that sell Adobe Connect, Cisco WebEx, Citrix GoToWebinar, Google Hangouts, FuzeBox, Zoom.us, Blackboard Collaborate, Saba Meeting, ClickWebinar, Microsoft Live Meeting (what am I missing?), as this is a competitive space and you might get a great deal.
What has been your experience planning, producing, running, and hosting a webinar?
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