Saturday, July 12, 2014

On my experience delivering a webinar...

I recently participated as a speaker in a Webinar for the American Chemical Society (ACS.) It was only the second webinar that I have delivered. My first was held on January 2013 as part of the monthly meeting series of the Lehigh Valley Local section of the ACS. They were an early adopter of the medium. That is, they were quick to figure out that it's cost effective to host speakers from a distance while also addressing a greater number of their members. The latter is particularly important to them because they cover a large geographic area placing any particular choice of meeting location too far from most of their members. My host, Lorena Tribe, helped me learn how to use questions through the presentation effectively in order to engage their web audience. I found the technique to be so successful that I have retained and used the questions (in think-pair-share style) as I present our work (on the energetics of proteins) at department seminars.

As a consequence, when I was asked to participate in the ACS Webinar, I was initially not phased by the opportunity. That is, until I learned that the audience would include nearly 400 participants. Fortunately, the ACS staff was similarly awesome. They provided all the necessary infrastructure and great user support. All I had to do was put my slides together just like I do for any other seminar. The inclusion of my industrial collaborator, Stephen Quirk, framed my otherwise academic discussion into one that was more accessible for a broader (viz. industrial) audience. Plus he did all the hard work of selecting the questions for me to answer during the Q and A. All-in-all my total time investment was probably less than four hours. Moreover, we reached a large audience and one that I probably would not have "seen" otherwise. That's a high benefit to cost ratio which I consider a big win.

If you missed my Webinar on "Digitally Pulling Proteins: Molecular Dynamics Simulations," you might still be able to hear it at At present, it's available only for view by ACS members.


  1. Great post, Rigoberto. I've had several webinar experiences and I concur with your observations. I played host to an ACS webinar on international research opportunities in Japan for over 200 participants and speakers over 10 time zones. It was like herding cats on a moving flat bed truck in the rain - but it worked!

    A few tips for other webinar presenters:

    Use a lot of links or other primary source references in the presentation so that folks can follow up on your highlights later (e.g. ACS and Chemical Society of Japan links for applications and point of contact).

    Give highlights interspersed with examples and questions. Seed the presentation with a few questions you anticipate (or stop frequently to field questions from your audience - have a good staff person or be mindful of the questions piling up so you can select a few to answer).

    That leads to questions along the way - be engaging with some planned questions even though you are not in front of the audience like you would be in a "normal" seminar. You get to ask them and provide the answer or even poll the audience with the right software.

    Last tip/rule: remember your first Speech101 lesson - do not read your slides. Use them as resources and key words, but the webinar audience can read so you don't need to. This is, oddly enough, a challenge even for the most seasoned speakers in webinars for some reason.

    There are many more ideas I have about webinars - maybe I'll follow Rigoberto's lead and blog myself:

  2. Thanks for the great tips! Good luck with jump in to blogging!