• Matt

Running a Webinar - How We Do It and What I’ve Learnt

One of my regular clients is Methodist Academies and School Trust, a group of church schools spread across the country. Early on in the first lockdown, they decided that they wanted to do regular training sessions. After exploring the options, we decided to do it as a Zoom Meeting.

My role is to run the Zoom Meeting and associated other tech side, the content is down to the client.

We’ve now run a number of these and have the workflow pretty well down.

Each session (from my point of view) starts a week or so before the webinar, when we arrange a time for a tech check with the keynote speakers. This has become a vital part of our process, where we get all the speakers onto a Zoom call, to check that they know how the session will run, and tech support they need (videos, powerpoints etc) and, most importantly for me, that their tech works. We learnt this the hard way, as in our first webinar, one of the speakers didn’t make it to the tech check, and on the day it turned out that his microphone was faulty and cut in and out every few seconds, making his session almost unlistenable. What made it worse was that afterwards we discovered he lived just 3 miles from me, so I could have lent him a mic.

Lesson: Make sure people can do a tech check early enough that they can buy/borrow a replacement

Once the tech check is done, I set up the Zoom meeting. We decided to use Zoom Meetings rather than webinar for two main reasons. Firstly, Zoom Webinar is three times the price of a Zoom Meeting, and secondly the meeting allows for a bit of chat between the attendees before the session starts fully.

I also set the Zoom Meeting to stream to an unlisted YouTube channel, as some schools have problems accessing Zoom, but also because teachers and school staff are busy people and may not be able to make an after-school session, but can catch up later. It also allows schools to revisit topics and use them within their own professional development.

On the Afternoon

About 20 mins before the session is to start, the speakers join the Zoom meeting, we do some final checks of the tech, slides etc, and then we let the masses in (well, we get around 70 people).

After the short social time, I give a short intro to the tech, the fact that we are livestreaming (always inform people if you are recording or livestreaming a Zoom meeting) and then the session starts.

Attendees are all muted and I use Zoom’s spotlight feature to highlight the keynote speakers as they do their bit. Sometimes the speaker runs their own slides, sometimes they prefer me to (‘Next slide please’). Occasionally we have used elements of pre-recorded video which is played in from an external video player via my Atem Mini switcher. While all this is happening I’m also monitoring the Zoom and YouTube chat feeds for comments and questions to feed to the Host, and also checking the that livestream is live.

If you are livestreaming to YouTube (or Facebook for that matter), make sure you check that none of your speakers are planning to use copyrighted material in the presentations! We had a livestream cut off automatically when a speaker used a song to explain an English exercise. Luckily we were also recording, so I could upload an edited version later.

Lesson: Check what people are planning to use ahead of time, and if possible record locally as well as livestreaming

Depending on time, towards the end of the session we will have a short Q&A, and then we’re done. Once the attendees have logged off, we have a chance to debrief, set the date for the next webinar and it all begins again.

Not coming from an educational background, it’s been amazing how interesting I have found the talks I’ve listened to, and what I’ve learnt. Educational Theory can have it’s uses even in your early 30s. Like did you know that you are more likely to remember a new piece of information if you can hang it on something you already know. So, for example, ask people to tell you what they already know about a topic, and then link the new learning to that.

Lesson: You never know what you’ll learn running events.

This is just one way of working, we can tailor ways of working that will work best for you and your project. If you would like help running your online events, from a 2 hour webinar to a small multi-day conference, get in touch at matt@mconlineevents.co.uk and we can talk about your needs.

You can also read a testimonial from Barbara at Methodist Academies and Schools Trust here.

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Allyson Taylor Oxford Diocesan Board of Education