Our MA Interactive Journalism class was assigned to organise a webinar and a live event, teaching digital journalism. I was appointed a coordinator, together with Hamza Ali. It was quite a painful experience to make the team of 14 people work together just before the approach of a deadline period. But we did it! With quite a few big mistakes – but we’ve learnt on them and, common, now I have things to write about.
Here is a list of tips drawn from our either good or bad experience - but our own! – for those who want to share their knowledge with the world and organise a hands-on webinar without expenses, apart from time and commitment (do it!).
Tips for running a hands-on webinar
1. No need for expensive webinar tools
Create a session in Google Hangout on Air. Only up to 10 people can join a video call but an unlimited number can watch and text questions real-time. For a small group, video call is a great experience. Just create a session and send all subscribers a link. (How to attract, register and keep subscribers is a whole different story for another post).
You don’t even need to make a screencast - if you set it up beforehand, Hangout will stream your webinar live to YouTube, and the video is than automatically saved.
With Hangout, you can also install a Q&A app (prior to the broadcast) to have a channel for interaction and quick response to questions.
Even if you know the tool perfectly and feel comfortable presenting, your materials may have bugs (if not written by you from scratch, e.g. a dataset from the Internet) - and you can only know about them if you run the whole thing yourself from start to end.
3. Double-check the simplest things
If you want your session to be useful, make sure everything works beforehand - have you send people the correct links? is the google doc shared with the public? have you sent invitation to everyone via multiple channels, so that at least one reaches them? do you have a quiet and well-connected space to stay during the webinar? does your mic work? etc.
4. One presenting, one troubleshooting
There will be very annoying technical problems like sending users the wrong link, screen not showing up, bad connection or anything else. It feels better to have a backup anyways. The other person may follow closely what you are saying and tell you quickly if what you’ve said was unclear.
NB: Best if both are seated in one room, although we managed to nail it remotely, by staying on the line during all the webinar.
5. Same person prepares docs and presents – or closely together
To avoid mess, make sure the person who presents is also the one who have prepared the materials. In case this process was distributed, make sure people looked at the materials together in detail. Ideally, everyone who has contributed should be present, so that there was no need to call someone who has unique information in a rush.
6. Send the subscribers an email with key information
Send an email update or a blogpost with links to materials you’re going to use and key steps you are going to show. After the webinar, make a blogpost showing all you’ve done in a webinar for people to refer to. It is important because some will most probably not catch up with everything during the fast-paced session.
7. Remember people spend their precious time with you
The class should move fast enough to give people new information all the time and yet the teacher should stay mindful and attentive to questions people interrupt you with. If something doesn’t work no matter what, move on with a minimum viable result.
Use improvisation comedy, if nothing else works.
It’ll be fine!
For a coda, a quick remark on the target audience
Be practical, look closer.
Maybe the best way to start is to teach your colleagues who are not so technically advanced?
It’s going to be much easier to communicate the news about the event to them, they will trust you as an educational source more likely (if you’ve earned that reputation), and there is more chance they will show up. You can always repeat the same webinar (well-rehearsed) for a wider (international) audience.