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Working Those Webinars

Should I host a meeting, or a webinar? The question is fairly easy to answer. Our guidance on this - if you are hosting a meeting with a few people, and keep the link and invitation private, a meeting is fine. Once you publicize the link or invitation, we suggest a webinar. It can provide much more control over your meeting, and prevent it from getting out of hand.

The difference between the two - in a meeting, anyone who has signed in has the ability to speak. As host, you can add a setting to not allow anyone to unmute themselves, but that will add a lot of time to your meeting. And, since one of our goals is to make your meetings more efficient, that doesn't make a lot of sense. If attendees in a meeting cannot unmute themselves, you have to ask them to unmute; then, they have to unmute. On top of that, there will be chat messages from some letting you know they are unable to unmute (even if you don't want them unmuted.)

But, in a webinar only participants/panelists are able to be seen and to speak freely. Attendees are able to view the panelists, but unable to engage (chatting or Q&A are other components of their engagement, left for another post.) If an attendee wishes to speak, have them raise their hand. It is then at the discretion of the host or co-host whether to allow them to speak and be seen. And, there are two ways to do this First, elevate them to be a participant/panelist. This gives them the full rights as your other participants. If you have enabled "Share Screen", they can share their screen, for instance. If you utilize this option, we suggest sending them back as an attendee once they have completed their interaction. More work for a host or co-host certainly, but it provides much more control.

The second way to is just "Allow to Talk". This does not allow them to share their video or their screen, but does allow them to speak and to be heard. Again, once their interaction is completed, remove the authorization. Webinars provide a much greater control over the meeting. "Zoom-bombers" will find it much more difficult to disrupt your event. It allows greater control during the event. We have been involved with some webinars where the only panelists are us (providing the audio and video of the in-person room), and the host. The purpose of most of these has been to stream to YouTube (or some other platform), record for future use, or provide education without permitting interaction. And, it provides a way to remove someone's ability to interact in the meeting without eliminating their ability to still view the proceedings.

There is additional work needed before the event starts, however (everything comes with a cost.) Once the meeting starts, the host is able to elevate people to be participants. This can be tedious and time consuming, especially in a large meeting. You are able, however, to send each panelist an invitation to join as a panelist in advance of the meeting. This allows them to enter the event already elevated. Of course, if someone comes in as an attendee, you can still elevate them. But, it should cut down dramatically on the amount of work during the meeting. The list of those to notify can be entered one at a time, or by importing a .cvs file list. Just check the formatting required by the platform you are using.

Even when you host a webinar, though, there are still meeting guidelines you want your panelists to follow. We'll talk more about that in our next post. Thanks for reading!

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