This is a guest post by Merv Wyeth, Business Change and Benefits Management Specialist.
After more than 8 years of organising webinars for project management audiences, it seemed to me that the format was tired. Webinars were too predictable. They needed some va-va-voom. So, I decided to give Mentimeter a go. I had three aims;
To promote audience engagement and response
To capture information and feedback in real-time
To increase the impact and ROI of project management events
In June this year, at a Volunteers Forum, I was invited to tell my Mentimeter Success Story. I reported that we had totally nailed these objectives. Here’s how we did it.
Levels of interactivity in an average webinar are typically low. A couple of multiple-choice poll questions may be included, or an invitation to attendees to send in a question for inclusion in a short Q&A session that follows a 50-minute speaker-led presentation. Many speakers accept the status-quo, but others welcome greater intimacy with the audience.
Some attendees are obviously multi-tasking, perhaps responding to emails with the speaker’s presentation slides hidden behind an active window as their status shows them to be ‘inattentive’. Others may have registered for the webinar, just to claim a unit of professional development. Thankfully, there are many attendees who genuinely wish to participate and learn something useful!
I was not a Mentimeter expert when I first started using the software for webinars, but thankfully it proved to be quite forgiving. For example, when I accidentally hit the wrong key, I am able to quickly recover. There is really no substitute for learning from experience; and this has helped build my confidence, and competence, such that I am now able to tutor others.
I find that by starting the webinar a few minutes early I can warm attendees up to the idea of participating, and ensure that they are logged-in and ready to go. Deliberately repeating the five or six-digit code and providing a direct link to the Mentimeter session, also helps get attendees to the start line.
I always encourage attendees to click on the ‘thumbs up’ (I don’t offer them a ‘thumbs down’) or heart symbol to let me know that things are working as they should. I learned that it is best to script my intro and to build my introductory slides about the speaker and topic in Mentimeter, rather than as separate slides. Next, I ask a few simple questions to find out a bit about the audience. Results are displayed with simple bar charts or ‘dots layout’, for example for a project-related role, or using a word cloud for questions such as:
‘What term describes the main focus of the organisation in which you work?’
After a few more questions I flick the screen across to the speaker to start their presentation. Typically, the speaker’s presentation is interspersed with further Mentimeter questions at pre-planned intervals to retain the interest of attendees.
The key to effective questions is to ensure that they are an integral part of the presentation, e.g. by having a short conversation between the speaker and (apparently) knowledgeable host as the results come in. Audiences regularly report that they enjoy the interplay between the speaker and host, even to the point, in a recent webinar, of the inclusion of banter!
‘Valuing Benefits: What value are we trying to capture?’ (Tim Goodspeed, January 2018) Tim explored the difference between two techniques used to value benefits, namely cost-benefit analysis (CBA) and Social Return on Investment (SROI) by asking attendees whether they knew about, and had used, either technique. The results enabled Tim to powerfully demonstrate a knowing-doing gap and build his presentation around this!
After the Q&A, I asked attendees ‘What have you learned from this webinar?’ 62 responses were received providing immediate, specific feedback to the speaker. It dawned on me that the quality and quantity of feedback received ‘in the moment’, via Mentimeter, is far superior to any post-event survey results. In this case, it yielded more than three times the amount, i.e. 62 compared to 18 responses from 360 attendees.
‘Improving Project Handover’ (Owen Anthony, April 2018) Owen repeated a short survey that he had used some months earlier as part of his research on the same topic. Whereas, he had received just 25 responses to his online survey, which he had significantly bolstered with semi-structured interviews, during the webinar more than 200 responses were received for each question!
In addition, to the higher response rate, it was clear that webinar attendees were well-informed about the topic and able to provide meaningful data. In contrast, the level of knowledge, understanding and experience of the respondents in the original research was unknown.
At the end of his presentation, Owen posed the question:;
‘What suggestions do you have for improving project handover?’
The 129 responses are sufficient for Owen to write a further research paper. In fact, we have now commissioned some additional analysis of the Mentimeter results from webinars.
Discovery-led decision making (Dr Ben Shenoy, October 2018). A high degree of interaction between Ben, myself and the audience was maintained throughout. The result? Positive feedback across the board, exceptional net promoter scores and testimonials that included:
“Interesting presentation topic, I loved the social psychology behind it and Ben's academic knowledge really helped. The interactivity was a big advantage as these 1-hour lunchtime seminars are sometimes very hard to remain focused on. It was excellent! Thank you.”
At the end of the webinar with Ben Shenoy, I asked my now standard ‘killer question’:
*‘Reflective Practice: What have you learned, or what will you do differently as a result of attending this webinar?’ *
I received another 70 well-thought-out responses. So why is this a killer question? It relates directly to the objective of increasing the impact of webinars, i.e. what, if anything, attendees will do (differently) as a result of attending the webinar.
I have previously argued, that you need to change behaviour if you want to create value from events. See What does Event ROI mean and why is it important? (APM, 2015) #eventroi
My decision to use Mentimeter for webinars proved to be a good one. Mentimeter really does help to ensure that attendees; are highly engaged, provide useful feedback and create lasting value.
Merv Wyeth is a Business Change and Benefits Management Specialist, and Mentimeter user. Connect with him on LinkedIn.