Going beyond presentations – what it needs to organize interactive webinars

May 01, 2018 | Blog Admin | Learning Elsewhere, Methods & Tools |


Rating: 4.8 out of 5

Cesar Robles - square - 25 Jan 2018NadiaHaving engaging and interactive webinars that go beyond presentations needs more than technological solutions. It needs people who are curious and interested to use online platforms and the functionalities they provide; who are ready to take the time to plan their presentations in an engaging way. Blending face-to-face events with online solutions is part of Helvetas’ organisational culture thanks to the “Shareday” initiated and supported by the Experts of the Knowledge & Learning team. 

Cesar Robles, Helvetas and Nadia von Holzen, Learning Moments

7 Hosting first session

Photo by Helvetas: First session of “Shareday”;  Maja Ruegg and Remo Gesu welcoming all countries online and f2f audience in the room.

Helvetas frequently organizes webinars and live streaming face-to-face events. This was not always the case. The Experts of the Knowledge & Learning team have built this online collaboration culture over time. They launched the “Shareday”, an annual networking and knowledge sharing day with talk shows, and video screening, bringing one third of all staff members working all over the world together. This blended event of face-to-face meeting and life streaming was a major stepping stone in getting colleagues to use technology for collaboration.

With the Shareday, we managed to start a culture of live online collaboration that is complementary to face-to-face meetings. We are not disrupting how things are done, we offer a complementary function.

Cesar Robles supports and trains colleagues organizing webinars. He acts in the background as adviser and facilitator to make webinars more engaging.

Interacting with the audience

The presenter -supported by the chat box moderator -is constantly interacting with the people attending the webinar. There are technological solutions to enhance this. The webinar platforms provide functionalities like polls, question & answers, chat, raising a hand.

If you don’t use the tools available, you risk not being interactive and you may go back to a plain presentation assuming people are listening to what you say. 

9 Virtual talk

Photo by Helvetas: Jane Carter in a virtual talk-show with colleagues  from 20 countries online and in the Helvetas “piazza” area in Zurich.

Planning the interaction

It is the presenter’s task to take enough time to adapt the presentation to a webinar. This means, he or she has to go through the presentation with the question in mind: Where in my presentation, am I going to insert or add a poll or a question for my audience? E.g. asking “where are you joining us from”, or “do you know this manual/have you heard about this document?”, for each of this question participants can click on a poll on their screen and see live results.

This is done in a script or, even better, in a storyboard that indicates clearly when the presenter is interacting with the audience and in which way the audience is engaged. Simply put, presenters should go back to their power point and check which messages (slides) can be transformed into questions or polls.

The struggle to prepare a more engaging webinar is often time. The lack of interactive components in the webinar results in having a simple monologue. Webinar presenters, jointly with the facilitators, must take time to think about interaction to make the webinar engaging and interesting.

Provide trainings for webinar organizers

In a good webinar training or coaching session, above aspects are discussed, as well as technical aspects. It requires a partnership between technical staff, facilitators and content experts.

webinar 3 preparing tech

Photo by Helvetas: Behind the scene – preparing the technology.

Three key points to keep in mind

Interactivity: Engage the audience!

Identity: Voice and body language are important aspects to transport the message. Ideally the presenter is visible also in presentation mode; the audience wants to know who is speaking. If this is not the case as not all online platforms allow for this facility; provide a photo with the name of presenter(s) at bottom of PowerPoint presentation, so that people see who is speaking.

Patience: Have patience with the technique and relax; run a test and calm down.


Download Helvetas’ new guideline for webinars here

Related stories

The SDC Learning & Networking team has launched a series of blog posts on how to organise a webinar.



Comments to“Going beyond presentations – what it needs to organize interactive webinars”

  1. Thank you Cesar (thank you Nadia) for sharing your experience with us!
    I would like to know your experience in engaging your audience before the webinar. You post your presentation as a video online. Then, during the webinar you discuss. Questions, counterarguments, experience from the audience. Have you tried this? – I know, the main argument is, that people don’t take and often don’t have the time to watch the video-presentation beforehand. – On the other side, the time of the presenter is valuable. And maybe he/she gives this presentation often (you can re-use the video).
    What are you thoughts on this?

  2. Thanks for your comment Hynek.

    Regardig experiences engaging the audience BEFORE the webinars: what we’ve done a few times is organizing moderated online discussions that lead to the webinar. The online discussions help us to tease audience, engage them in advance and have a more meaningful webinar. The online discussions are crafted to generate greater understanding of the topic (therefore we craft discussoin plan to host a weekly topic that progressively introduces subtopics and ignites discussoin), and also crafted to help building a sense of community (especially if the audience is a a CoP or a Network). As I explain in our guidelines, a webinar is often a complementary (and budget-friendly!) resource for larger processes or f2f events.

    Regarding the engagement AFTER the webinar: we often “package” the results of the webinar as a “knowledge product”. The video is then shared with audiences who attendeded and those who did not attent but were invited, with a customised message to catch attention (so readers now what they can learn with it). The topic-owners of the webinar often use the videos (or part of it) for other events or documentation. Beyond that, most of the time we create a page in our intranet (or website) where the everything that happneed in the webinar is “packaged” and accessible (video, chat, presentations and references), and the benefit is that such page becomes often a continuation of the discussion: presenters complete answers in the comments’ of the page (tagging those who asked about it during the webinar), and other users post further questoins or comments. This helps us keep things connected, open, and continuosly updated (this is key, because we want to encourage a culture of sharing).

    Hope this is useful :)


Leave a Reply