Shifting from Events to Virtual – How to Make the Most of Webinar

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on every aspect of the global economy, from manufacturing to retail to transportation. One of the biggest impacts has been a result of the steps people are taking to avoid spreading the virus — namely, a widespread ban on big gatherings.

For some markets and industries, this has been a huge change in the way things are done. No concerts, no movie theaters, no sporting events, and none of the big conferences or seminars that a lot of businesspeople are used to attending. These events are where we keep up on new developments, meet new people, and share new ideas. If they’re not happening, how do we replace them?

The answer is virtual events. Everything from concerts to talk shows to the Democratic National Convention has gone virtual these days, with varying degrees of success. If you were planning on traveling to a big conference or seminar this year, chances are good that you’re going to have to watch it online instead. Here’s how to get the most out of those online events.

Pick the Right Webinars

The main problem with webinars is simple: it’s hard to make yourself pay attention.

You’ve probably watched a few webinars like the rest of us — feet up, pajama pants on, cup of coffee in hand, one eye on the screen and the other on your Twitter feed. You’re hardly listening, so you’re not getting anything out of it.

Part of this is a problem with the medium, but part of it is the fact that people aren’t being judicious with their choice of webinar. When you’re at a big weekend event, you feel like you need to fill your time, so you attend speeches and panels that you don’t actually care much about. When everything is online, you don’t have to do that. Stick with the ones that are genuinely relevant to your job and your industry and simply skip the rest.

Watch With a Group

No, not an in-person group, since that would kind of defeat the purpose of all this distancing. Set up a group call on Hangouts or wherever you’ve been having your meetings and make sure everyone has their webcams on. Being able to watch the webinar with a group will help you pay attention and show everyone that the topic matters to the organization.

Take Notes

Taking notes is another way to help you pay attention. It’s also useful to share those notes with everyone else who watched the webinar so you can create an organized document with all your notes blended together, which can then be stored to look back on or shared with people that didn’t see the original webinar.

Use the Opportunity to Network

In this new way of doing business, lots of webinar hosts are acknowledging that they can be useful tools to help people meet new colleagues and peers. If the hosts distribute contact information for themselves or other attendees, don’t hesitate to follow up with them and make a connection. And when it comes to your peers, feel free to use the shared experience of the webinar to reach out and ask about related information and topics.

No Webinar is Perfect

Everyone is figuring out this new method as they go along, so there will be occasional pitfalls no matter what you do or how the event is set up. Technological glitches, bad speakers, faulty recordings, and the like can all upend your ability to get good information out of an online event.

But if you’re determined to stay connected with the world outside your home and your company during this crisis, webinars can be a valuable resource.

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