The following are based on resources posted online (links below) and previous experiences with web conferencing and webinars. Read through these tips for ideas on how to optimize the Blackboard Collaborate Ultra experience for you and your students, and explore the links to online resources at the end.
Before the webinar:
- Become familiar with the Collaborate Ultra environment, tools and functionality – Learning Technologies can walk you through the process to show you the tool and answer any questions.
- Rehearse and practice using the technology, so you know what to do when it does occasionally go wrong.
- Prepare everything beforehand – Load the slides, announcements, and resources beforehand, login to websites you’ll be visiting, and clean up your desktop if you will be sharing your screen – you will have more than enough on your hands so don't try to sort things out at the last minute or on the fly.
- Makes sure everyone has a copy of your presentation so if all fails you can just have a phone conference.
- Leading up to the webinar, send email reminders and post announcements twice – 1 day before the webinar and again 1 hour before the webinar.
- Close all unnecessary applications, especially your email. You do not want any personal or confidential info displayed, and you just don't want to interrupt the webinar with any notifications that pop up.
- Login into the webinar at least 15 minutes early to be sure everything is ready and so that your students will know they are in the right place when they login.
- Have someone dial-in to make sure the toll-free number is working for participants.
- Re-test your audio and video and adjust the settings and the webcam view. Be sure you’ll be able to hear and see each other.
- Use pre-webinar slides & announcements. Put up a slide that says something like "the webinar will begin in 10 minutes" so when people log in they know it is working OK and that they are in the right place. Update the slide to show the actual time until the webinar. You should also make an announcement on every few minutes to let people know it will start soon and their audio is working.
During the webinar:
- Start 2 minutes past the hour. This gives people time to call in, but does not make those on time wait too long and annoy them for being on time. It’s tempting as a presenter to wait for more people to join but respect the time of those who are on time and start on schedule.
- Think like a radio talk show host – keep your energy levels up and bring out the best in your 'guests'.
- Let your students know in the introduction how you will be dealing with questions (whether you'll respond to select questions at the end, try to take them during the session, watch the chat box for questions, etc.).
- Tell them that you will be recording the webinar and will send a link to the recording within 24 hours.
- Speak in your normal voice, without shouting and ask them if they can hear you. Have them introduce themselves so you can be sure that you can hear each of them.
- Have fun, use humor, and wear a smile. If you look and sound like you enjoy hosting the webinar your students will be more in tune with what you are saying and sharing.
- Make notes of what people say so you can refer back to it at the end – this lets them know you’ve been listening. Acknowledge those who are participating and contributing.
- Build in regular interactions. Encourage students to make comments even if they are not talking by asking them by name if they have questions or anything to add. Don’t put them on the spot – invite their comments and questions.
- When possible, have two facilitators. One acts as the host (you) and the other concentrates on chat conversations and handling the technical side of things.
- When doing a demo or sharing your screen, try not to move too quickly (or scroll up and down a web page too quickly). Often, a screen refresh takes some time to complete. Plan on it taking about 5 seconds every time you change your screen for everyone to see the change.
- Record it all. You will always have students who miss the webinar and someone who gets called away through no fault of their own. The recording synchs with whatever was shown on the screen –an excellent resource for those who can't attend your sessions.
- Try to enjoy yourself and don't worry. Webinar participants are often very patient when things go wrong as long as you show a sense of humor and keep them informed. Just be yourself and relax and enjoy the whole experience. This will make everyone else at ease and will make it something they will want to try again in the future.
After the webinar
- Follow-up quickly to motivate your students to take a next step while the webinar is still on their mind.
- Email the link to the recording and the slides, and post an announcement, within 24 hours.
- Build in follow up activities. Encourage further dialogue in the form of comments and questions in follow up discussion forums and activities.