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Dr. Syb’s First Webinar Tips, Trips and More

By Dr.  Sybril Bennett, Associate Professor, Belmont University and inaugural executive director of the university’s New Century Journalism Program

Now that my first webinar is complete, I feel compelled to discuss the experience with you. It was a presentation for the Radio Television Digital News Foundation’sHigh School Broadcast Journalism Project. The effort is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Participants included high school teachers, professional journalists, program directors and colleagues. The entire presentation including q & a lasted approximately 50 minutes. To see my webinar go to the HSBJ site and click on the watch social media tools archived webinar link on the left side of the page. I also captured the experience on my Flip Cam, which you can see here.

Fundamentally, Webinars are seminars presented over the web. I prepared a Power Point presentation and literally went through it speaking into the external microphone that is plugged into my computer. I advanced the slides as well as monitored chat questions that popped up on the screen from participants. Indeed, the ability to multitask well is mandatory. Thanks to David Mathison’s Be The Media book for providing the added encouragement to jump into the webinar waters.

For once in my life, I actually completed the power point slides in advance and ran through the entire presentation. This was invaluable in many ways. Given that I had not done this type of presentation, it helped answer many questions in advance.

Prior to completing my webinar, I participated in two. One by Paul Kandell for HSBJ and the other by CNN Tech Guru, Mario Armstrong. I strongly encourage you to participate in a webinar prior to presenting. There are so many free opportunities, just google and find one of interest to you.

Webinars are archived and can be held behind a pay wall. The one that I did was free and is accessible on the HSBJ website. Therefore, I am sharing the link with you as well. This is an invaluable marketing tool. Some may not understand why I would share the presentation. For one, it will force me to learn more and not present canned speeches or presentations. Two, it will hopefully grant me exposure to a larger audience. Three and most importantly, I am an educator. If I can’t teach, I don’t feel alive. Sharing is in my nature.

It is wise to gather questions from the participants in advance. This afforded me the opportunity to include the answers to several questions in the slides. I also answered those questions throughout the presentation and during the Q &A at the end. This greatly enhanced the flow of the presentation.

Other Webinar Tips:


When doing a webinar, keep it moving
Don’t overdo personal narrative
Make it more interactive, ask questions throughout the presentation (we included poll questions in mine)
When you use a question from participants either online or submitted previously, state the question because other participants can’t see it. Also, state the name of the person. This humanizes the presentation.
Give your audience a reason to focus, they are multitasking
You must have an entertaining and engaging delivery, voice energy is critical
Realize creating a Power Point is now an art
If possible, provide an outline for participants in advance
Don’t make a webinar feel like an online one-dimensional
Use humor-relevant, deliberate, sparingly
Be sure to add a slide with your contact information
Allow the audience to participate any way possible (polls, chat, etc.)
Give the audience what THEY want, not what YOU want

Other thoughts:
If you don’t know something, admit it.
If a participant makes a point via chat, acknowledge it and the person who made the comment.
Side note: In order to chat with the presenter, you must be registered for the webinar.
Smile while presenting, keep water with you.
Unplug your LAN line and turn off your cell phone.
If you are in your office, put a note on your door so hopefully, you won’t be disturbed
Whether paid or free webinar, if you are doing one for someone else, get permission to share the link to the webinar with your colleagues and potential clients, it’s a great way to showcase your abilities to different audiences

I’m sure you’re tired of reading, if you want more information, just ask.

Dr. Syb



Home of the National Association of Black Journalists's (NABJ's) Digital Journalism Task Force

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