By Akib Khana, Abhinav Singhb, Michael Pearsec
aST4 Specialty Registrar, Department of Trauma and Orthopedics, London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust
bST4 Specialty Registrar, Department of Trauma and Orthopedics, London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust
cConsultant Surgeon, Department of Trauma and Orthopaedics, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust
Corresponding author e-mail: [email protected]
Published 10 June 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the use of electronic meetings in group communication whilst reducing unnecessary face-to-face contact. Whilst remote communication may seem initially strange, video-conferencing is a learned behaviour with a proven track record as an educational tool among surgeons1. Once you become comfortable with the technology and embrace the advent of efficient telecommunication networks2, you will have access to a powerful and convenient method of communication with potentially large numbers of individuals. The now ubiquitous video conference, which is almost used routinely for trauma, departmental and audit meetings, allows everyone to talk directly to the group. A webinar is a form of video conferencing in which the communication is more controlled to allow a speaker to present to an audience3.
In this paper, we discuss the basics of video meetings and the mechanics of building a successful webinar.
There are several formats including single presenter, dual presenters, panel and interview webinars. In all of these formats, there is a facilitator who’s role is key in introducing the presenter(s) and moderating questions during Q&A. They must be familiar with the software and be able to resolve technology issues. A dry run of the webinar should be conducted several days before the live event to reduce the risk of a technology faux pas. Participants should be allowed to join the meeting five minutes prior to the event to ensure a prompt start, and everyone joining the meeting should be muted on entry to avoid random noise and ensure all presenters turn off computer and phone notifications. A presentation slide highlighting the agenda can be left on screen until the event begins, which will help the audience focus as they join the meeting. To prevent distractions and to conserve appropriate bandwidth, ensure all presenters close unnecessary applications4. The audience will be able to view a shared screen so it is equally important to close all personal or confidential information which may be accidentally displayed. Ensure you are presenting in an area inaccessible to children and pets.
A successful meeting is a discussion between the members of the audience and the biggest threat to active participation is allowing the audience to become observers, which is the first step to disengagement5. Provided everyones internet connection is strong, the use of video will make people feel like they’re all at the 'same' meeting and will help to personalise the conversation and foster engagement. In addition, creating an experience of shared responsibility by allotting tasks that participants can actively engage in will counteract any tendency to disengage. The meeting’s facilitator or chairperson should provide structure and moderate the event6, guiding the conversation and allowing participants to engage on the content as much as possible and without talking over each other.
All software platforms have features which enable audience participation. The polling feature allows real-time group feedback on specific topics and attendees may also be encouraged to 'raise a hand' or use the chat function if they want to make a point7. The facilitator could also 'go around the table' to gauge group opinion before finalising an item. Formal presentations within a meeting should be minimised and conversation prioritised to increase the time people are looking at each other. Consider using the whiteboard feature which utilises the visual capabilities of webinars.
The aims of a successful webinar are to communicate, educate and connect with the audience8, which may seem difficult because of the lack of audio and visual cues from the audience. However, a speaker must remember that video is an inherent strength of the medium and the audience will be more engaged when watching a real person speak, rather than listening to a disembodied voice and a successful webinar starts with carefully planned visual and audio aesthetics8.
Avoid presenting with your back to a window, because the light may cause silhouetting and render you too dark to see. Make your backdrop neutral and professional, such as a bookcase or a tasteful piece of art or consider using a virtual backdrop. Adjust your camera so that it’s giving a straight-on view of your face (even if that means propping your laptop up on several books) and the whole of your head should be on screen. Watching a speaker whose eyes are skewed to one side because of the placement of their camera, or whose laptop lens gives a view of their chin and the ceiling is disconcerting. Maintain eye contact with the camera so you appear to be looking viewers in the eye9. If you need to study a slide or read from a script, look to the camera when delivering the punchline for impetus. Remember that eye contact is incredibly powerful and will do more than anything else to help your talk land.
Do not underestimate vocal quality. Multiple, controlled voices as heard on radio can be engaging but a single voice can be monotonous and lead to audience disengagement. Vocal quality and delivery can be improved by pace, timing and intonation. The ideal pace for a webinar is about 150 words a minute, which is slower than casual face-to-face conversation because listeners don’t have the added sensory inputs of watching your mouth movements and facial expressions. Try to sound confident and personable, as if you are conversing with a good friend on the telephone on a topic that excites you. Consider using a headset microphone to improve audio quality and reduce the risk of feedback, either from other parties or from the speakers on your computer.
You need to immediately capture the attention of your audience as it only takes a couple of clicks to leave a webinar. Tell them exactly what they’re going to learn, highlight what problems you’re going to solve and make it all sound exciting. Try not to cover too much ground and limit the scope of your talk to a size which can be brought to life with examples. The best talks have a narrative structure that loosely follows a detective story. Considering starting by presenting a problem and then describes the search for a solution. Remember that the facilitator’s role is to set the tone for the session. It is important to know the biographies of each speaker with clear introductions. The facilitator should also pre-empt a list of questions on each topic in case the audience is not as engaged as you may wish.
Participants are scattered widely and surrounded by many tempting distractions and if a continual expectation of meaningful involvement is not sustained, they will retreat into a distracted observer role. Clinical case presentations are perfect vehicles to engage the audience by posing poll questions and the speaker can frame the narrative around the patient’s history. A quick look at the audience’s poll response is followed by the answer, which helps maintain audience engagement. Try and provide the group with meaningful engagement opportunities every 5-7 minutes.
Keep text and data slides to a minimum, particularly bulleted lists or lengthy paragraphs and never simply read what the viewers can see for themselves. Think more visuals, less words. Making eye contact at a key point in the talk is usually more effective than another text slide. Consider also using video or animation, which should be under 60 seconds or you risk losing people and avoid soundtracks, which can be very off-putting. Remember to increase the size of slide text and visuals to ensure viewability on smaller mobile device displays and try to become adept at switching seamlessly between slides and video.
Practice is essential and rehearsing under similar conditions by inviting a few people to watch remotely is recommended, rather than practicing alone in a mirror. Alternatively, record the presentation and ask a respected friend for their opinion on the sound, video quality and slides. Focus on injecting tonality and personality in your words, which will ensure a confident and personable delivery. A brief script or bullet points on note cards are very useful to keep you on course and try to memorise the transitions from one slide or feature to the next, which fosters a smooth presentation.
Feedback is important to help improve the session. Sending out an email feedback survey after the event will help improve future sessions and can be used to unlock CPD certificates10.
Key Points for Facilitators
Key Points for Presenters
Decide on the webinar format
Choose an appropriate environment for you to deliver the presentation
Be familiar with the platform
Ensure all distractions (both in your surroundings and on your computer) are minimised.
Ensure a dry run with presenters several days before the event
Use as much visual content as possible with videos, pictures and large text
Set a welcoming tone to the webinar and make clear introductions of the presenters and their biographies
Practice vocal tonality and delivery and speak directly to camera as much as possible.
Have a list of questions prepared for the Q&A session
Engage the audience with pre-determined poll questions
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