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Six Ways To Engage An Online Audience

Here are a few tips and tricks to develop engaging online webcasts.

November 2, 2012
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Related Topics: Talent Management, Talent Management, Engagement
KEYWORDS engagement
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Hosting a presentation is an ideal way for a company to release a timely message. However, face-to-face learning and development presentations are not always ideal. When the audience and stakeholders are globally dispersed, it is often impractical to bring everyone together for an engagement. Therefore, webcasts have become more common. They minimize costs and scheduling conflicts while still allowing for appropriate content distribution.

Here are a few tips and tricks to develop engaging online webcasts:

1. Know the target audience. “When planning a webcast, it is important to first think about who the target audience is, what they value and what information they may be seeking on a given subject,” said Eric Marsh, senior marketing manager at Philips Lighting Co. “From there, it is imperative to develop clear and concise messaging about salient points based on the information that has been gathered about the target audience.”

2. Use knowledgeable spokespeople. Speakers should be subject matter experts on the presentation topics. When the audience recognizes the speaker’s authority, they are more likely to see the webcast as a useful educational tool.

3. Provide useful and relevant content. Marsh said timeliness is key. “Focus on current events affecting your industry and react quickly.”

4. Encourage two-way communication. Consider making the webcast a dialogue instead of a monologue. Allow the audience to interact with the presenter so they can steer the conversation in the direction they find most valuable. One of the simplest ways to aid dialogue is to use interactive tools provided by most webcast platforms such as live chat, polls and surveys or submitting questions. If the platform does not offer these features, consider designating a Twitter hashtag for webcast-related chatter and questions.

5. Use an experienced moderator. To help keep the presenter from feeling overwhelmed, enlist an experienced moderator. The moderator monitors comments and results, fields questions for the presenter and keeps the webcast from becoming static. This takes some pressure off of the presenter, allowing him or her to focus on delivering valuable content. “The right moderator is key to keeping your audience actively engaged. He or she can take it from a simple presentation to a dynamic conversation, aiding both the presenter and the audience,” said Rick Swansbro, director of channel development at SPX Hydraulic Technologies.

6. Initiate webcast review and follow-up. After the webcast, it is important to take the time to analyze audience responses. Keep in mind what sparked their interest and work to include similar content in future presentations. Consider issuing a post survey or quiz to gain additional feedback.

Webcasts are an essential part of today’s global workplace. Making them more engaging for the audience helps to increase return on training dollars. For example, during the first six months of working with IDC-USA’s online training program, which includes webcasts, SPX Hydraulic Technologies saw a 54.6 percent increase in sales to IDC distributors.

“Online training is the future,” Swansbro said. “How do you reach thousands of people at once? It simply does not make sense to put them all on airplanes. The cost to host a webcast is a small fraction of the cost to conduct face-to-face training events. A modest investment in online training translates to a very healthy ROI as opposed to past methods of training.”

Sharon Dunigan is national accounts manager at BlueVolt, a learning management system company. She can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.

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