Even before Covid-19, webinars as learning events had been steadily growing over the past several years. Now that their popularity has, well, zoomed to new heights, lots of advice for delivering webinars has been published, but those words of wisdom don’t seem to have made an impact on the actual webinars.
Classroom training has been waning for a long while—all in response to vast changes in the workplace, learning preferences of younger workers and the potential impact on companies’ bottom lines. Think back to 2019: Employees were increasingly not co-located. And companies understood the cost savings of online learning. For in-person training, travel comprises about 40% of the cost. According to video platform Panopto, IBM shifted 50% of training to eLearning and saved $579 million over 2 years. Covid-19 just vastly accelerated the move to make virtually all learning … virtual.
That means asynchronous video learning, blended learning and the ever-popular synchronous webinars are now our dominant learning modes. I’ve been delivering a lot of learning webinars. In fact, almost all of the in-person training I had booked since last March has been switched to live online learning. And being a learning junkie, I have been a student in a lot of webinars lately, too. In this article, I share what I learned from being on both sides of the screen.
There’s a lot that needs to change with the standard webinar to make it a truly transformative learning tool. In fact, it’s time to completely rethink and retool learning webinars. First, let’s look at why they’re a valuable arrow in L&Ds quiver. They:
Now let’s look at where they fall short. They:
So, let’s look at how we can experience the amazing benefits of webinars while enhancing them to reduce the drawbacks.
First, ditch the moniker.
The word “webinar” comes with some baggage and needs a major rebrand. Have you ever heard someone exclaim, “Yay, I’m attending a webinar today”? The word webinar has never been synonymous with a learning event filled with fun and innovation; it has been co-opted by businesses selling their wares, and it feels too much like any other online meeting we attend. The word webinar does not conjure up images and excitement or entertainment. For your organization, consider more compelling and accurate names like learning experience, live virtual classroom, funfest, deep dive or online masterclass … anything but webinar, which sounds dull and trite and somewhat old-fashioned. Moving forward in this article I am going to call them LOL (Live On-line Learning) Programs.
Build programs, not one-element presentations.
True learning that inspires transformation takes more than a single learning event. So bookend each live event with elements that make the learning more impactful. The outcomes can be increased when you turn one live session into a program. German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus, who discovered the forgetting curve, taught us that we forget most of what we learn within minutes or days of having learned it. He also taught us that the forgetting curve can be softened when learned information is repeated at particular intervals. That’s where the program format comes in.
Sure, program sounds big, but it doesn’t have to be. My technique is to simply bookend the webinar with simple reinforcing prep and actions.
Add a prep step.
Prep is designed to set the scene, create interest and intrigue and make the live learning session more productive. It introduces participants to the vernacular and to key concepts that can be bolstered during the live session. Prep can be as simple as a quiz to help the learner understand their baseline knowledge or skill. Or it can be an infographic of what they’ll experience in the live session. The presentations I deliver are focused on personal branding, so my prep often includes questions to ponder that are related to the six drivers of personal branding. Even better, send a combination of these activities over time. When you add prep, learners come to the live session primed to learn.
Then, with the obligatory participant reminders about the upcoming webinar, don’t just include the link and the time, provide more clues about the learning. Drip the valuable messages in fun and compelling ways to create intrigue and excitement about the upcoming session.
And when sending the preps, use communications tools that stand out, like video. Video messages before the event signal that this is something different from the dozens or hundreds of emails professionals receive daily, and it signals that the live learning session will be different (think fun!) as well.
The action piece is essential for learning to have impact. Again, it need not be onerous. It could be as simple as recommending one action to take or having participants identify three things they commit to. Or assigning accountability partners who work with each other on their action plans. Or it could be a contest among participants to add a gaming element. Some follow-up to put learning into action will help change behavior.
In your follow-up communications, provide not only links to the replay, but also include reminders of key messages, visuals from the session, an infographic of the program, process or model, inspiration to act, etc. Repetition and application is what helps turn learning into habit, which leads to behavior change and results for the learner and your organization.
LOL Programs can be used to make asynchronous video learning more meaningful too. We all know of the power of anytime anywhere video learning. It’s becoming one of the most prevalent ways to meet the learning needs of talent. When you augment these experiences with truly compelling LOL Programs—where learners can interact with each other and with experts—you amplify the impact of the learning and give participants the opportunity to turn learning into action and action into results.
Lastly and with huge importance, you need to make the content and delivery fun and compelling so learners engage and stay glued throughout the live session. This previous article can help you create content that will stand out.
William Arruda is a founder of CareerBlast and co-creator of BrandBoost – a video-based personal branding talent development experience.
I’m a personal branding pioneer, motivational speaker, founder of Reach Personal Branding and cofounder of CareerBlast.TV. I’m also the bestselling author of the