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10 Tips to Improve Webinar Engagement (and other online delivery)

Converting from in-person delivery to online can be tricky. Here are 10 ideas to help you out.

Last Monday I wrote about questions you’ll want to ask yourself as you prepare to transfer in-person content to online delivery.

On Thursday, I facilitated a webinar on the topic of Engagement Strategies for Webinars.

You may also be interested in how to boost your in-person instructor-led training activities.

Three Delivery Methods

When I think of “online delivery”, there are three different delivery methods that come to mind:

  1. Online Synchronous. Facilitator-led, in real-time, delivered virtually. Think of something like a webinar.
  2. Online Asynchronous/Facilitator-led. Think of a multi-week online course like a MOOC.
  3. Online Asynchronous/Self-directed. Think of an eLearning module you’d find on an LMS.

Online Synchronous (Cover)

Four Strategies to Increase Webinar Engagement

Following are four strategies to engage learners during webinars.

1. Polling or Chat

Polling to increase webinar engagement

This is probably the most common (and sometimes over-used) webinar engagement strategy you’ll see on a webinar. Use the polling feature to offer choices. Use the Chatbox for more open-ended opportunities.

When to use Polling or Chat:

  • Assess your learners at the beginning of a session (how much do they know about your topic, what kind of experience do they have)
  • Knowledge checks throughout the session

2. Drawing Tools

Drawing Tools to increase webinar engagementDrawing Tools 3Drawing Tools 2

Using these tools, such as the Stamp tool or the Text tool, requires a higher level of familiarity and comfort on the part of your learners. These tools are used less often and may require some playing around with at the beginning of your session if you want the interaction to flow (relatively) seamlessly during your session.

When to use Drawing Tools:

  • Assess whether they can identify certain information in a document or on the screen.
  • Co-create something (as if you’re whiteboarding in a meeting room).

3. Breakout Rooms

Breakout Instructions

Using the breakout room feature of a web-based meeting platform can allow your learners to engage in small group conversations. It’s much more difficult for them to multi-task when asked to work in small groups and it allows everyone to get involved.

When to use Breakout Rooms:

  • Similar to those times during an in-person session in which you’d break people up into small groups to brainstorm ideas or discuss a concept.
  • Giving different people in your session different assignments to work on, then bring them back together in the large group to debrief.

4. Using Collaborative Software like Google Docs

By ditching any PowerPoint slides and bringing people together around a collaborative document like a Google Doc, you create a different atmosphere for your session and a different mindset among your learners.

When to use Collaborative Tools:

  • Collaborating on a document, work plan or action plan.
  • Assessing whether your learners “get it” by having them create or write about the content you’ve taught them.

Now let’s turn our attention to the second method of online delivery: Instructor-led Asynchronous.

Online Asynchronous (Course)

Engagement in Online, Multi-week Courses

Following are two ways to engage your learners if you’re bringing content into a multi-week, online course:

5. Discussion Forums

Discussion Forum

Challenging learners to interact with the content and each other provides an opportunity for them to think more deeply about the materials and subject at hand. This online strategy is similar to the way in which you’d have people work in small groups during an in-person session.

When to use Discussion Forums:

  • To provide peer feedback.
  • To discuss or debate content.
  • To share opinions and observations about a case study.

6. Learner-generated Video


Asking learners to record samples of themselves in action can lead to technical challenges around bandwidth and comfort with technology, but if they can get the videos uploaded, this offers a powerful opportunity to truly assess whether they’re “getting it”, without having to be physically together in a classroom.

When to use Video:

  • To demonstrate mastery of facilitation techniques, a sales process, customer service ability or many other soft skills that depend on a combination of content knowledge and body language.


Online Asynchronous (Module)

Self-Guided eLearning Engagement Methods

Following are four ways to bring engagement to content that you’re converting from in-person to self-guided eLearning delivery.

7. Quizzing


This is the most common interaction I’ve seen built into online courses. The biggest question is: are your quiz questions appropriate? Are they accomplishing your learning objectives? Personally, I’ve taken many eLearning courses that have a 5- or 10-question quiz at the end, and I could have answered many of those questions without ever having taken the course.

Above is a great example of how Amar Kulshreshtha integrated video with quiz questions to keep the learning engaging, fun and real (this is from a demo posted on the Elearning Heroes community forum).

When to use Quizzes:

  • Pre/post-testing.
  • Knowledge/comprehension checks.

8. Journaling


Dialogue education pioneer Jane Vella uses a term called “praxis” to describe the instructional technique of action plus reflection. I love offering space for learners to journal in an online course because it brings this idea of dialogue education, which is typically thought of as a classroom-only strategy, into the world of online learning.

When to use Journaling:

  • Self-assessing current knowledge level (prior to a course) and/or what’s been learned in the course.
  • Action planning for how content from the course can be used on the job.

9. Comparing and Contrasting


One of the biggest advantages to in-person delivery is the opportunity for social learning – that is, learning from colleagues in the room as much as you can learn from the instructor at the front of the room. This can be tricky to bring into the online space, but it’s not impossible.

Below is an example of a course that allows the learner an opportunity to share her own thoughts first, then click submit to see what others have said about the same discussion prompt. Content for the “others” comments can be drawn from in-person delivery or from other users if you have an LMS that allows you to capture narrative responses.

When to use Comparing and Contrasting:

  • Comparing and contrasting various thoughts on a specific topic.

10. Choose Your Own Adventure


Do you remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books from when you were younger? This style of course is one of the biggest advantages to online, self-directed course design. During an in-person class, you can certainly offer role plays to try to assess if your learners are getting it, but role plays often turn hokey, with contrived conclusions and success always achieved at the end.

Developing branching-based eLearning can draw your learners into a story or scenario and challenge them to use essential skills. Because you write the story, it will never come to a contrived end and it will be a consistent experience for every learner. It won’t depend on the acting ability of someone else in the class.

When to use Choose Your Own Adventure:

  • Demonstrate mastery of coaching, customer service, interviewing, supervisory or other soft skills.
  • Demonstrate effectiveness of decision-making.

And there you have it. Ten strategies for webinar engagement. What have I missed? Let me know in the comment section.

Instructor-Led Training Resources

These are some of our favorite resources to support everyone involved with instructor-led training.

Training Delivery and Facilitation Competency Rubric

A rubric is a way to assess performance with a standard set of evaluation criteria. The next time you need to assess the performance of someone delivering training (even if that someone is you), you may find this rubric helpful.

The Role of Co-facilitators

Co-facilitators play an important role in a training workshop. The most obvious benefit is that when you co-facilitate, you get a break from leading the

18 Instructor-led Training Activities

Engaging, intentional, face-to-face and virtual instructor-led training activities can make the difference between a session that helps learners to apply new skills or knowledge and one that falls flat.

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