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ATD Blog

Webinars Don’t Have to Be Lectures

Monday, October 24, 2022

I love webinars—to clarify, I love presenting webinars more than attending them. Most webinars are not engaging as learning experiences, but over the years, I have learned many ways to correct this issue. Here, I’ll share strategies I use that are effective every time, which features of the platform I enjoy using most, and the secrets to motivating participants to be as involved and invested in the experience as I am!

Webinars have historically had a bad reputation in the learning and development industry. I know this because many trainers and learners compare the worst virtual training experiences they have had to webinars, describing them as being “like boring sales lectures that don’t help me do my job!” What’s stunning is that I am still hearing this even after the global pandemic forced all of us online, which you think would have made us better at presenting webinars!

Is there any hope? Yes! Let’s first begin with a definition of what a webinar is, and then examine how to make them engaging experiences for everyone.

Webinars in learning and development are excellent ways to deliver a knowledge base, or lower level objectives, to a large audience. Think about your favorite in-person conference keynote address, the one where we get involved, are energized, and then become inspired to act. With the web conferencing tools we have today, there is no reason for webinars to not be interactive, engaging, and perhaps even providing a chance to network with others.

If your webinar is not interactive, ask yourself this question: Why is it not a recording? Why bring people together to sit and listen, at a designated time, when they are not required to participate? You have a live audience in attendance, and engaging them involves bringing them into the experience in a way that is personalized and makes it unique and relevant to them.

Strategies to Manage Interaction and Avoid Lecture

Feedback. Use the feedback or reaction tools, and ask participants to respond to your questions using these icons. It’s a quick way to get easy interaction. Pro tip: Pay attention to their responses and comment on them. Do not ignore them unless you want them to ignore you moving forward.

Questions. Ask open-ended questions to gain insight into your audience. Pro tip: Ask questions that do not require you to read every single answer but give you a general idea instead.

Reflection. Use “purposeful silence” to allow people time to think about content shared, questions asked, ideas promoted, and anything else you may cover that requires rumination. Pro tip: Mute yourself, take a drink of water, and count to 10 before speaking again to give them time to reflect.


Share. Ask participants to share their ideas, challenges, successes, concerns, and whatever else may be on their minds. Pro tip: Provide them a place to do this, or use the breakout feature to direct it.

Features to Use

I frequently use a mix of these features when presenting a webinar:

  • Chat
  • Polling
  • Feedback and reactions
  • Breakout rooms
  • Webcams
  • Screen share to slides or media
  • Interactive presentation programs, like Mentimeter or Slido
  • Shared collaboration applications, like Padlet or Miro

Ways to Motivate the Audience

We all know it is not the features that engage an audience; it’s how we use those features. Here are some solid ways to engage an audience enough that they’re motivated to participate:

Appear on web camera and look great. Practice speaking while on camera, manage how you move, and get feedback on your eye contact. Make sure lighting, angles, and your overall approach are appealing.


Design compelling visuals using modern slide design practices. Include audio and video media where appropriate, and deliver your messaging using thoughtful, relevant, and engaging storytelling.

Personalize the experience. Deliver the webinar as if you are speaking directly to each person, offering them what will feel like an individual experience. Below are a list of strategies you can implement to involve your audience—remember, this is not a recording, and your audience is live online with you, able to respond and share.

Bring It All Together

The following are some activities and ideas adapted from the 2nd edition of mine and Tom Stone’s book, Interact and Engage! 75+ Activities for Virtual Training, Meetings, and Webinars , published by ATD Press in September 2022.

Begin with a question to gain insight and set an interactive tone. Share a slide with an image on it, and ask a question related to the topic of the webinar. Ask participants to share their perspectives as soon as you begin speaking. It sets the tone for participant involvement and provides you, the speaker, with insight into their knowledge, understanding, or perspective that can be used throughout the entire presentation.

Let them direct the order of the agenda to personalize it. This one takes a bit of confidence and certainly a high level of subject matter expertise, but it remains one of my favorite strategies for webinar engagement. Create a poll with the agenda items listed, and let them choose which one they are most excited to learn. Present the webinar according to those results. Cover them all, and adjust the timing and details based on their votes. I have always received votes for all items, so do not worry about the last one, just spend the least amount of time on it.

Consider a breakout room or two for reflection and connection. Some of the most interesting in-person keynote presentations ask us to interact with the presenter in some way, or at least share something with someone seated next to us. Why not do this online? Web conferencing tools today have made it easy to use breakout room functionality, that I challenge you to use it the next time you present. And if you cannot, consider an online discussion board or a tool, like Padlet or Miro, for people to add ideas and reflections and network at the same time.

You’re going to love webinars! Some people refer to webinars as boring, one-way lectures, that are of little value. Consider the ideas shared here, implement the strategies outlined, and join me in transforming webinars into experiences everyone cannot wait to join. If you do, then I’m sure you’ll soon be saying how much you love webinars too!

About the Author

Kassy LaBorie is founder and principal consultant at Kassy LaBorie Consulting LLC. She is a virtual classroom master trainer, specializing in developing trainers to be engaging and effective when facilitating programs in Zoom, Webex, Adobe Connect, and other online platforms. She has worked with many Fortune 500 firms in a wide range of industries and sectors, including hospitality, pharmaceuticals, energy, government, NGOs, and nonprofits.

She trains and coaches producers, the virtual classroom trainer’s partner in effective facilitation, as well as instructional designers tasked with creating or converting content for virtual classroom delivery. Kassy also advises learning and development leaders in areas like virtual classroom strategy, technology selection, logistics, and more. She has more than 20 years of experience helping organizations, learning teams, and training professionals successfully
move to the virtual environment.

Since 2008, she has participated in more than 100 industry conferences as a speaker, expert panelist, and workshop trainer. Kassy is a regular presenter at such events as ATD’s International Conference & EXPO, ATD TechKnowledge, Training Magazine’s conference, TechLearn, Learning Solutions, and DevLearn.

Prior to launching her consulting practice, Kassy was the director of virtual training services at Dale Carnegie Training, a consulting service that partners with organizations to help them develop successful online training strategies. She was also the product design architect responsible for developing the company’s live online training product and experience, which grew to be a $4 million dollar business in only a few years.

Kassy has also worked as an independent master virtual trainer, a Microsoft software trainer, and a senior trainer at Webex, where she helped build and deliver
training at the Webex University. Kassy is co-author of Interact and Engage! 75+ Activities for Virtual Training, Meetings, and Webinars (Second Edition, ATD Press, 2022), and is also author of Producing Virtual Training, Meetings, and Webinars: Master the Technology to Engage Participants (ATD Press, 2021). She is also the author of The Virtual Trainer’s Guide to Becoming a Hero, which is available for download on her website. You can learn more about Kassy by visiting

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