Answering Your Online Training Questions

Hundreds of people attended our webinar, Training an Invisible Audience: Delivering Effective Webinars, and while we responded to a lot of the questions asked during the presentation, we didn't get to all of them. We had such an interactive group-- it was really fantastic. Following are questions asked in the chat. Please ask other questions in the comments below, and we'll be sure to answer them.

Can you suggest how to share effective webinar techniques with presenters before the training event?

One thing you can do is to send presenters a few pointers by email, including tips such as using a lot of  visuals, setting learning objectives, encouraging interaction, general training tips, and an overview of the webinar platform. Also make sure you have a practice session with the presenter. A good idea is to require that they have their PowerPoint slides ready for the practice, that way you can give them feedback beforehand. You can also send them a link to an archived webinar to give them a sense of what style you prefer.

I'd like to know more about working with trainers during the webinar when you're the facilitator. How do you help them be more effective?

Helping presenters keep up with chat questions can be really beneficial. Here at TechSoup we share a google document with all presenters and staff helping with the webinar. The facilitator puts all the questions that come through in the doc during the webinar...that way a trainer can just switch to to the document periodically to answer questions or even just wait until the end of the session if you hold questions for the last 15 minutes. If a trainer isn’t comfortable with that, the facilitator could also just read the questions. However, I like to be able to pick and choose which ones I answer “on the fly,” because some questions do require more time for a thorough response. You should help with any technical issues that participants experience so that they can focus on their presentation. You can also design an "interview" type of webinar in which the facilitator asks the trainer predetermined questions about the topic throughout the session. This is similiar to traditional radio interviews and can be more engaging to listen to as there is more than one voice.

Is it better to mute your audience and only ask for questions via chat? I've had mixed results with letting participants ask questions live.

This will depend on which webinar platform you are using and also your audience. For smaller groups (under 25-30) that I work with on a continuous basis (such as a month long course with a few webinars involved)  I love to let them use their microphones. I usually try to just unmute one person at a time. If you are holding a large session, this can take up valuable time and there can be technical issues that come into play with different microphones, background noise, etc. I’d say if you are just beginning to offer webinars, keep it simple and just use chat while you become more adept at understanding the software and your typical audience.

Could you address pros and cons of having a presenter, facilitator, and tech support person in separate physical locations during a webinar?


  • If there are Internet or other technical infrastructure problems at one site, another site could still go forward with the presentation. I’m usually in the situation of being remote from the facilitator and technical support and I haven’t had many problems. I do like to have skype available to chat with support people so that I can ask a question quickly and not use the webinar platform in case there are issues. I also make sure we all have the best phone numbers to reach each other that day. I also like to make sure each person has the PowerPoint presentation. As the trainer, I usually always print a handout version of my slides so that if my computer were to crash or I lose an Internet connection, I could still carry on with the presentation using a phone line and someone else could advance the slides.


  • One con is that you can't easily get their attention to give quick feedback. For example, when you are in the same room, you can point to your watch or give a wrap up signal to let them know time is running short.

Any suggestions for conducting a live in-service and using the webinar format to share it with folks not attending the session in person? This is really challenging.

That is a challenging situation, but is a nice option to offer. I’d suggest you share the PowerPoint presentations being used through email as well in case someone has problems connecting to the webinar platform. Require remote participants to connect about 15-20 minutes before the live presentations begin so that you have time for troubleshooting. Have a trainer on chat that can clue in the remote participants as to what is happening in person and type in comments that might not be easily heard, such as audience questions. Also, try to pass on any questions the remote participants have to the live presenters as well.

How long do you think it's fair to expect people to give full attention in a webinar?  Is 90 minutes pushing it?

I think it really depends on your audience and expectations. I’ll admit there are some webinars that I listen to while I’m doing other things myself! If it is more of a class arrangement, then you should make it clear at the beginning what the expectations are for participation. By making it interactive you can keep people engaged. You can use polling features, ask questions to be answered in the chat, even call on specific people if it is a situation where everyone would feel comfortable with that. I do think 90 minutes is pushing it, if you really expect them to follow along that entire time...see if you can give a 5 minute stretch break or make the last 30 minutes optional Q & A time.

Does it usually cost to practice a session?

Most of the platforms I’ve worked with are on an annual fee basis, not per session, so there would not be a charge. I do think I’ve seen one platform that charges an account based on how many minutes are used per month, but I don’t think that is typical. The two platform donation programs facilitated by TechSoup are GoToWebinar and ReadyTalk and are both one year subscriptions.

Any sources you can recommend for stock photos to make interesting visual slides?

I use Microsoft’s online clip art a lot; you can download the images directly or through PowerPoint. There are some really great photos available there now (including the one of Santa in this post). I also search under the Creative Commons licenced photos for ones that are available for use for noncommercial purpose. Be sure to attribute folks when necessary, and it's always nice to let folks know you used their image.