Every now and then I encounter problems with Webinars, not often but when they happen, whoa kaboom! I must be prepared for it, otherwise I would panic, lose my cool, and derail the webinar and cause consternation on the part of my participants.
These are some of them and what I do.
Ah, Ah, I don’t know
There are instances when a participant asks a question I don’t know the answer to.
What I usually do and because I truthfully don’t know the answer is I admit it. But I promise to get back to person after the webinar to respond to the question. Sometimes, if I don’t know the answer and yet there are people in the group that I could throw it back to, I would say, “By the way, can you help John or give John an insight on how this can be addressed?” Anyone in the group can be a great help to them.
Instead of skipping around it, avoiding, ignoring or not paying attention to it, we should recognize it. The truth is we may not be prepared for it, we didn’t cover it or we’re not even ready to answer the question because we are not sure. It is better to say “I don’t know” and therefore use the steps I suggested, otherwise it is perceived as you not being sincerely honest with your audience.
Participant keeps chatting and commenting negatively
A good way of starting your webinar is to provide a statement that sets certain boundaries at the beginning of the session. Say that if they have private comments, if they want to give a feedback or if they want to say something that is personally not to their liking, it would be best to communicate this privately to the moderator or to to the facilitator using the private chat so they can freely express their views.
Pre-setting helps save a lot of time because you’re giving a condition about how they should provide feedback and comments. There are also people who are less polite with their expression. In this case, what I usually do is I don’t react very quickly and I try to see if the person persists or not. If there’s only one or two comments, i keep quiet for a while.
If all else fails, I would just bluntly say “If you have very strong opinions of things that you dislike, communicate with me privately in the chat.” Perhaps I could also say, “It would be most beneficial if you send me an email after the webinar so I can address your concern” or I could say “I respectfully am listening to what you’re thinking and I don’t have an opinion right now but perhaps let the moderator know what your concern is about so we can address it later.”
Cold as ice – silence, forever listening and don’t want to participate
Nobody wants to participate. Nobody wants to interact. No one wants to ask and answer your questions.
What I usually do is I ask them to practice using the chat. It may be good to encourage them to “Introduce yourself and tell us what you do? What do you like to do? Where are you from? What is your position? What’s your learning objective?” as a warm-up exercises. However, there are audiences that are typically less inclined to participate – cold as ice. Then what you would do is probably do an advance activity, a pre-session assignment or exercise so that they can do it separately and see whether they can submit it during the webinar.
Another way of doing this is to identify one person in the group who simply has a good grasp of responding. So what you do is keep the person as a lead person for people by simply saying “By the way John said this in the chat. Could you read that and tell me what you think of what John said?” By doing that, you’re using an actual and real-life situation from a chat posted by a leading person. At times, by just having a conversation with John in the chat and a few other people rather than all the participants will keep the meeting warmer because there’s an interaction of people.
Too slow and too fast
There are participants who are just completely either too behind or too advanced on the curb of the knowledge.
I refer to them as another world because they don’t fall into the majority of the background of the other participants. So what i usually do for those who are ahead of the curb, I always recognize them and say, “Gee, can you type in a few sentences what all this is about and put the links so the group will know what you are referring to?” That’s how I will deal with it. For those who are getting some definition I’d simply say, “That’s a great question. Can anybody give your own definition of this particular item because there are several ways to look at that? Share it with them.”
The idea of another world is both good. Because now you can use both of these as entry points. What you don’t want to do is to answer them directly so that your entire session has now lagged behind because you are defining something for this particular person. Rather what you do is to ask the group to help the person and you keep on moving with your session. This process applies both to the person seeking basic information and the one with advanced knowledge.
The key is that you get to recognize a person, you get them to feel good that they’re being recognized and you are also asking your participants to be able to respond to them.
Don’t panic – pre-set their minds, never take things for granted
In the beginning of the webinar I always ask people if there’s a connection problem. I also check if their audio is lost or if it is my audio that’s having problems. This is the world of technology so don’t panic. Either you try again or login again and also you check your audio. Worse comes to worst, there is a recording. Should the participant miss a recording, I will have to make a phonecall to the person if needed. But I always make sure that they are at peace and do not panic.
We always allow a rain date as well. This means that if one session does not push through as originally scheduled we have a pre-scheduled backup date to make sure that people know they will be able to complete the required sessions. What I usually do is is also to always reassure the participant that if they miss something or if they feel the strong need to talk to me to please let me know and I’ll be happy to talk to them or respond to their email.” Always allow them an open door situation so that they feel helped and they feel good that you’re always available to help them.
These are the key points on how to handle the most difficult challenges of a webinar. Most of those are really questions that you can anticipate, you can prevent and you can be prepared for. Just think that these are learners who are wanting to experience the best webinar so they’re helping you provide them that. On the other hand, what you need to have is a very positive attitude towards these challenges.
Ray Jimenez, PhD
“Helping Learners Learn Their Way”