Webinars are having a major moment right now, and not only because of current restrictions on face-to-face gatherings. This approach to sharing information, training, and collaboration resolves issues around time, distance and cost for many construction industry organisations. Sara Drury, General Manager, Digital Events for Redback Connect, explains what you need to know to get maximum value from attending or hosting a webinar.
Almost any kind of content can be adapted to an on-line environment, says Drury.
She has seen digital platforms used for purposes like workplace training and education. Such platforms enable speakers to present and attendees to ask questions. Continued Professional Development can also be delivered in this way, and some organisations, such as the Association of Accredited Certifiers, are now conducting their CPD online.
Technologies like screen-sharing apps enable those presenting to share documents and plans.
Project briefings, tender information sessions, and stakeholder information sessions can also be held via webinar. Technologies like screen-sharing apps enable those presenting to share documents and plans. They also allow incorporating interactive elements, whether that is attendees asking questions in real-time via video, audio or text, or sending in questions ahead of time via email.
Even annual conferences or special events can be streamed. The Green Building Council of Australia, for example, pivoted its annual conference to digital in March due to social distancing requirements. Similarly, the Concrete Association of Australia has recently taken its annual conference online to communicate with members.
Connecting and Communicating
The biggest benefit is webinars “make distance obsolete,” explains Drury. They are also a useful tool for navigating the current challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“People are craving content right now,” Drury says. “They are feeling isolated and looking for ways to connect and even further educate in times like this.”
If you are looking to host a webinar-style event or meeting, Drury believes the first thing to consider is what the goal is. You also need to work out the specific approach.
“Will you be sharing information and taking questions through a private chat to make it more seamless? Or will you make it more collaborative and have an open Q&A session?”
Drury recommends having a facilitator or moderator for such sessions. Picking the right presenters also matters.
“Ensure your presenters are trained and want to present—our research every year shows that inspiring and enthusiastic presenters can make or break the experience for attendees,” Drury says.
You need to make decisions about money—will you charge for attendance, or will it be free? It is possible to integrate payment portals into a webinar registration portal, Drury said.
When hosting a webinar that attracts participants from regional or remote areas, you might consider having a backup teleconference phone-in line so poor internet speeds or reception don’t prevent people from joining in. Video can consume a lot of bandwidth, so doing a Powerpoint presentation live-streamed with audio-only might work in some cases.
Video can consume a lot of bandwidth, so doing a Powerpoint presentation live-streamed with audio-only might work in some cases.
Timing is also key. Redback Connect research found mid-week and mid-morning is generally preferred, but they are seeing an increase in Friday webinars. However, if your participants are on a busy construction site most of the day, evenings may be best. A survey can be done before final planning, so you can decide on a time that best suits your audience.
The research also found that between 35 minutes and 45 minutes is the preferred length for these events.
Gain Lasting Value
Often only a third of those who RSVP will actually make it to the entire event. That’s why Drury stresses the importance of recording any webinar for sharing afterwards. These types of recordings and any transcripts are also valuable for blog posts, FAQs, and social media.
“Once your webinar is over, it’s just the beginning… We recommend creating an online portal on your site to host these recordings.”
You can also export a transcript of all questions submitted during the live event as these are great for creating additional content.
“Many are now hosting online discussion forums once a webinar is over. For example, provide 45 minutes of online content, and then direct participants to a private Facebook group to continue the discussion,” Drury explains.
The Technology You Need
There are two main ways to host a webinar—DIY or using an experienced provider.
According to Drury, purchasing a license to run one yourself generally involves a monthly subscription equating to between $100–200 per month for a period of 12 months. “Not the best solution for one-off webinars,” she points out.
“Managed webinar providers take your presenter details and content and do it for you. They can take registrations on your behalf, train your presenters, support your live event, and host your recording for you.
“These are around $1,500 per event.”
In terms of the time investment, recent research suggests most teams spend three to four weeks to manage their webinars from concept to delivery. This includes the time to market it and take registrations, identify and brief presenters, create or adapt the content, and to deliver the webinar itself.
If You Want to Know More
Redback Connect has a range of free resources to assist with optimising the opportunity offered by webinars. Drury also suggests it is valuable to connect with the appropriate industry associations and professional bodies to see what might be coming up in the way of virtual events. Procore also delivers regular free webinars around workplace health and safety, business practices, collaboration, and industry outlooks—find out more here.