Webinars are an excellent way to get information out to people. There are a lot of online sites that help make it happen with screen sharing capabilities, collaboration tools, and apps that make it easy for participants to join.
There are a few online options (below) for users to host a webinar, or live broadcast. I chose to use GoToMeeting because I've participated in live conferences using this site before and it seemed very simple to use. I chose to sign up for the free 14 day trial and they offer various monthly plan options. I wanted a platform that would be easy for my participants to access and GoToMeeting proved to have what I needed to make it a successful broadcast. In the future, I may use YouTube Live Stream or Google Hangouts. Hangouts is really easy to use and offers screen sharing capabilities. The challenge will be to include participants who do not have a Google account...but, really, who doesn't have a one of those??
I learned three important things from this experience...
Number 3: Know your audience
I've hosted professional development classes at my school and district office, and have recorded "how-to" videos for teachers, but this was my first live webinar. I knew my audience would mostly consist of the teachers I work with or have connected with at various conferences.
I grappled with choosing a topic that would be quick to demonstrate in a 30 minute time frame and something teachers would actually find use for in their teaching. I started by reaching out to my Teacher Tribe and letting them know that I had to go live, so I wanted their feedback
Initially, I was going to choose Google Classroom, but quickly changed my mind because I've done two-hour PDs on this topic and knew that 30 minutes wouldn't have been enough time - I'm long winded! Google Classroom is something I'd like to do multiple, bite-sized webinars on so that teachers can take what they learn, put it to use, and then come back for more.
After much thought, I chose Google Plus. I didn't think many teachers would be currently using it and it would be feasible to do a walk through in 30 minutes. We just finished a cohort for teachers in our district to become Google Certified and we got a lot of feedback about how this was something they never really knew about. So, I saw there was an interest and decided to go for it.
In a nutshell...
1. Who are you targeting?
2. What will you teach and do you know it well?
3. Will you reach all levels of users, or focusing on one? Will your audience know that?
4. Do you have ideas for how your participants can take this and make it personal to them?
Number 2: Have a plan
Outline your topic into a sequence that makes sense, even to the most basic user. Plan to take your time and decide how you will address questions or comments throughout the broadcast. I played with the GoToMeeting platform a few times before going live and found the tools available to be user friendly. I knew I wanted to share my screen and keep my webcam on at the same time, which GoToMeeting allowed me to do. Their chat feature was a nice feature, but I found it difficult to manage that while conducting the webinar. Later, I realized I could have shared only a window on my screen, which would allow me to view the participants in the chat area without them seeing me flip back and forth to that tab.
I allowed participants to keep their microphones on, which later seemed like a challenge because with the background noise in their setting, it caused challenges for others to hear me. GoToMeeting does allow the presenter to mute all participants microphones - lesson learned.
In a nutshell...
1. Will you share your screen? All of it, or just a window?
2. Will you use your webcam the entire time? If not, do you know how to toggle back and forth?
3. Will you engage in a conversation with your participants throughout the webinar? Just at the end during Q&A? If not, do you know how to mute their mics?
4. Will you engage in the chat as you conduct your webinar, or answer questions live as you see them? Or, wait until the end?
5. Will you record the broadcast using a feature in the platform? Or, if that isn't available, try QuickTime's screen recording tool.
Put your fears and hesitations aside and just do you. We all have something to share and there is always someone out there who can benefit from what you know. I've pondered the idea of doing a webinar before, but just as quickly as the idea entered my mind, it was dismissed. If it wasn't for the challenge this week, I don't know how much longer it would've been for me to go live.
Think of it as getting together with your friends and sharing your favorite tech tip, work-around, or newest tool you've been using! Maybe you start small and only invite a handful of people who you know will support your mission. Be sure to ask for feedback afterwards. My sister was gracious enough to practice with me before starting and hung around for an extra 15 minutes as she gave me her feedback. I was happy to hear she thought it went well and she gave some good advice for later.
I bit the bullet and posted the event on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus. I really wasn't sure if I was ready for a large audience, but I didn't care because I was going to just do it. I had eight wonderful participants who joined in from their homes and cars! I'm very thankful for my tribe who I know I can always count on. Also, I received a few texts and event comments that people weren't able to join but really wanted to view the recording. Many others asked when the next one was going to be done. I do plan on doing others and hope they are successful. And if not, then who cares, I'm going to do me.
Here it is, with all it's successes and flaws...my webinar.
A few broadcasting optionsLiveStream's Producer product allows for a free broadcasting app for any device. Options to broadcast your desktop screen and use a webcam are available. There are paid programs available as well.
uStream's Pro Plan allows from 100-500 viewer hours, channel password protection and customization, and social media integration. There is a 30 day free trial of the Pro Plan available as well as other features.
Adobe Connect offers virtual meeting capabilities with 25 to 1,000 viewers. Three plans options are available for monthly rates and a trial account for up 30 days.
WebEx offers screen sharing and the ability to record meetings. There are multiple plan options and a 30 free full access trial.