When you’re webcasting to employees, you’re playing to a crowd.
You have to hope that the content is compelling enough for people to tune in to a general presentation—in a world where people have become used to highly customized, one-to-one communication.
Not only are you competing for viewers who’ve become accustomed to watching only what they want to see, but you’re also competing for time against all kinds of work and non-work related content that employees can watch instead of your webcast.
“Five years ago, webcasts were a big event. People would watch them no matter what, because they were new and cool,” says Chris Duncan, associate director of communication resources for Dow Chemical Co. “Now they want more concise information, and they want us to get to the point faster.”
That’s why webcasts should be developed with today’s employees in mind, building in ways for them to engage with presenters and to have a say in what’s discussed. Below, experienced communicators offer their advice on crafting well-attended webcasts from start to finish.
Before the webcast
Perhaps the first question for any communicator is whether the information you’re going to share with employees should be in webcast form—and not simply an intranet video or blog post.
“You don’t usually do webcasts if you’re just reaching out to a small group,” says Karen Allen Lee, director of internal communications for SAS, the business analytics software company. “You do a webcast if you want a broader audience, and especially if that audience can’t be there in person.”
You might want to avoid webcasts in which highly confidential matters are being discussed, such as upcoming product launches. “Someone could take a link to the webcast and forward it,” Allen Lee says. “In this day and age, anything can be copied.”
At Dow, Duncan is experimenting with different formats that complement semiannual or quarterly webcasts that run long and cover many topics. He and his colleagues are creating what they call “shortcasts,” 10-minute webcasts that are more frequent and cover timely news.
“It’s about what you want employees to take action on right now,” Duncan says. “You don’t want to save everything up for the quarterly webcast. Often that information becomes out of date.”
Once you’ve decided that a webcast suits the content, it’s time to line up help from other departments, both to handle logistics and to supply you with ideas for content. In a previous position managing quarterly webinars for a global manufacturer, Chris Sledzik, content marketing strategist for marketing technology firm BrandMuscle, sought help from HR, IT and executive leadership before each webcast.
“HR was able to tell me what kind of information people in each facility needed to do their jobs better,” Sledzik says. His execs weighed in on what they’d be able to discuss, or they’d suggest that another leader make an appearance on the webcast.
“We didn’t put just anyone on the webcast because they wanted time,” he says. “They had to have a purpose. We’d only share news that impacted day-to-day employee function.”
Connecting with IT before a webcast isn’t just about saying, “Hey, turn on the webcast software,” communicators say—it’s about soliciting their advice on everything from troubleshooting on the day of the event, to figuring out how to edit the archived webcast.
“I’m finding that today, IT wants to be even more engaged with us on webcasts, and I love that,” Duncan says. “When we partner, we both have a stake in the outcome.”
During the webcast
To keep viewers engaged, your webcast has to proceed at a good clip—a slow, dragged-out speech or segment will prompt employees to tune out. Violaine Cola-Jacquin, internal communication director for Schneider Electric, walks speakers through rehearsals to make sure presentations are succinct.
“We do a rehearsal beforehand to check on timing,” Cola-Jacquin says. “We review the questions the speakers will answer and the slides they’re using. We don’t want any topic to go on for more than 10 minutes, and we ask that speakers use no more than three or four slides.”
Another tool for increasing webcast viewership: the opportunity to ask questions during presentations. At SAS, employees can submit questions live via The Hub, the company’s online social community, and can even have conversations about the presentations.
“They can talk to each other during the webcast,” Allen Lee says. “That’s one thing that attracts people—the fact that we’re transparent about including employees in the discussion.”
It’s also important to balance speakers with other content, so the webcast doesn’t come off as an endless series of talking heads.
At Dow, Duncan mixes in videos about the company’s products and customers—which not only breaks up the flow in a pleasing way, it’s also valuable information for employees. The videos come from the company’s “Discover Dow” series, and Duncan repurposes the material for Dow’s webcasts.
For example, the company’s Quantum Dots display technology, which greatly expands the colors that can be seen on screen, is inside new TVs that don’t carry the Dow name. “It might not get noticed, but our employees should know about it,” Duncan says. “We want them to be ambassadors of our products.”
After the webcast
Once the webcast is over, it’s time to figure what worked well and to share the archived version with employees who couldn’t attend. Communicators are experimenting with ways to get more feedback from employees and to use analytics to learn more than just how many people watched.
At Schneider Electric, Cola-Jacquin uses her Web conferencing software to ask participants questions both during webcasts and again at the end.
“If we send out email surveys a day or two later, we don’t get many responses,” she says, which is why she’s focused on capturing feedback just before the presentation ends. She keeps it simple, posting just two questions as a poll during the last five minutes of the webcast: How satisfied are you with this webcast (on a scale of one to five)? Are you comfortable sharing these messages with your team (on a scale of one to five)?
Cola-Jaquin will also test viewer knowledge during a webcast by asking questions on what they’ve just heard. For example: “How much revenue does this line of business represent?” The polling results can tell her whether employees successfully absorbed information, or if it went over their heads.
Communicators should also strive for better metrics on who’s watching and how, Duncan says.
“We want to know if people are staying for the entire webcast, or if they’re trailing off after 15 minutes,” he says. “We’re challenging our vendors to get us better numbers,” such as which segments showed peak viewership and what was happening at that time, how viewership compared by region, and what kind of devices people are using to tune in.
Sharing webcast videos on company intranets is always a good practice, communicators say. “When we post a recap, we always leave that open for more comments and suggestions,” says Allen Lee.
Schneider Electric’s Cola-Jaquin keeps question time open for a few weeks after the webcast, collecting questions that didn’t get answered the first time and answering them on the company intranet—and letting employees know via email that a new batch of answers is available.
This article is presented in partnership with Kontiki.