Effective, interactive video-conferences, webinars, online eLearning. 3-minutes guide

Covid-2019 is tough, for work, education, socially. 

I attended online eLearning courses, gave online lectures, attended thousands of video-conferences. Here is my 3-min. guide on what works.

The web offers much more detailed materials on this topic, e.g. here, or here.

Raising attention online

Raising and retaining attention is much more difficult online. What works:

  • Simulate the normal physical environment as much as possible. 
    • Keep eye contact with the camera - not with your screen, not to your slides or notes.
    • Position your webcam at eye-level. Position your text-to-read immediately under the camera, so that even if you are reading text or something, the audience would still have the impression you are looking at them.
    • If there is a panel, only the speaker should look at the audience; the rest of the panelists should look at the speaker.
    • Tone, pronunciation, pace.
  • Maximize signal = useful voice, visual, images.
  • Reduce communication noise. 
    • Eliminate heavy backgrounds, sounds, images. A white blank background is great. A heavy background (books, pictures) is noise. 
    • Slides are much too often noise or redundant.
  • Use visual props. 
    • Always use your webcam.
    • Combine and switch between video and slides. Don’t fully replace your face with slides (except for short periods, when the slides are actually useful).
    • Too much visual/text is noise; so don't exaggerate with visual props. Not too much text on slides, never read slides, don’t use animations, keep slides simple and clean (these are standard tips for any presentation).
  • Use jokes, surprise/spontaneity tricks, “unprepared” moments, to engage the audience. 
    • It takes a lot of practice to be natural.

Interactivity online

It is difficult, but it can be done.

  • Visual contact increases interactivity - so use your webcam. 
    • And do not replace your face with slides. People want to see the speaker.
    • I use Logitech Capture or OBS to combine and/or to switch between several screens, slides, video. Here is an example of what you can do with it. (L.E. See also Prezi Video).
  • Allow the audience to ask questions (depending on their size). Encourage them to participate.
  • Allow the audience to use online collaboration features, e.g. raise hands, chat, voice, voting.

Preparation

Decisions:

  • Live vs. pre-recorded webinar and moments.
  • Location, set, background – don’t be too personal, e.g. home setting.
  • Slides.
  • Technical videoconferencing tool, features to be used.
  • Test connectivity and tools.

Consider the technology constraints and opportunities:

  • What interactivity features are available.
  • Bandwidth issues: reduce video quality, eliminate video if needed, use low quality video or slides if needed.
  • Screen size and resolution. Smart-phone users cannot read small text when sharing slides.

Online is challenging, but also offers opportunities 

  • Remote participation, large number of participants.
  • Collaboration features: chat, app. sharing, voting, quizzes, shared whiteboards, shared docs, video recording, 
  • Even very fancy stuff such as automated generation of subtitles, text transcripts, or translation.


Enjoy your webinar, and stay safe.

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