By Azzam Premji
Beth Konomoto, a language instructor at Camosun College, provided a timely Webinar on how to run Webinars for all video conferencing platforms, such as BigBlueButton. This BC TEAL Webinar took place before the pandemic hit Canada, and many ESL programs went virtual. Apart from being a self-confessed music and computer geek, Konomoto also furnishes some useful nuggets of information on how to run a successful Webinar: namely team-work, overcoming technical obstacles and engaging the participants.
In a face-to-face conference, the presenter is generally aided by a time-keeper and a technical support personnel. In a Webinar, the presenter works closely with a moderator and an ombudsperson. Konomoto elaborates that the moderator lets the participants into the Webinar, provides them with housekeeping rules, trouble-shoots some of their technical problems, introduces the presenter, keeps track of the presentation time and closes the Webinar. The ombudsperson monitors the participants’ text discussion while the presenter talks, and has the power to remove a disrespectful participant after being warned privately. Konomoto emphasizes that it is imperative that the presenter practices her talk with the moderator and ombudsperson before a Webinar session.
Overcoming technical problems
Although a face-to-face presentation has a few technical obstacles, Konomoto believes webinars can have a multitude of common technical glitches so expect them. Reassuringly, she says that participants could resolve most of their tech problems by leaving the platform and re-entering it soon afterwards. For those who wish to resolve their own tech problems, she recommends one copy and paste the error messages in Google to search for an answer. Furthermore, one can also seek support from the video conferencing platform being used. Clearly, there are technical challenges to holding a Webinar.
Engaging the participants
Many in-person presenters believe they ought to make contact with their audience and vice-versa. In Webinars, engaging with the participants is more challenging. As practical advice, Konomoto recommends the presenter and the participants’ video be kept on for a visual connection. She said, “I like seeing how people are reacting.” In addition, she adds that the audience members’ audio should be muted to prevent noise feedback. I can imagine someone listening to music on their speakers while taking part in a Webinar resulting in a disruptive echo for everyone.
Other ways of connecting with the participants is to engage them in real-time as well as afterwards. In a Webinar, this means using polls, answering some of the text queries in the Chat and having participants unmute themselves to ask verbal questions in a Q& A session. After the Webinar is over, the discussion can continue on social media, such as the ELT Chat on Twitter. According to Konomoto, audience engagement is paramount for a successful Webinar.
In conclusion, Konomoto has provided us with some wonderful ideas for making a memorable Webinar. Now that many of us have led video-conferences this past year, we may have some additional suggestions to share.
What are some Webinar tips you can share with others? (share your comments below)
Konomoto, B., & Hadwin, L. (2019, October 26). BC TEAL Webinar: Webinar on Webinars [Video file]. Retrieved March 16, 2021, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUIXrLXxct0
Azzam Premji is an EAL instructor who has taught in Japan, Sweden, Poland, Canada, England and the United Arab Emirates. Currently residing in the unceded Squamish (Sḵwx̱wú7mesh) and Tsleil-Waututh Nations territory, he passionately volunteers for the North Shore Multicultural Society and BC TEAL.