What does a live webinar look like from the perspective of the facilitator?
Hosting half a dozen different webinars in rapid succession has allowed me to inspect and adapt my set-up for facilitating live events. I’ve found that the smooth hosting of live webinars benefits greatly from well-arranged desktop space. I’ll show you what works for me and I’ll share my top advice so you can benefit from both in your own webinars and meetups.
Workshops vs webinars
While it’s almost just as easy to set up a webinar as it is to set up a ‘regular’ online meeting - sometimes with the same application - they’re different beasts and require different preparation. Webinars prioritise knowledge transfer over peer-to-peer participation. Interaction is tightly regulated. Accordingly, there’s a greater pressure on the presenter(s) to deliver a presentation on time and with few distractions.
While facilitators and hosts might employ a certain on-the-fly approach to a workshop, that’s harder to do in a webinar. As ever, preparation can save the day. In this case, this also applies to screen real estate.
Screen real estate
This is what webinars look like from my perspective as a facilitator:
1: Slide deck
My own slide deck: bookend title cards, practical information. As the host, I’m speaking at the start, the middle and the end of the event, so the slides need to be ready for sharing throughout. I saved the slides as a PDF, and opened the file in Preview, resizing the application window to fit the aspect ratio of the pages. Using a ‘flat’ PDF in Preview allows me to share and present without slide transition effects and (more importantly) without having to open Keynote full-screen.
2: Zoom’s main window
The main Zoom application window is the heart of the event: it is literally front and centre. The main Zoom window is centred at the top of my screen. This way it is closest to the webcam on top of my monitor. When I look at the application, my eyes are also pointed in the general direction of the camera — and thus, at the audience.
I have a private backchannel open to maintain contact with co-hosts and/or other members of the production team. We use a separate application as a failsafe: if something goes awry, we’ll have a direct line in place (and opened up). This also gives you the opportunity to exchange private messages without accidentally sharing them in the main event’s channels.
Keeping the playbook for the event in sight, allows me to have panelist names at the ready in case I quickly need to check them. Another page of the same file contains the agenda with time stamps, to see if we’re on track if I need to help the speaker or panelists adapt. I include the intended start time, end time and duration on each line of the agenda. This way, when I’m in a pinch, I’ll have multiple ways to see if we’re sufficiently on time to still wrap up smoothly.
5: Event configurator
As Zoom doesn’t allow webinar configuration from its native application, I kept a Web browser open with the Zoom webinar configuration screen. This way I could, for instance, edit audience Polls while the event was running. Comes in handy when you’ve got a lively panel discussion.
6: Live interaction
Zoom webinar interaction windows: The Q&A, Chat, and Polls windows were continuously open so I wouldn’t have to activate and search each of them when the need arose. This proved useful when both Chat and Q&A were being used and referred to by the speakers.
Arrange your screen space to make sure you keep everything you need in plain view — and everything you don’t, out of it. Help yourself by using apps that don’t require full-screen view to be effective. Optimise your facilitation and your screen real estate for live webinars with my top three takeaways:
- Open applications and windows you’ll need beforehand, and keep them visible. This might include sub-windows of applications, like Zoom’s many pop-out functionalities. If you have everything open already, you can effortlessly switch between tasks when needed, without the common but unfortunate “oh, let me just find my slides”-ing in the online meeting space.
- Keep your main window close to wherever your camera is, so audience eye contact becomes more natural. (For that reason, next time, I’ll also keep Zoom’s interaction windows at the top of my screen);
- Maintain a channel of communication with co-hosts using a different medium than your event’s. If you do, you’ll have comms in place in case something goes wrong without having to scramble to find your colleague elsewhere.