We have all sat through webinars that were basically an excuse for the presenter to push information at us with no opportunity or enticement for us to engage. We all recognize these events as a multitasking opportunity for us.
I don’t know if these presenters actually choose not to interact with their audience or just don’t know how to involve an audience whom they can’t see and who can’t see them. Not having a live audience can be daunting for presenters at first, but after a few experiments, you can learn to engage your learners.
Engage your audience with surprises
For example, in my technical writing webinars, I love to drop new words or acronyms on learners. Let’s say that I’m teaching them how to structure a technical message (e-mail or report or procedure). I suggest that best practices include presenting the most important information first (because people read from left to right and top to bottom). I name this principle “Bottom Line on Top” and offer them the acronym BLOT. Shortly after that, I share a text example of “Bottom Line on Bottom” (important information at the end—when most people have stopped reading) and then drop in the acronym BLOB. I notice that they start using the acronyms themselves to offer feedback on writing samples that I show onscreen.
In technical writing, BLOT compares to the concept of the inverted pyramid structure of journalistic articles. Many journalists start their articles with the most newsworthy information: Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? Then the article moves on to explain important details, and finally, presents other general information and background information.
The sketch at the top of this article presents a version of the inverted pyramid, focusing on the importance of biodiversity as the BLOT (marked “BIG” in the picture).
Continue the interactivity
Some webinar learners who have worked in or for the Federal government will chat the acronym BLUF, which stands for “Bottom Line Up Front.” I tell them it’s a good acronym too, but what about the concept of BLOB? Would you then call that BLUB?
Are my learners engaged? You bet. Not all of them, of course, but enough for me to handle the flow of chat directed to me and to others in the class. And it’s rewarding to read their comments at the end of the webinar when I ask them what they will change in their writing after the class and they chat back (among other things): BLOT. Thank goodness, because “Nothing changes if nothing changes.”
An earlier version of this blog post appeared on my LinkedIn blog.
Thank you to Bing images for the two images that appear in this blog.