The social webinar – embracing the backchannel

One of the top concerns of webinar presenters is “what if my audience is multitasking?”

Here’s the realitytweetbird4:  they ARE multitasking.  In your webinars and, oh by the way, in your in-person events too.

There are many techniques for being more engaging when you present at a webinar.  But this post is to encourage you to think about another idea:  encouraging the multitasking.

When in a face-to-face environment, any given audience member can chat with the person sitting next to them.  The risk of mass-outcry is small.

In a webinar, you can usually turn off the ‘everybody chat with everybody’ feature, thereby limiting the chance that someone pipes up about your competition or says something that catches you off guard.  This used to control perceived risk.

But no more.

Whether we like it or not, using some form of backchannel chat is not only here (a la Twitter), but it’s going to stay.

So make it part of your gameplan.

Encouraging backchannel chat has a few advantages:

1.  You can keep an eye on it.  If you establish the Twitter hashtag or other locale, it gives you a chance to see and respond.  Arguably this is better than being unaware of the audience whispers.

2.  You’ll present yourself as a thought leader.  Social media’s a hot topic, probably a bit hyped.  You don’t have to be an expert to appear knowledgeable.

3.  You’ll learn from it.  Love it or hate it, people will say things on the web that they’d never say to your face.  Professionals learn from this.  Throw out the kooks, and learn from the rest.

4.  Your audience will be engaged.  Active participants are much more likely to remember your key messages than passive participants.  As the old press adage goes, “there’s no such thing as bad press,” and if you agree with that, encouraging discussion can only help.

What I’m not saying is that this won’t require some new webinar presenting skills.  You’re going to need to learn new ways to keep an eye on your audience while presenting.  And it’s going to require a little courage, but you can do it, I’m sure. 🙂

Embrace the changing face of communications.  Embrace the backchannel.

3 thoughts on “The social webinar – embracing the backchannel

  1. Jeff Hough

    Good concept, but how would you manage both the webinar and the back channel communication?

    1. TheVP

      Great question, Jeff.

      I do it the same way I manage other questions – have it open and visible as I present.

      When presenting with ANY webinar software, I open up – and leave open – the Q&A panel. If possible, I undock it and resize it to about 1/3 of my monitor. Yes, this covers up my presentation, but I 1) don’t read my presentation and 2) have a copy of the presentation printed so I can refer to notes. Ergo, I don’t need to see or be watching my slides.

      When presenting using Twitter or other backchannel device, that tool isn’t part of the webinar software. Open it on another computer or monitor.

      The new ‘skill’ I referred to is that of effectively monitoring and responding to the Q&A and/or backchannel conversation. To me this is no different than presenting to an in-person audience, glancing at my notes, and making on-the-fly response to comments and questions.

      Note: I don’t type responses – I respond verbally.

      When doing this, use the person’s first name, restate their question or comment, and then respond (which makes the audio track of the webinar recording a valid listening experience).

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