Being an Engaging Presenter on a Webcast

I led an internal workshop recently on the topic of how to design an engaging webcast. The twist was that, while most of our webcasts are aimed at internal audiences, this particular group was interested in how to design effective webcasts for participants outside of our firm (clients and, more often, potential clients).

When I sat down to design the workshop, my initial instincts were to rely on my standard instructional design curriculum: objective writing, assessment, and so forth. It didn’t feel right, though, and after a little bit I realized why. Typically, the goal of instruction and instructional design is learning. Success is learners leaving the course able to do the things described in the objectives. Satisfaction is great, and hopefully correlates, but is secondary.

The design goal for these webcasts, however, is the reverse. Success is high participant satisfaction, and learning is secondary. Learning feels satisfying, of course, and in good faith successful knowledge transfer is important to the developers. But the true measure of success here is whether participants leave the webcast feeling like it was an hour or two well spent.

Instructional design models aren’t necessarily geared toward satisfaction, except as a by-product. To prepare for this workshop, I focused more on storytelling than instructional design. Robust learning objectives weren’t really the point, so we didn’t talk about them at all. We talked more of hooks than of wiifms. We spoke of the utility of analogies, but less about their power to clarify and more about their power to be provocative and memorable.

When we spoke of interactivity, I found myself de-emphasizing diagnostic polling questions (testing whether participants grasp the material) and instead emphasizing the power of more social questions (“what’s your opinion?”) to help participants feel a little more connected to others in the audience, to chip away at the lack of social presence inherent in the medium.

Instructional design definitely informed the discussion. We spoke of schema theory as it relates to novice versus expert learners, and we spoke of cognitive load as it relates to screen design. Presentation skills also was a big part of the discussion, with the message that relentless practice is crucial being perhaps the most important message of the day. (On this point I got a huge assist from one of the attendees, a well-respected subject matter expert who is also an excellent presenter; he described his rigorous preparation regimen, which aligns nicely with industry norms for how much preparation an engaging hour of instruction should take: 30 to 40 hours of design and prep per hour of instruction.)

I had planned workshop-y activities, but we never got to them. The conversation was free-flowing and animated and left no time. Without those practice pieces, perhaps less learning took place than could have in the instructional design sense, but that didn’t bother me at all. I realized afterwards that I, too, had a primary goal of relationship building–like them, my primary goal was participant satisfaction. I can’t turn someone into an excellent designer or presenter in one workshop, but I can begin to build relationships.


One thought on “Being an Engaging Presenter on a Webcast

  1. Pingback: Engaging Webcast Presentation Checklist | Engaged

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