Saturday, 4 August 2012

Presenting in a webinar

Some time last year I was asked to speak in one of the webinars in the “New Librarians Global Connection: best practices, models andrecommendations” series run this year by the IFLA Continuing Professional Development and Workplace Learning and IFLA New Professionals Special Interest Group, with the American Library Association (ALA). As a co-manager of LISNPN I was asked to speak for ten minutes about how the network began and developed, to share our experiences of setting it up and running it, and to offer some tips to any LIS new professionals who might be looking to set up similar networks.

I had never even attended a webinar before, let alone presented in one, so I was nervous to say the least, but I accepted the invitation as it sounded like a fantastic opportunity both to further promote LISNPN on an international level, and to develop my own presenting skills. 

The first thing I did when I started preparing was to ask Ned, who created and developed LISNPN, to send me any useful information he had about its beginnings; I joined the admin team a few months before the network was launched, but as I was not involved in its inception, I was aware that I was missing information which could be useful for anyone wanting to create a similar network. Ned was really helpful and sent me lots of information about how the network began and what kinds of promotion were most effective.

This isn’t specific to a webinar presentation, but I found it really difficult to fit everything I wanted to say into ten minutes! This is a problem I’ve had with every presentation I’ve done so far, and so I made sure that I started preparing it a few months before the webinar, so I would have plenty of time to re-work it and get it down to the right length. 

Having never participated in a webinar before, I did a bit of research so I would know what to expect. I read Jo’s and Bethan’s excellent posts on presenting in a webinar, which offered some really helpful tips on how to prepare and present. Realising from this that I would need some headphones and a microphone, I asked them and others on Twitter whether they would recommend a particular set. In the end I purchased these which were fine; I could hear everything well and apparently I could be heard clearly too.

As I was not going to be seen by my audience, I decided to write a script to read from. I didn’t want to risk losing my way or getting flustered, for two reasons: 1) I only had ten minutes in which to speak, with a lot to fit in during that time, so I didn’t want to risk wasting any speaking time, and 2) as I wasn’t standing in front of the audience, if I went quiet then the audience and organisers wouldn’t know why and might ask if I was still there, which would be even more off-putting! At the same time, I was aware that a script can sound very unnatural, so I made sure I practised it enough times that I knew the material, that I knew where each sentence was going, and could inject some natural speech into it as I went along. Reading from my script worked well for me during the webinar – it ensured that I included everything that I wanted to, and because of my practice I think I made it sound natural. However, I was very careful to turn the pages over quietly, having heard what sounded like the rustle of paper during one of the presentations before mine! I haven’t heard the recording yet so I don’t know whether this was successful!

When creating my PowerPoint presentation, I decided to keep it very minimal as I didn’t have much in the way of facts and figures to share. I mainly used it to display links to LISNPN, to blog posts about LISNPN and for my email address and Twitter handle, thinking that, being an online event, attendees could just click straight through to these and, for example, be looking at LISNPN whilst listening to me talk.  

We had a practice in the webinar tool a couple of weeks before the webinar, which was really helpful. My biggest tip for anyone presenting in a webinar would be to have a practice run! This meant that I knew how to dial in and how the webinar tool worked, as well as being able to check that my headphones and microphone were OK. I would recommend Skype for dialing in; very easy and it didn’t cost me very much at all. The tool was fairly easy to use. Presenters were muted until it was their turn to speak. We would send our PowerPoints in advance and when it was our turn, our presentation would be loaded up already. There were simple “back” and “next” buttons to move through our slides as we spoke. Down one side of the page was a chat box which all attendees could use to ask questions, pick up on things etc, and which the speakers could also use to answer the questions or engage in discussions. I was told that it could be a quite an intense hour, but that it would be fun! After the practice I felt much less nervous and was looking forward to the webinar. 

Unfortunately, on the day we had lots of technical problems! I was actually unable to log in to the webinar tool, so I was unable to see or join in with the chat box, or to see my or the others’ slides. Luckily I was still able to dial in, so I could listen and speak. This made presenting a bit tricky; as I couldn’t see my slides I had to rely on one of the organisers moving through them for me, meaning that I had to introduce verbal cues to move to the next slide into my presentation, and as I couldn’t see the chat box, meant that I felt like I was talking to myself, which was a strange feeling! I think I still gave a good presentation, but I was really disappointed to not be able to see or join in with the chat box. One of the organisers passed questions on to me verbally, and I was able to answer verbally, but I feel like I missed out on the overall webinar experience by not being able to engage that way. Afterwards, a very kind audience member emailed me a transcript of the chat box, so I was at least able to see what was said and asked eventually, which was great. 

Despite not being able to engage in the webinar tool, the online nature of the event made it easy to engage on Twitter. There was a hashtag for the webinar and, although lots of people tweet during conference presentations, I felt like the fact that the webinar was online allowed more people to tweet and engage with others’ tweets i.e. it wasn’t restricted to people with smartphones. I was able to see what attendees were saying about my presentation, thank those who had directed positive comments towards me (I had put my Twitter name on the first slide), engage in discussions with attendees, and express my disappointment at not being able to join in fully due to the technical problems (this is what prompted aforementioned lovely person to copy and paste the chat box for me). Being online, I had Facebook and LISNPN open at the same time, and it was thrilling to see the Facebook “Likes” for the LISNPN page flooding into my notifications, and the number of new members appearing on LISNPN throughout the webinar!

I really enjoyed having presenting in a webinar. I loved the level of engagement with attendees that it allows, and it was great to reach an international audience. I just wish that I could have logged into the webinar tool and been able to participate fully! I definitely hope that I have the chance to speak in a webinar again, and that there will be no technical issues next time. My slides are below if anyone would like to have a look, and I will post a link to the webinar recording when it is available. Thank you very much to Loida and the IFLA NPSIG for inviting me to be a speaker!


  1. Thank You for participating and sharing great news! This piece is very useful for anyone thinking about presenting @ webinars. Cheers!

  2. Sounds like a really enjoyable, and different, experience. You might be interested in the library 2.012 conference in October- I heard about it at SLA and it sounds really great. The conference is held online across multiple time zones (and is free!). I *think* they're still accepting proposals if you fancied webinar style presenting again, or if not it just sounds like a really interesting event anyway!


  3. Thanks for the comments Loida and Ruth.
    Ruth, I have looked at the library 2.012 conference - it looks great! I decided against putting a proposal in but will definitely try to "attend".