In the past few weeks I have hosted two digital inclusion webinars—one about the work of PCs for People and the other about building digital literacy partnerships among libraries, adult education and workforce. I thought I’d share a few thoughts and tips based my experiences using webinars for meetings, training and information sessions.

First, when you’re in the initial planning stages, I think it’s a good idea to ask yourself if a webinar really is the best way to meet your goals for the session. If a primary intent is to build relationships in addition to conveying information, a face-to-face meeting probably would be more effective. Although building relationships was part of what I wanted to accomplish with the two digital inclusion webinars (I hope participants will partner with PCs for People and also hope libraries, adult education and workforce people will collaborate), the immediate goal of both sessions was to provide people with information and inspiration to pursue those partnerships. The work of collaborating will occur in different venues by means best suited to the partners.

Speaking as someone with a tendency to multitask, I know I really have to work at keeping people’s attention. What are some ways to keep participants from checking email and then checking out of the webinar? I think it’s important to make sure people know they will get information they can use. When promoting the webinar, let people know what tools, strategies, perspectives and information will be shared. You’ll end up with an audience that’s a good match for your material, and they have incentives to remain engaged.

When possible, I try to work in interactive elements—polls or posing questions to people in chat, for example. I co-presented the second webinar, and we made a point of alternating every few slides present so people hear more than one voice. As with any meeting, keeping within the advertised time is important; more usually isn’t better.