If your organization needs to share information long-distance but has limited education and travel funds, webinars can help you save money and provide more services to your constituents.
Nonprofits and libraries can use webinars for training, sharing information about a new product or service, or promoting a program. There are many tools that make it easy for any organization to host a webinar, even with limited technology expertise. Below, we'll outline some of the major steps you can take to plan quality, affordable webinars at your organization.
A webinar can be a powerful training and outreach tool, but the decision to use a particular tool should be based on your goals and the needs of your audience.
When determining whether a webinar is the best medium for your needs, consider
While webinars work well for some topics, they're not suited to every training need.
You may also wish to solicit the feedback of subject matter experts, other nonprofits that have conducted their own webinars, and even the audience you plan to address. Informal conversations, formal interviews, and surveys can all help you assess whether a webinar is right for you and your audience.
There are usually three main players in a webinar: the organizer/facilitator, the presenter or presenters, and assistants.
In most cases, you should at least divide up the organizer and presenter roles. For large, complex webinars, you'll often need an assistant or assistants.
Below are some popular formats you might consider:
Because webinars rely on audio and visuals to get the message across, both should be engaging. Plain slides with a lot of text don't work very well. Here are seven ways to make your presentations more engaging.
Some slides you may wish to include are
Dozens of web conferencing tools exist.
Eligible nonprofits and libraries can request discounted access to ReadyTalk and Citrix webinar and training platforms through TechSoup.
When weighing your software options, here are a few questions to ask:
Most tools and pricing plans set a cap on the number of participants. For free and low-cost web conferencing packages, the cap is often as low as 15 or 20 participants. Other plans limit you to 50 or 100, while enterprise-level packages allow 1,000 or more participants per webinar.
Some packages are free. Other vendors charge for web conferencing and audio separately, some charge per participant per minute, and others charge a flat fee per month or per year. When you add in the fees for hosting recorded webinars and the cost of a toll-free telephone number, the pricing schemes can be complicated.
Do you want to just show a presentation or demonstrate how to use a specific piece of software? Would you like your participants to be able to take control of your desktop? Do you want a live video feed of the speakers? Make sure you choose a tool that allows you to do what you want.
Some products offer integrated, web-streaming audio, which allows participants to listen to the presentation through their computer speakers or headsets. Other webinar platforms require that participants and presenters dial in to a special phone number.
You usually have two options for this:
Finally, many webinar platforms offer you both web-streaming audio and dial-in phone options. You can choose to enable one or the other, or both.
If so, ask how the webinar vendor handles recording and whether the vendor charges extra to make that recording available online. Most vendors charge for storing the recording online, rather than the recording feature itself, but you should check to be certain.
You will also want to ask what exactly gets recorded. Some tools record the slides along with audio, but don't record the chat conversation or the desktop sharing. Vendors also vary in terms of how long they save the recording. Some delete it after a month, whereas others save it until you delete it yourself.
About three or four weeks before your webinar, hold a conference call with the speaker or speakers to determine
Follow up this initial call with an email containing notes from your discussion.
A few days before your webinar, you should schedule at least one 30- to 60-minute run-through with all participants to work out any unresolved questions or technical issues.
Your practice session should cover the following:
A practice session is also a great opportunity to generate enthusiasm for the upcoming event and rally your presenters.
Regardless of the equipment you use, you will need a quiet space to conduct your webinar. Reserve a conference room or other space where there won't be background noise or interruptions.
You will usually want to have the following equipment:
Before you begin marketing your webinar, determine what tool you will use to register attendees. Some online conferencing and webinar tools include built-in registration options. Signing up participants using a separate event-registration tool is another option.
You will also want to decide whether you will charge for your webinar — and if so, how much. Many fee-based webinars are in the $25 to $50 range, but others can be upwards of $200 per attendee.
With free webinars, you can expect that more than 50 percent of the people who sign up will fail to attend. One advantage of charging for your webinar is that it provides an incentive for participants to show up.
Participants will have higher expectations when they pay. The more you charge, the greater the expectation that you will deliver an engaging, well-produced webinar. If you plan to charge more than a small fee (for example, more than $25), make sure most or all of the following are true:
You will want to begin sending out information two to three weeks before the event. You should
Good places to advertise your event include your website, online event calendars, newsletters (online and printed), Twitter, Facebook, and at local events in your community. Don't forget to promote future webinars at the end of current webinars.
To see TechSoup's upcoming free technology webinars for nonprofits and to view previously recorded presentations, visit our Webinars page.
This article was originally written by Chris Peters and Kami Griffiths. It was updated in 2016 by Ariel Gilbert-Knight.
Image: Dmytro Zinkevych / Shutterstock
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