Top tips to enhance your webinars, virtual field days and online meetings

These days, we’ve all got more reasons and opportunities to connect virtually rather than in person. Virtual events can be time-efficient, save on travelling and reduce other costs. We can try, join, share and collaborate with new networks to extend our reach even further, wherever we are in the world. But without the right techniques and skills, these webinars, virtual field days and online meetings can be dull and frustrating or, even worse, a waste of everyone’s time.

My Online Event Checklist

Preparation is key before organising your online event. Below is a checklist of things you need to think about in advance:

  • Plan
    1. attractive content
    2. good pace / timing
    3. opportunities for audience participation
    4. competent host chosen and accepted
  • To get good attendance
    1. Participants invited
    2. Clear joining instructions
    3. Reminder emails the day before and on the day
  • Technical check completed
  • Plan/procedure if you lose connection
  • Time-keeper appointed to make sure things run on time
  • House ‘rules’ sorted e.g. on using mute, chat etc
  • Your ‘after event’ offer sorted
    1. Record the event to add to YouTube for those who couldn’t attend
    2. Consent to share speaker and/or participant contact details
    3. How you will get feedback from participants on how it went


Troubleshoot these common problems to make your online presence powerful whether you are a contributing participant, in the audience or the host.

1. Not sure how to make the best of it

Practice with the technology.

With colleagues, event speakers, friends or even family members, practice using the technology so that you are familiar with the tools to participate properly (share your screen, run a poll, read the live chat and - as host - to troubleshoot and help others to engage effectively).

Choose the software system most appropriate to the type and scale of event you want to host.

2. Equipment or Internet Fail

Have a ‘Plan B and helper(s)

In case, as host, you lose connectivity, have someone who knows the event plan and can pick up the reins and continue the webinar/live event for you until you re-connect and take over again. Make guidelines and create roles for different people in the meeting – e.g. admissions, muting, admission, managing live chat, posting on social media etc.

Discuss your event plan with your helper or a colleague to check you have made it as interesting and engaging as possible. Ask speakers to do an internet speed test for a trial run and remind them to use the same connection for the live event as for the run-through.

3. Looking less than your best

Give yourself the best ‘look’ you can

Dress professionally. Just because it’s a virtual does not mean the dress code is sportswear! Ensure your eyes are at same level with your computer/laptop/tablet/smartphone camera. Get rid of the 2wide-angle face” which happens when you get too close to the camera which will make you look distorted.

Talk to the lens, not down to it or up to it, to get the best eye contact with participants.

4. Background distractions

Watch out for what's behind you

Choose a relevant, calm and tidy backdrop. You want people focusing on your face and message, not on what’s behind you. The background should not be a distraction from what you have to say. Better to have a real and nice background than a fuzzy ugly one. If you walk and talk, move slowly.

You can choose to have your own backdrop, even with your logo added, but the boundary between you and your ‘screen’ will only remain good if you do not move towards or away from from your computer’s camera.

5. In the dark

Good lighting helps to illuminate, illustrate and inspire. Make sure your room is as well-lit as possible to avoid harsh shadows, glares and reflections. Sit facing a window, desk lamp or other light source to ensure your face is well illuminated and clearly visible.

It’s possible to have too much light. Lower the blind, draw a curtain or move away from the window to avoid overexposure.

6. Heavy breathing

A microphone can be a sound investment

Your computer or phone microphone may be fine. But if you are live-streaming from outdoors, you need a microphone with windshield to reduce wind noise. Whether in or outside, if you are using an external microphone, position it so you do not breathe heavily or sigh across it loudly.

Mute your microphone when you are not using it. For webinars, the host can mute all participants while presentations are in progress.

7. Dull, dreary and distracted

Invest energy

Welcome your participants brightly and positively. Engage them from the start with something that invites them to contribute. Use polls (the fewer questions the better), other interactive tools and invite emoji responses. Show you value their time, presence and input. Set out the pace and point of what is about to happen. If you are going to include film, download onto computer to play. As a participant, when you contribute unmute your microphone and speak clearly and concisely to get your message(s) across.

For informal webinars and online meetings, lighten the tone by inviting participants to all show an object (their favourite mug, drink of choice, cab tool etc).

8. Slurp and swill

Take refreshment carefully

If you must have a drink during the webinar/meeting then sip discreetly to the side, and with the microphone muted.

Build in time in an event over an hour in length for everyone to have a break and re-join refreshed and refocussed.

9. Remote and alone

Create a community with who’s who and where

As host, pitch the whole event to the participants who you know – from the registration process – are in attendance. Share/create an upbeat ‘vibe’ with the participants with a positive comment about the number, geographical distribution and range of professions joining in. Make guidelines and create roles for different people in the meeting – e.g. muting / admission / twitter / chat etc.

Signpost to where and how the participants can connect with the host, contributors after the event.

10. Lacks engagement and interaction

Engage with questions and polls

One-way communication from the host is not a good sign. Manage discussion with participants and respond to questions from participants encouragingly and respectfully.

Have pre-prepared questions in case none or few come ‘live’ from the group. If you have too many questions to get answered in the time available, note them and offer to follow up with a helpful email after the event ends.

11. Missed opportunity

Press record

Make a copy of your webinar or online event by recording it and uploading it to YouTube for viewing at any time. Screenshot the poll results you get as they are not always saved in software.

Promote the recording of the virtual event to others by sharing links to it by email, texts and social media posts.

12. No feedback from participants

Ask for thoughts and suggestions

Subject to GDPR, and having obtained the necessary permissions, get in touch with the participants after the event to share any recordings. Give them links and signposts to further sources of information. Gather their thoughts on what went well and less well using a standardised template. Set out next steps, ways to engage further outside the event. Use the event to create stronger and richer connections. Inform of any future events to engender a sense of continuity and community.

To gauge impact, include the questions “Did you find out what you wanted to know?” and “How likely are you to make changes as a result of this webinar/online event?”