As we learned in Part 2 of this series, presenting in front of a live audience provides many advantages including the opportunity to network and interact with others while offering the added benefit of an intimate learning environment. However, face-to-face presentations often pose two key disadvantages for attendees: time and travel costs. Finding personal time to attend an event that may potentially last several hours and would require extensive travel is simply not a viable option for most people with a busy schedule.
To overcome these barriers, more and more live presentations are being conducted over the web. Also known as “web conferencing,” webinars have several advantages over face-to-face presentations. Webinars effectively eliminate the need for any travel for both attendees and presenters. It allows attendees to access a live presentation from anywhere in the world as long as they have internet connectivity and a computer. Another advantage is that most webinars are short in duration with average time frames between 30 minutes to 1 hour. This facilitates learning and increases knowledge retention.
If you are seeking to reach a broader audience while still being able to interact with attendees during your live presentation, then a webinar may be just what you need to get your message out. While there are many different webinar services on the market, most allow you to share your screen with online participants so that you can present directly from your computer. The only other equipment that is necessary for conducting your webinar is a computer microphone or a phone. While a webcam is optional, it can help you make a personal connection with your audience.
Even though webinars are becoming extremely popular, it can be difficult to find free alternatives that will allow more than just a handful of attendees for each session. However, for those that are on a shoestring budget and still want the ability to present to a large audience, there are two free webinar services worth considering:
AnyMeeting – This service is free with ads. It allows for meetings of up to 200 people and has essential functionality like screen sharing, VoIP and phone conferencing, meeting recording, and even follow-up email functionality.
FreeScreenSharing – This online service is ad-free and lets you share your screen online with up to 96 people at a time without any time limitations. This webinar service also provides free phone conferencing, chat functionality, and meeting detail reports.
Whichever webinar service you decide to use, take the necessary time to learn its features until you feel comfortable enough to use the tools with an audience. As we move on to Part 4, the final article in this series, you will learn how to conduct a successful webinar in order to meet the needs of your virtual audience. Check out the entire series on Best Practices for Effective Presentations: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 4.