18.11.2020 - 12:53

The special requirements of digital events

Creating presentations is part of our daily business and we also give lectures from time to time. We have been improving our video conferencing skills over the past few months, so we are up to scratch with that now. On this basis, you might think that webinars and web sessions are just a combination of both of these, rather than a complex project. The knowledge we have gained from a web session series that we organised from June to September for the medical technology industry to bridge the gap until T4M – Technology for Medical Devices 2021, tells us that this is not the case. Here’s a report of our experience.

The screen is dark. Off-screen, a voice asks “Can you see the slide now? No? Just a second...” It’s at times like these when participants in virtual events will take their leave, silently closing the session. There’s no patience in the digital world. If the microphone wasn’t working during an in-person lecture, we would wait for a few minutes for a technician to fix it. Put simply, it would be impolite to leave the room early. With the anonymity of the virtual realm, nobody notices we’ve left. That’s why we are more likely to do so.

Web presentations need to improve

However, this doesn’t just happen when there are tech issues. The design of the presentation, the quality and relevance of your content and the speaker’s voice and eloquence are also deciding factors in whether a web session will be a success. Additionally, you have likely experienced in-person events where there are slides with copious amounts of text, read aloud by the speaker. If the speaker has a very charismatic stage presence, they may still be able to captivate and win over the audience, because the slides are only there as an aid. In a web session, the opposite is the case. Online, the speaker aids the slides. This means there are stringent requirements in terms of the look, layout and comprehensibility of a presentation.

Every minute counts

Time management should also not be underrated. If there are six people speaking over the course of an hour, everyone must strictly adhere to their time slot of eight minutes. As it turns out that it’s harder to perceive time in the digital world than in real life, we have recommended that our speakers use timers. Another finding was that many participants logged in earlier whereas others were slightly late. As a result, in our role as organisers we showed a welcome slide seven minutes beforehand so that the participants didn’t have to sit in front of a black screen until the start. For the actual lecture, the speakers then started about two minutes after the official start time so that any stragglers didn’t miss important information. For the next web session, we decided to use these few minutes to welcome the attendees and do a small warm-up.

Quiet, please!

Even in organisational terms, web sessions are highly demanding, which we experienced when preparing for our first event – and our sessions have become increasingly optimised over time. For example, the screensharing glitch described at the start can be avoided if the organisers test all the functions of the web conferencing tool in advance alongside the speaker. You should also check your internet connection, as sometimes Wi-Fi quality is just not good enough. Moreover, we cannot underestimate the extent to which outside noise may cause interference. For this reason, our speakers have mainly chosen to hold their sessions in a separate, noise-free room. This wasn’t just pleasant for the participants, but it also meant that the speaker found it easier to concentrate.

Moderators are important partners

Moderators are essential for professional web sessions. Although we planned to have two from the outset, we did also improve our processes in this regard. It was helpful, for example, if the moderators and the respective speaker were in contact using a messenger service during the event so that they could fine-tune things in the background when necessary. Another interesting finding was that if a speaker introduced themselves for a second time after the moderator’s introduction, we noticed that some attendees would log out. For the listeners, this was redundant and did not meet their expectations because they actually wanted to be informed about products, technologies, processes and services. Subsequent lectures therefore commenced with the relevant topics straight away.

Not every web event is a webinar

The points described here are only part of what we have learned over the course of our ten-part web session series, which involved a total of 44 speakers and several hundred participants. We made very comprehensive findings that will benefit our coming digital offerings for the medical technology industry, which will serve as a bridge to T4M 2021. And if you are wondering why the term “web sessions” was used throughout this text: the term “webinar” is trademarked. Were you aware of that?

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