Webinars are an effective way to enhance your professional development and are frequently used for eLearning and product training. Most are no longer than an hour, and they are often packed with useful information.
To get the most value from a webinar, it’s important to plan ahead so you have the right technical set up and the right mindset to maximise your learning during the session.
Before the webinar begins
Choose the best webinar format and timing for your learning needs
Live webinars are a great opportunity to ask questions and see questions and answers from other participants however pre-recorded webinars are still helpful, particularly if the timing of a live webinar doesn’t suit you. The most important thing to consider if you can choose between live or on demand is whether or not you think you will need to ask questions. If your webinar is a training session or demonstration, it’s more likely you will need to seek some clarification along the way, so do your best to attend a live option
It’s also important to check the start time and time zone as many webinars have a global audience and you may find yourself committing to a session that takes place at 3am in the morning. If there are no suitable options in your time zone, it may still be worth signing up, as if the webinar is recorded you will probably be sent a link to re-watch it afterwards.
Check the technical requirements
Once you’ve signed up for a webinar, you generally receive an email confirming your attendance. This often includes details about the webinar platform they will be using, so if there is a ‘test your system link’, use it. You may need to download an app or install software to access the webinar, so don’t leave this until just before the session beings.
You should also block out the time in your calendar and invite colleagues who might also be interested so you can commit to creating learning outcomes and implementation accountability together.
You will be accessing the webinar over the internet, so consider where this will happen. Will you have enough bandwidth to watch the presentation without losing picture and sound quality. If the webinar offers the opportunity to live chat with the presenter, you may also need a headset and you should download any worksheets or handouts provided.
During the webinar
Start with another tech check
Login before the official start time – around 5-10 minutes. Most webinar platforms have a maximum number of participants and if you leave it too late you may be blocked out.
If you haven’t used the webinar software before, familiarise yourself with the options available, such as chat and questions, then make sure your audio is turned on.
You should also close any non-essential programs and browser windows, as they can interfere with the quality of the webinar.
Treat the webinar like an in-person training event
When you are doing any kind of online learning, it’s easy to treat it as less important than an event you attend in person. But when you commit time to any learning opportunity you are investing time in your own professional development, so don’t waste it by letting distractions creep in.
Once the webinar begins, stay focussed by putting your phone on silent and closing your email and social media, including turning off notifications.
If you are in the office, there’s every chance a colleague could drop past your desk with a question. Unless it’s an urgent issue, it’s ok to let them know you’re attending a webinar and will get back to them when it’s finished.
Stay organised and active during the webinar
Most webinars will feature a combination of a presenter talking and a presentation with key points illustrated. Taking notes as the webinar progresses is a good way to capture key information you believe will be useful in the future. But note taking overload could leave you with a lot of information that you are not enthusiastic about reviewing afterwards. Instead of scribbling down everything that is said, try and focus on specific and actionable information. When something is of particular interest, make a note or highlight it as a section to review first after the session. You can also take screenshots of important pages in the presentation to add to your notes afterwards.
Live webinars will generally include a chat stream in one section of the screen throughout, where participants will add comments. In most cases, the Q&A component will have a designated time, generally towards the end of the session, but these comments may contain useful insights, so it’s worth keeping an eye on what is added, and of course, add your own comments as well.
Increase the value you get from the webinar
If there is a designated question and answer section in the webinar you should take advantage of the opportunity. Look for clarification on any information presented, or ask about relevant topics that may not have been addressed.
If you are interested in continuing conversations on the webinar topic, you could also ask if there is a Facebook or LinkedIn group, either run by the webinar presenter or that any other participants belong to. This is a great way to extend your network and explore themes in the future.
After the webinar ends
Review your webinar notes
Immediately after the webinar ends, try to compile your notes into one document, adding any screenshots you took of the presentation, and highlighting any key points. You can then create a to-do list with actions, follow up and research points that you identified during the webinar.
If you receive a recording of the session, take a note on how long it is available. If the session was particularly helpful, go back and review sections again. There’s often a lot of information shared very fast during a webinar, so a second viewing may add even more value.
Create actionable outcomes from the webinar
You’ve probably had enough for one day, so block out time in your diary in the next week or so to review your notes and create an action plan. Ideally you want to pick no more than two or three big ideas you want to explore further.
If any of your colleagues also attended the webinar, you could organise a debriefing session with them and create a group project around some of the ideas. Working in a group can have pros and cons, but one of the undeniable benefits is it adds a level of accountability to building outcomes.
Follow up the presenter and any other participants on LinkedIn to see if they want to connect.
Webinars are a great option for professional development, and the value you get from them is enhanced by fully engaging with the experience. But not all webinar presentations are created equal, so if you are asked to provide feedback, do so. A positive evaluation is always appreciated, but constructive comments on any issues are also often gratefully received.
The CPA Professional Development team shared their top tips on getting the most out of a webinar:
- Arrive early. Ensure you have tested your webinar access link beforehand
- Participate in the webinar to maximise engagement – answer poll and facilitator questions
- Focus on the webinar – mute your phone and shut down emails to give the webinar your full concentration
- Take notes or ensure you can access the recording of a live webinar to embed learning
CPA Australia has a comprehensive continuing professional development offering, including live and on demand webinars.
Interested in seeing a webinar replay? Check out this free webinar replay from CPA Australia on the top tips to combat cyber attacks.