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Designing Webinars with Kassy LaBorie

How to make webinars more engaging, where Kassy Laborie finds inspiration, and a few tips you can bring to your next live, web-based session.

Recently, Brian had a chance to sit down with Kassy LaBorie  of Kassy LaBorie Consulting to discuss her approach to designing and delivering Virtual Instructor-Led Training (VILT). They discussed how to make webinars more engaging, where she finds inspiration, and a few tips you can bring to your next live, web-based session.

If you want to know more about Kassy, check out her book Interact and Engage! which is chalk full of activities for virtual training sessions, meetings, and webinars.

Listen using the player below. Please leave us your thoughts in the comment section or on twitter @train_champion.

Transcript of Designing Webinars with Kassy Laborie

Brian Washburn: Welcome to the Train Like You Listen podcast, a weekly podcast for L&D professionals about a variety of topics. Today we’re here with Kassy LaBorie who is a webinar and virtual meeting facilitator extraordinaire. We’re going to talk a little bit about virtual meetings and webinars. 

6-Word Biography

Brian Washburn:  But before we get started, obviously we want to get to know people in exactly six words. I’m going to start here. My own six word memoir for this particular podcast, Kassy, is “I should probably attend more webinars”. How about you? How would you sum up your whole life in six words?

Kassy LaBorie:  My whole life, right now? “I’m learning to listen in virtual classroom sessions.”

Brian Washburn:  Nice. That might have been seven, but we’ll let you slide.

Kassy LaBorie:   “I’m learning to listen in webinars.” [LAUGHTER]

Brian Washburn: Love it.

How to Engage Participants During a Webinar

Brian Washburn: So speaking of webinars, participants, and people who are learning to listen, why do you think people often spend time catching up on email while they also attend webinars or virtual meetings?

Kassy LaBorie: Because they’re not listening. It’s my opportunity. Great! I’ve been invited to a webinar. Perfect. I’ll be stuck at my desk. I’ll focus on what I need to focus on, because that webinar is unlikely to engage me.

Brian Washburn: Do you have any thoughts in terms of low hanging fruit, things– for people who are putting together webinars, virtual meetings– can do to try to get people to not just listen, but to really engage with what you’re talking about?

Kassy LaBorie: I have a mantra and I have it taped up around my office to remind me.  “What did I just say that they could have said? What did I just do that they could have done?” We tend to, in webinars and in virtual training, just take the lead and tell, and then wonder why there are no questions.

And I firmly believe what we need to do is stop taking that position and start saying, “how can I listen more to my attendees, to the participants? What’s their experience? What are their needs?” Let’s use these amazing teachers and tools to let people contribute. And then we can take our subject matter expertise, our content, that we’re leading through– relate that to their experience.

Brian Washburn: And what are some of the things that you do or design into some of the sessions that you’re working on that bring that to life, that really embody this idea of “what did I say that they could have said, or what did I do that they could have done?”

Kassy LaBorie: Well, first off, if I have a slide that has any kind of information on it, whether it be pictures or data points, whatever it is, I don’t read it to you. I will set it up. I’ll let you read it and comment on it using whiteboard, using chat, using feedback– whatever it is. And then we’ll work through your responses to it. So rather than the world according to Kassy, I’m going to offer something, allow you to respond, and through your responses I can add in my experience and importantly relate that to yours and how you’re reacting to it.

Brian Washburn: I love this. This sounds just like good instructional design, right? Whether you’re classroom or virtual. 

The Potential Impact of a Webinar

Brian Washburn: When you think of virtual meetings or webinars, what do you think the biggest potential is that they hold for, not just the presenter, but the audience, as well?

Kassy LaBorie: When you say they, you’re talking about the webinar itself?

Brian Washburn: Yes.

Kassy LaBorie: Well, just being able to connect with people in quick ways. And you don’t have the restrictions of time or the physical space. So it’s just so easy to meet and connect, that we need to allow that to happen. If I’m just going to talk at you, I can send you a recording.

And so we have this opportunity to be live, and the technologies are so strong now and people are more comfortable on camera, that we need to make it more about each other and stop getting away from it being only about me sending information to you.

Webinar Tools

Brian Washburn: Do you often use the webcam during sessions? And if so, is it you on webcam, or is it everybody all participants as well?

Kassy LaBorie: Well it depends, because everyone’s using different technologies. But with Zoom— Zoom is so popular now and people seem to be using that more and more, and people are more comfortable. And I have, too, become more comfortable. And so I make it a standard because I do think people like it, and it humanizes the environment even more.

I don’t think it is end-all, be-all, but I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for us to make it more real and more connected. And so I always try to get people on camera. And I’m also a big fan of– you don’t have to be perfect on camera. We don’t spend a whole lot of time trying to be perfect in person.

Once we’re there, we might prepare to be perfect before we get there. But once we’re there, we’re just talking to people and being who we are. And so I try to encourage that on camera.

It’s not like I have a team of people around me. I’m not in a newsroom and having to look directly into the camera. And so, let’s act normal on camera too, and then that will take a bit of that fear away. I’m finding that it’s helping us be more connected virtually the more that we’re open to being there.

Brian Washburn: Nice. Yeah, I agree with that. It makes a difference in the tone and atmosphere of the session to have a camera and to be able to see the presenter, or even some of the participants sometimes. 

Example of a Powerful Webinar Experience

Brian Washburn: I had a chance last November to see you present, and you’ve done some really neat things and creative things. What is the coolest virtual meeting or webinar project you’ve ever worked on?

Kassy LaBorie: OK. One of my most favorite projects that I had a chance to work on was for a non-profit organization that is helping people at a personal level. So most of the time, the work that I’m doing is corporate and business and important.

But this particular project was about connecting people differently and personally, to help them in their lives with things that– I don’t want to get into too many details– but more from like a suffering place. And without being able to be online, they weren’t able to help people. So this is an organization that does work– it brings people together in person– to help them survive new things that have happened in their lives that are incredibly painful.

And by taking it online, they’re able to extend that reach. And they weren’t sure it was going to work and how powerful that was. To this day, still kind of brings a tear to my eye because we’re so focused on corporate learning and all the wonderful things that we get to train– leadership, and communication, and all these things.

Then you turn this around to things that are actually matters of life, and how amazing and powerful that was. And just how powerful these technologies truly are for changing our lives. And I think that was probably one of the most impactful projects I’ve ever gotten to work on. And I’m doing all the same design– breakouts, webcams, letting people share. But they’re not sharing about challenges at work, they’re sharing about challenges in their personal lives that are different subject matter. And to have it be as powerful, if not more.

Brian Washburn: I love this story because– and one of the things that I always say in my presentations when I talk about good facilitation or presentation design, is that a good presentation can change the world. Even if it’s just one person’s world, that person will then touch others’ lives. And so I love what you’re saying here, is that regardless of the context, the things that we do can– and this is why we should be doing them really well because they can change lives, which in turn changes the world.

Kassy LaBorie: It’s amazing.

Brian Washburn: It is. 

New Ideas in Webinar Design

Brian Washburn: Where do you draw your inspiration when you want to come up with new ideas on how to engage people in virtual meetings or in webinars?

Kassy LaBorie: Oh, gosh. Other trainers, attendees, things that have been very successful for me in person. When they come to things like conferences and I see people do amazing activities, I am widely known for saying “I’m doing that the next time I’m in WebEx!” (CHUCKLING) “That was a great icebreaker. How do I do that online?” “I may not be able to physically toss a beach ball around the room, but how could I do that on a PowerPoint slide with annotation tools?” (CHUCKLING)

Brian Washburn: Yeah.

Kassy LaBorie: So–

Brian Washburn: It’s funny –.

Kassy LaBorie: Look around me!

Brian Washburn: So my father was the person who taught me instructional design, and he always said, “there’s no new ideas, just recycled ones”. And so, finding ways to figure out the beach ball activity. We can’t do that in a virtual environment. But what can we do? And so being able to figure out how to use the tools is really cool.

Get to Know Kassy LaBorie

Brian Washburn: Let’s head into the speed round now. So I have just a few more questions here as we wrap up. What’s your go-to food prior to delivering a presentation?

Kassy LaBorie: Anything protein. I’m a big fan of scrambled eggs, and I also love sushi.

Brian Washburn: Sushi for–

Kassy LaBorie:  Sometimes–

Brian Washburn: –nice.

Kassy LaBorie:  –it may be in the afternoon.

Brian Washburn: Oh, I was going to say for breakfast because we’re talking in the morning, but I could see that in the afternoon. What’s a book that people should be reading?

Kassy LaBorie:  Anything Brené Brown writes. I love the humanity that she brings to the business world. Without that, what do we have? But I’m always inspired by her.

Brian Washburn: Nice. What’s one piece of training tech that you can’t live without?

Kassy LaBorie:  A great headset, or just audio connection. I cannot be in a webinar or a virtual classroom session without perfect audio.

Brian Washburn: One last question here. Any shameless plugs?

Kassy LaBorie:  I am doing a brand new certificate for Training Magazine Network, and it’s on the online virtual designer. And that’s going to be launching in June. So sign up for that so we can do some virtual instructional design.

Brian Washburn: Yeah, if you’re listening to this and you’re interested in figuring out how to make your virtual meetings more engaging, I would give a plus one to anything that Kassy does, whether it’s the book that she has, or this virtual training certificate. Kassy, thank you so much for joining us.

That is a wrap for this week’s Train Like You Listen podcast. For those who would like to hear and not miss one single podcast, go ahead and sign up on Spotify, on iTunes, or anywhere where you get your podcasts. Thanks for listening. Have a great week.

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