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Webinar Engagement Strategies

Just because we don't have people physically in front of us doesn't mean we can't get them involved.

It’s been a while since I’ve had to deliver a webinar, but over the next several weeks I’m working with a client on instructional design and visual design skills. We have a series of webinars that we’re working with them on, and I’d forgotten how different it can be to deliver content virtually.

Most of the credit for the activities in today’s post really should go to my colleague, Lauren Wescott, who helped me plan this series of webinars. 

First, there are some standard engagement strategies that are built into most respectable web conference services:


Simply having my camera on made me want to be sure to facilitate with the charisma and enthusiasm that I normally bring to an in-person session. Being able to see others in the session reminded me that I wasn’t just speaking into a microphone. I was able to see facial expressions and body language and I could tell who was following along. It didn’t seem like anyone was checking their email!


Using polls at strategic points is a low-risk way to get the participants involved while also learning a little more about what they’re thinking.

Breakout Rooms

Not all participants feel comfortable speaking up in a larger group – whether you’re in-person or online. Breakout rooms allow for smaller group discussions and force individual participants to engage with the content and with one another.

Beyond technical features, here are several activities that you might want to think about adapting for your next webinar:

Fork in the Road

When it comes to visual design, I not only want to talk about concepts of good visual design but I also want to check to see if my participants can identify good visual design. In this activity, I show two images, side by side, and participants need to choose: left or right (as if they had come to a fork in the road).

Mark It Up

When I was in elementary school, one of my favorite things to do was to be named “teacher for the afternoon”. The student who was named “teacher for the afternoon” got to use the teacher’s red pen and the test answer key, and we marked up our fellow students’ tests. Who doesn’t like using The Red Pen?

Similarly, in the Mark It Up webinar activity, I can show something on the screen (an incorrect learning objective, for example) and asked the participants to use the writing tool to circle good aspects and mark up poorly written aspects.

Just because we typically can’t see our audience (unless you’re using your webcams!), and just because we don’t have participants physically in front of us, doesn’t mean we can’t get them involved when delivering virtual instruction.

If you’re experienced in webinar delivery, what are some ways that you keep your audience engaged? Drop a note in the comment section.

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