Learn from our experience: 5 tips for running a successful webinar
Learn from our experience: 5 tips for running a successful webinar

Learn from our experience: 5 tips for running a successful webinar

Last Thursday, we hosted a webinar covering the Accounting Standards Updates (ASUs) effective in 2019. When we facilitated a similar training last year, it was our first time hosting a CPE-compliant webinar since being approved by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) to grant CPE in the Group Internet Based (GIB) format. We’ve learned a lot since then and it showed in the evaluations!

We had 337 people register for the webinar (compared to 264 last year), and 184 actually attended (142 in 2018). Of the attendees, 130 took the time to fill out the survey and they collectively ranked our webinar 4.8 out of 5 stars. Not too shabby! They also had a lot of great qualitative feedback for us. Based on this feedback and our own reflections, we’ve come up with five tips that led to our success, as well as three ways we can improve next time.

Top 5 tips to make your webinar a success:

1. It takes a village to run a webinar

Running an effective webinar is truly a team effort! I designed the social media posts and ad campaigns. LaTarshia scheduled email campaigns and set up the landing pages for attendees to register. Vicky created the slides and moderated participant questions during the training. Emily was the producer and Jenny was on stand-by in Ohio, just in case. And, of course, Mike and Chris did their thing facilitating the course. One of our values is that we win and lose as a team and everyone at GAAP D had a hand in making our webinar a smash hit!

The natural content delivery was refreshing! I truly LOVE GAAP Dynamics. Simple and accessible and entertaining!
2. Practice, practice... but not too much!

One of the keys to a successful webinar is scheduling a “dry run” with one of your team members signed on as an attendee. During this dry run, practice the webinar exactly as if it were being done live. This helped us figure out timing issues, realize what topics the presenters still needed to brush up on, and allowed us to re-familiarize ourselves with the technology before the big event!

That said, it is possible to practice TOO much. Memorizing a script will make you sound like a robot, which is not a great learning experience. Participants noted and appreciated that Mike and Chris were conversational and didn’t read straight off a page. Truthfully, we never know ahead of time what’s going to come out of our presenters’ mouths (especially Mike)!

Facilitators made it more fun than usual. I liked the interjected videos and using other media to get points across.
 3. Variety is the spice of life

With so many distractions, it’s more important than ever to keep training engaging, especially in a webinar format where participants tend to multi-task. Through the use of polling questions, exercises and examples, animated videos, live video feed of the instructors, the ability to write in questions, providing helpful resources, and more, we created an interactive experience for the learner. Finally, keep the mood light and use humor where possible. This helps with any topic, but especially accounting training!

Easy to understand, no technical issues.
4. If you're going to do it, do it right

Participants won’t learn much if they’re distracted by things like fuzzy audio, harsh lighting, or bad webcam quality. The good news is that these things have a simple fix, and the tools don’t have to bust the budget.

When we set up our studio a little over a year ago, we invested in a good microphone, professional lighting kit, and a webcam with a tripod. Consider using a dedicated space with a neutral background and good acoustics (We used sound-proofing wall panels for our studio). Spending a little adds a lot in terms of quality, and your audience will appreciate it.

It was actually enjoyable to watch. Super informative, beneficial and entertaining enough to keep me off my phone! Great job!
5. Keep calm and have fun!

Lots of things can (and will) go wrong during a webinar, many of them beyond your control. Last year during a webinar, the power actually went out! Remain calm. Your audience can tell if you’re stressed, and, even if you get disconnected, it’s critical to keep a level head. That said, have a contingency plan.

In addition to her tireless planning, Emily did a great job documenting contingency plans just in case something did go awry during the broadcast. This included:

  • Setting Jenny up as a remote co-organizer in a different location in order to keep the webinar going in the case of internet loss or power outage at our home office.
  • Drafting emails to all participants with instructions that could be sent at a moment’s notice just in case we got disconnected.
  • Connecting the computer to the internet via Ethernet cable for a faster connection, while ensuring we had Wi-Fi and a mobile hotspot as a backup.

 3 ways we can improve:

For the videos shown during the course, please include subtitles because people that call in from the phone were not able to hear the audio on the videos.
1. You can always become more familiar with the technology

While Emily and Vicky are “old pros” at running webinars, a few evaluations from our participants made us aware of an issue we hadn’t yet thought of – videos uploaded to our webinar platform could only be heard by participants listening via computer audio. It never occurred to us that people might watch the webinar on their computers but listen via phone. Now we know!

Knowing the “ins” and “outs” of your webinar platform will help you create the best possible learning experience for your viewers – and keep in mind, technology is always changing!

It felt a little rushed, so 15 more minutes or one less topic would have been ideal.
2. Five minutes early is on time, on time is late

Our webinars are well-received, but a common theme of our 2018 webinars was that we ran over the end time. We made a conscious effort to do better in 2019 and we thought we did. We patted ourselves on the back for ending exactly at 12:30 pm. However, if we’re being honest with ourselves, we could have paced our training a little better. 

It’s essential to design your webinar so you can get through all of the content with a few minutes to spare. This will ensure you don’t have to rush through anything or skip a topic completely. And don’t forget to leave time to answer participants’ questions! We know our audience’s schedules are packed, and we want to respect their time. We will do better!

3. Never settle... push the envelope

Webinar technology is really amazing and is constantly changing. Really, the sky is the limit. Most of the interactions we used were methods we’ve used before. That said, we could probably push the limits a bit and try something new! Some things that came to mind were:

  • Use a whiteboard explainer video to debrief class discussions
  • Add a third presenter in a different location
  • Dress up as Harry Potter and Hermione Granger (actually, we already did this!)

Didn’t catch this webinar, or can’t wait to attend another? Our next webinar on MD&A Rules and Best Practices is scheduled for June 13, 2019. We hope to see you there! And don’t forget to check out our ever-expanding eLearning course library on the Revolution, our online learning platform!


This post is published to spread the love of GAAP and provided for informational purposes only. Although we are CPAs and have made every effort to ensure the factual accuracy of the post as of the date it was published, we are not responsible for your ultimate compliance with accounting or auditing standards and you agree not to hold us responsible for such. In addition, we take no responsibility for updating old posts, but may do so from time to time.

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