While much of the immediate post COVID-19 focus has been on disrupted marketing cycles and processes, it is also important to understand its impact on buyers. Audience-centric marketing and messaging is certainly a best practice now that marketers are through the immediate need to pivot and realign resources to accommodate in-person cancellations. Now, marketers need to dive in and understand how the buyer’s journey has changed overall.
Kicking off a massive persona project may not be in the cards for you right now, but there is data and research that we can learn from in order to better inform marketing strategies. As marketers increasingly switch to digital marketing tactics, they will need to know how to prioritize channels and act on the data that is captured through those interactions.
The way I see it, we’ll need to understand and think more strategically about three core areas of marketing:
Buyers – We need to understand more about the “surviving” buyers and how they are making purchase decisions. We also need to think about what that means from a target market perspective if you market to a heavily impacted industry.
Messaging – Certainly we must market with empathy, but there is a delicate balance between doing that and overloading “in these uncertain times.” Marketers must straddle this line while also providing differentiation.
Content and Delivery Mechanisms – Marketers have more data than ever before, especially with more interactions moving digital. Teams need to figure out what is working well and then refocus efforts on those content types and interactions buyers are gravitating towards.
While COVID-19 has forced businesses to postpone or cancel physical events, D&H Distributing decided to take its entire annual tech conference, D&H THREAD, and convert it into a virtual THREADcast experience focused on educating and enabling partners.
In just two weeks, D&H developed an incredible virtual experience that included three keynotes, more than 20 channels, live discussions and hours of content that support the tech landscape. Here’s how the company made the urgent change-over to a virtual offering:
Putting A New Spin on the Established In-Person Event
D&H decided to try something brand new when making the pivot from physical to digital. To create a fresh identity while staying close to familiar naming, it rebranded and evolved its “THREAD” series to THREADcast — a new name playing into the planned live broadcast component of the virtual event. This change sparked excitement across its vendor and partner community and attracted a larger audience virtually then it would have in-person.
The D&H Team even created a unique social media hashtag, “#THREADcast” around the virtual event to drive registration, attendance and engagement.
Leading with Empathy for the Audience’s Changing Needs
D&H created THREADcast with the intention of being short and respectful of a partner’s time — especially in light of how workloads and availability have changed in the wake of COVID-19. Most “channels” were kept between 5-10 minutes in length to make content easily digestible for their viewers. With time on its mind, D&H planned accessible, engaging, relevant and specific content that connected with its audience.
D&H employed a live and always-on strategy for its virtual experience to make sure its content reached its audience. First, registrants could tune in and experience THREADcast live for real-time engagement. But if they couldn’t attend the live version of the event, they could tune into the on-demand recording at their convenience.
Additionally, D&H pivoted the planned session content to focus on categories that lent themselves to current issues: business continuity, collaboration, unified communications and security — all areas where partners needed real-time education to support customer needs around remote work and teleworker environments.
Empowering Rockstar Digital Event Project Managers
Every successful conference has a dream team that makes it happen. The same goes for virtual experiences, and D&H’s dream team — David Labagh, Creative Strategist and George Gunnett, Multimedia Coordinator — managed to pivot the company’s events from physical to digital within two weeks. The duo managed everything from prepping speakers on the new format to submitting last-minute creative requests to strategizing how to create the best online audience experience with the tools they had.
Partnering with A Dynamic Digital Experience Platform
With the help of the ON24 Platform, D&H made its virtual event plan a reality. ON24 allowed the team to streamline the setup for its more than 30 sessions while also creating experiences built for audience engagement.
Like with any in-person event, it was important that D&H have the ability to customize the virtual experience to match the branding. Each channel and session was easily customized for each vendor and reflected the overarching event branding.
Three LIVEcast digital sessions were held on high-priority topics and two keynote presentations. The company also asked vendor partners to get creative recording presentations ranging from a five-minute pitch to a full 30-minute seminar, using everything from a webcam to an iPhone to help put a face to the name for the remote audience.
Giving the In-Person Feel Online
Lastly, driving awareness of partner services and offerings was a D&H priority and a big part of making the virtual event a success. Similar to how partners would have booths and sessions at their event, the D&H team developed a virtual solution and created “channels” where partners could share solutions and use cases. The D&H team made sure to prime each channel for audience engagement by equipping each partner channel with a prominent Contact Us box, connecting interested prospective customers to partners immediately.
Also, as part of the strategy to drive on-demand engagement with the THREADcast event, D&H raffled creative service credits and other incentives for attending partner channel sessions within the first 30 days of the THREADcast on-demand period to encourage continued engagement.
A Virtual Play That’s Here to Stay
While it was stressful to rebrand and transition its event from physical to digital in just two weeks, it was well worth it for the D&H team. The company has doubled its predicted in-person event reach thanks to continuous on-demand engagement.
D&H plans to continue to use its newly developed virtual playbook for upcoming events since launching THREADcast. Additionally, D&H’s always-on, on-demand strategy is paying off, with more than 50% of session and channel views coming from on-demand views. In fact, post-event attendance numbers continue to grow every day, helping the company to support its partners continuously with potential new business year-round.
If there’s one ubiquitous feature of conferences, trade shows and summits, it’s excellent branding. And it’s easy to understand why: branding experiences, like booths, provide fun, engaging and informative experiences for attendees — not to mention the excellent swag. But with in-person events postponed, canceled or adjusted to a virtual environment, marketers need to re-think how they bring their brand to life online.
How you generate excitement around an event depends on how large you’re planning for your event to be. Take a step back and assess what your goal is for your upcoming webinar. Will it be a smaller virtual experience like a stand-alone event or a part of a monthly series? Or will it be a part of a large digital experience, like a summit or virtual conference?
Large virtual events, like a summit or virtual conference, ought to have their own distinct branding distinct from your company’s umbrella brand. This way, attendees and customers will know the event is unique. This new design will need a virtual home as well, so incorporate it into a distinct event website. With the event website in place, your event’s brand will have a home you’ll have a centralized hub attendees and visitors can turn to for the latest event information.
Smaller events will still need the brand treatment to gin up excitement, but these events won’t necessarily need their own website. A simple asset page to register for the event will suffice and along with branded promotional assets — like email banners, social media posts and ads — in support of the event.
Be Consistent on Each Channel
A key element of modern webinar design is consistency. And that means providing a uniform design across every channel where your event may appear. In general, this means working with your designer or design team to assemble a range of assets, like social media images, email banners, blog images, ad banners and more, into an asset package for promotion across your preferred channels.
If you’re working with partners for an event — say, a summit, for example — an asset package is essential for a consistent event brand presence. Provide partners with asset packages that include typical assets plus material for any sessions they’re running or for any keynote speakers they’re providing — don’t forget to feature their logo in their asset package as well!
If you are running a summit or virtual event involving more than one presentation, don’t forget the smaller details. Provide your partners with branded slides and make sure each webinar console — down to the icons — are consistent with the event’s design. This will give your event a familiar feel for attendees and provide a professional touch to your events.
Incorporate Branding Into Each Touchpoint
Okay, so you have your event’s design built out for every channel, including, possibly, its own website. Now it’s time to take a step back and consider where your event’s brand will present itself to audiences before, during and after the event itself.
Sit down and consider every touchpoint your event will have with your audience and think about the opportunities where you can leave a lasting impression. For example, will your audience be able to download resources, like e-books and infographics? If so, are those assets branded with your event? On-demand events, too, ought to continue your event’s theme.
Finally, if you’re running a virtual summit or trade conference, consider sending attendees swag, either before or after the event, they can keep as a souvenir. While swag sends may be difficult to organize for a virtual event, they add that little extra zest and excitement attendees look for in events.
With social distancing orders in place around the world, physical events are canceled for the foreseeable future. However, businesses are still operating, and many are choosing to shift in-person conferences and conventions online.
There are a lot of things to consider when making this decision, but one of the biggest is how to communicate you’re hosting a virtual conference instead of a physical one. Let’s take a look at a few email best practices for communicating your move to a virtual event.
The Day-of Agenda Email
With in-person conferences, it’s easy to focus on nothing but the event: your out-of-office message is on, you travel to the event, walk the vendor maze and track down a branded stress ball to take home. In essence, you’re eating, breathing and sleeping the conference.
Virtual conferences are different. It’s not as easy to simply turn everything off and focus solely on the topics of the day.
With that in mind, we recommend sending day-of agenda emails to participants. This gives participants a quick and easy snapshot of the day’s events, allowing them to see what topics are up for discussion and identify the topics that mean the most to them. This helps facilitate participants getting the most out of your virtual event.
Communicating Breakout Tracks Email
Most conferences have a few hours of breakout sessions after lunch. These are usually run concurrently, and participants have to choose one or the other.
In your daily agenda email, give participants a small preview of the topics so they can decide which ones they want to participate live. And, most importantly, remind participants that other tracks and sessions will be made available on-demand, if applicable.
One of the best ways to run a virtual event is to make use of simulive presentations, which allows presenters to pre-record an event while attending and responding to attendees in real-time through chat engagement tools. Participants get the best of both worlds because they don’t really have to choose between one topic track or the other.
Here is an example from Best of B2BMX:
Providing for Sponsors
One major consideration when digitizing your physical event is how to keep your sponsors in the loop and happy. In a physical event space, sponsors’ logos can be put anywhere, from programs and daily agenda handouts to banners and signs.
Getting a sponsor’s name out there for a virtual event requires a different approach. And one of the best approaches is to include your sponsors in your event emails. That way, your sponsors get the exposure they want.
Let’s take a look at what Demand Generation Report did for its Best of #B2BMX event as a prime example. In its emails, the company included sponsors by providing a grid of logos throughout each email send. As you scroll through the message to see what topics are available to you today, you end with a collage of sponsors at the end of the email.
The company logos are placed just below the link that takes participants to the full conference agenda. Take a look:
Best of #B2BMX took it one step further and included sponsors on the homepage of the event. When participants click on the link to the event agenda, a sidebar on the right of the screen highlighting sponsors. This sidebar remains throughout the entire event site, so sponsors are prominently displayed and broadcast to each attendee.
MarTech Today’s event, Discover MarTech, provides another great example by taking things one step further and displayed sponsors by categories:
Short Emails, Great Content
Emails — even comprehensive ones for virtual events — should be short, to the point and have a single focus that’s immediately clear to the reader. The goal is to share necessary information while keeping your reader’s attention and we have a few tips on how to do that.
Keep Paragraphs Short
Readers scan emails, before reading them. So, to capture both aspects of the reading experiences, keep paragraphs short. If you have a lot of content to share, break each element down into small paragraphs of no more than two to three sentences. You can also provide links on your different topics that allow people to click for more information if they want.
Stick to One Main Idea
Try to keep one main idea per paragraph. This will help keep your paragraphs short and to the point for your readers. It will also keep readers from getting lost in your message.
Organize Content Logically
Lastly, try to organize your content logically within an email. For example, a virtual summit email could present topics and events of the summit chronologically by the hour, by importance or by what’s going on by the day.
Write Relevant Subject Lines
Probably the most important — and most confounding — part of writing an email is coming up with a compelling subject line. This is your hook to get participants to open the email, it’s important and you need to make it count. No pressure.
Your best bet: make it short, to the point and, if at all possible, catchy.
If your email details the day’s topics and schedule, then your subject line should say something like “Today’s Awesome Marketing Summit Agenda” or “Your Daily Schedule for Awesome Marketing Summit.”
Because the subject line is the enticer to get people to open your email, try to make it relevant to the overall theme of your event. An email from the MarTech Conference is a good example of this.
B2BMX also did a good job of keeping its subject line short and representative of the email content.
When creating emails and their content for your virtual summit, keep these tips in mind. You have important information to share and you want readers to be able to digest that content quickly and easily.
A marketer’s tale about the day our physical event strategy went virtual
While it seems like a long time ago, it really wasn’t. Time has become elastic in these days of social distancing and sheltering-in-place. But I still remember the day when I knew our physical events had to shut down.
We were a few weeks into a Lunch and Learn tour across the US and Canada. Throughout February and early March, I had been in five different cities and we were packing the house everywhere we went. A second leg of the tour was planned for more US cities in April and then we were going to head to Europe.
The coronavirus, which started in Wuhan, China, in December seemed like this far off thing like a monster hiding under someone else’s bed. When we started the tour in Toronto in mid-February, we didn’t give the virus, traveling or event attendance, a second thought. But with each passing week, the news kept getting worse. The virus was here. We were told by our government that it was no big deal, and we shouldn’t worry. And people clearly didn’t. We kept the tour going and were still turning out big audiences in every city.
However, by early March, things were getting worrisome. The virus was spreading. I was traveling with disinfectant and wiping down the seats on every airplane and cab I got into. People were talking about it more and more at each event. But still, they showed up.
COVID-19 Gets Real
The week of March 9 was the final two dates of the first leg of the tour. On March 10 we had an event in Palo Alto, California. We were getting worried whether anyone would even show. We debated canceling but event confirmations kept rolling in, so we decided to move forward. The room was packed, but there was a difference. People seemed hesitant, nobody shook hands; there were leg taps and elbow bumps in greeting and the virus was all anyone was talking about. I polled the audience and asked them if any of them would be attending a physical conference in the near future. No hands. I asked if their companies were going to be restricting travel. Every hand went up. Then I asked how many expected to be working from home for the foreseeable future. People just looked stunned at the thought. How much longer could this last?
Our final event of the first leg of the tour was to be held two days later on March 12 in Los Angeles. Attendance was affected. We had around 50 people confirmed. The day before the event, cancellations started coming in. The news was breaking that Tom Hanks had the virus. TOM HANKS! The NBA was going to suspend the season. This was getting real.
Details about the true threat of COVID-19 were becoming clearer. The CDC issued specific guidance on preventing the spread of the virus. We made the decision public safety was more important than a marketing program, but the idea of canceling was against everything we stood for as a company. So, 48 hours before the LA event, we decided to go virtual. We immediately sent an email out to everyone who had registered for the event. Nobody complained.
The Move to Virtual
We really wanted to recreate the physical experience so we built a webinar console with all of the event branding elements to give it an event look and feel. We integrated links to all of the content and swag giveaways we had at the physical events too. I delivered the presentation from our office studio (It was the last time I would see the office). During the event, I pushed out polls and took questions to make the experience just as interactive as the in-person events were and it was a great event.
Perhaps the silver lining of moving the LA event from Physical to Digital was that we were actually able to get more people into the event. When we decided to move to virtual on the 11, we took the liberty of dropping an email to everyone in LA that had not registered for the physical event. Why not? Well, we ended up getting twice as many people into the digital event then were even registered for the physical event. So, in a weird way, we were more successful by not getting on that plane.
Since then, I have presented a number of virtual events and conference experiences. And each experience is getting better than the last. They are engaging, interactive and even fun. People are showing up in huge numbers. They are networking and connecting virtually. I have even seen virtual events with digital afterparties, complete with DJs, and dancing.
It’s amazing how quickly we have gone from Tom Hanks to a world of engaging digital event experiences, but here we are. And marketing will never be the same.
ServiceNow helps companies to better manage workflows for optimal performance. So, as a software company focused on facilitating efficient work, ServiceNow had to be at the top of its business-to-business communication game. That means making efficient use of its digital channels, especially when it came to interactive channels like webinars.
The company’s first webinars were hosted on a generic platform. While this was suitable for a short while, ServiceNow quickly realized its initial option couldn’t grow with its needs — especially when it came to engaging with its audience through interactive tools.
“Some of our big product launch events are thousands of people, so you can imagine the mix-ups, and things that happen with limited capacity. I think moving to the ON24 Platform, it’s allowed us to really grow the program,” Rowden said.
But ServiceNow needed more than reliable, engaging webinars. It needed to be able to take advantage of the data generated within its digital events and pass those insights to its sales team.
ON24’s data automation features stepped up to the plate and easily integrated itself with ServiceNow’s sales and customer relationship management software programs. With these integrations set up, quality leads are funneled directly to the right representatives so they can continue the conversation without missing a beat. In fact, ServiceNow’s sales teams can even see who asked questions, what was asked, who downloaded additional information and so much more.
In fact, the functionality and success of ServiceNow’s data integrations have strengthened the relationship between the company’s marketing and sales teams. The marketing team loves running digital events because they can share important information through a high-quality platform and the sales team loves webinars because they can fill their pipeline with targeted leads.
“With the way that we have an integration set up, we’re able to give the sales team a little bit more detail in terms of lead behavior, which has strengthened the relationship even more. It builds that trust and that relationship between marketing and sales within the company,” Rowden said.
ServiceNow takes advantage of its global business by offering simulive webcasts for special events like product launches, which take place twice a year and reaches a large customer base Through this feature, ServiceNow can easily broadcast video, conduct a seamless event and respond to customer and prospects questions from all over the world in real-time.
Before partnering with ON24, Rowden said she and her colleagues feared their webinars may experience technical issues in the middle of a broadcast. After all, high attendance rates could generate instances of the program crashing and participants getting kicked out due to overload.
“Thousands and thousands of people attend these events every six months, so just knowing we can support that is great,” she said. “With ON24, I don’t have to worry about technical issues during an event. That helps me sleep better at night.”
Content Lives On
With all of these webinars and digital experiences at hand, ServiceNow needed a solution that’d easily allow visitors and would-be attendees to find the content they want. With ON24 Engagement Hub, ServiceNow could provide its audiences with a powerful content hub they could turn to anytime on any device — even mobile.
In fact, ServiceNow’s on-demand content has gone global — providing customers in every time zone with the resources they need to make the most out of ServiceNow’s capabilities. And the company’s marketing team couldn’t be happier.
“I have to say, last quarter I think we discovered that the webinar program itself, all of the activities that take place throughout that quarter, it actually went to the top in terms of marketing-influenced activity,” Rowden said. “So, that right there was sort of like, mic drop.”
Adjusting to a new work environment isn’t easy. Hopefully we’ve all been able to find our groove and figure out a system and routine that works for us now that many of us have been working from home for several weeks.
To that end, we thought we’d share a few examples of how some from our webinerd community have recreated their webinar setup at home.
How Miles Szkoda Runs Webinars from His Dining Room Table
Miles Szkoda, Web Content Specialist at VertMarketers, brought his work set up home with him and hit the ground running. With two external monitors and a laptop, Miles set up camp at the dining room table to keep his webinar program rolling.
But what about background noise with loud pets? Simple: Miles creatively deployed baby gates to keep his dogs out of the room and a note taped to the back of his computer tells his family that he’s on a live program — blissful silence!
How Danielle Gilstrap Makes Her Virtual Life Look Glamorous
Not all webinar presenters want to display their home turf for all to see. The solution? Well, Danielle Gilstrap, Content Manager for Events at Laserfiche, got creative. Using features built into her smart TV (and expert use of camera angles), Danielle created high-tech greenscreen that can change backgrounds at the press of a button. She even created a calm outdoor background for her webinar!
How Sander Buitelaar Hosts Webinars from home
As a Marketing Campaign Coordinator at tray.io, Sander Buitelaar knows working remotely isn’t an excuse for poor webinar engagement. That’s why Sander broke out a second screen at home. With the additional screen, Sander can easily watch audience engagement during his events and respond to questions as they pop up. He and his team are working hard, and they’ve been able to achieve an increase in webinar attendance in the past few weeks.
How Sathish Sakthivel Shifts Physical Events Online
Sathish Sakthivel, Business Intelligence Associate at athenahealth, spends much of his remote work time transitioning his organization’s physical, in-person events to virtualized digital experiences. Sathish’s home setup includes a laptop and an extra monitor that helps him manage the transition.
There’s a lot that goes into recording quality webinars, but the biggest challenge is simply finding a quiet space to record or go live without interruptions. When it comes to recording from home, that means finding a spare room or isolated space that people don’t often walk through.
As you’re deciding on a space that works for you, also consider how you can cordon off pets, toddlers or partners that can absentmindedly walk into your background or distract you while you’re on camera.
Finally, check the strength of your Wi-Fi connection in your chosen area — that may be the determining factor in whether that space will work for you or not.
Find or create good light
Once you’ve found a space or two that you think will work for your webinars, look at the lighting. Are you near a window with natural light? Are there overhead fluorescent lights?
Try a few different lighting options and see what looks best. Keep your webcam or video feed open so you can see how the lighting changes as you face a window or adjust a lamp.
If you’re looking to invest in professional lights, there are basic and advanced lighting kits online. They are fairly easy to set up and some even come with reflectors. Check out our recommended #WebinarFH gear here.
Have fun with backgrounds
There are tons of fun backgrounds available for you to use on video conferencing calls or webinars. Danielle got creative with her home setup by positioning herself in front of her tv that was able to display a beautiful nature scene.
There are several websites and apps that can create backgrounds for a multitude of video conferencing platforms. You can also hack your scenery by positioning yourself in front of a background of your choice. For example, a SmartTV (or any TV that can display photos) can let you swap out backgrounds on the fly. Just remember to have fun!
Consider investing in mobile gear
It never hurts to be prepared for unexpected situations. If you’re contemplating upgrading your webinar setup, consider tools that have the potential to go where you go, like a portable monitor or a mobile hotspot. Doing so makes it easier for you to produce webinars from wherever you are.
Marketers are waking up to the fact that we now live in a digital-first world. And you know what? They’re pretty okay with that. After all, B2B marketers have been touting the digital revolution for some time now.
So how are digital-ready marketers adapting to our new virtual workspace? By being ready to make the switch to digital. In fact, the #webinerd community is expert at driving these digital-first initiatives. Here are three examples of how:
D&H Distributing Takes Tech Conference Digital
D&H Distributing’s George Gunnett, a Multimedia Designer and Video Producer, and David Labagh, a Creative Strategist, transitioned their physical #DHThread tech conference into a digital #ThreadCast experience in less than three weeks.
How did they make the transition so fast? By breaking down what they already had done and translating it to a digital environment they’re familiar with. For example, the team decided that vendors could replicate physical booths as unique channels that attendees could visit for an overview of a vendor’s services.
The BARBRI Group Leverages Digital Events to Reach Goals
As Director of Operations for The BARBRI Group, Peter Bruce, is a huge fan of digital events. With social distancing orders in place, he and his colleagues have transitioned many of their usual physical events, such as chapter meetings, lunch-and-learns and moderated panels, into digital experiences.
What’s more, The BARBRI Group can now empower its global roster of experts to participate in its digital experiences, helping the group to connect with its community and further its legal education goals.
Robyn Hatfield Shares #WebinarFH Network Tips
Robyn Hatfield feels your webinaring from home pain. She also knows how you can overcome it. Quickly realizing the trend for meetings and events, Robyn is sharing network and connection tips for fellow webinerds. As a marketing automation and CRM professional for Accruent, Robyn knows how to work around the frustrations of spotty Wi-Fi and has highlighted ways marketers and other work-from-homers can get the most out of their bandwidth.
Four Tips for a Digital-First Approach
1) Adapt Events, Don’t Cancel
You and your colleagues have spent hours planning your event. The venue is reserved, the attendees are registered, the speakers are prepped and the equipment has been tested.
But then you get a call and the venue has to cancel.
You are still ready to go! Take a page from D&H Distributing and translate your physical event into a digital experience so audiences can stay informed and your messages can stay top-of-mind.
2) Open Up Your Experiences
Physical events have — by nature — limited attendance capabilities. Now that your event has shifted online, consider lifting attendance restrictions to reach a broader audience.
Special topic discussions or sessions may encourage audiences to participate — especially those who are interested in your brand but lack the time or resources necessary to attend an in-person event. Unless there is a reason to restrict access (and there can be), open your sessions!
3) Activate on-demand viewing
With on-demand webinars, attendees can get so much more out of your event than they originally expected. Not only does on-demand viewing give your attendees the option of engaging with more content, you may also find that more people attend and thoroughly digest more content from a dedicated virtual event because it’s convenient.
For example, breakout sessions may end up with a larger audience because registrants can now attend every session they want instead of having to pick between topics that may have been scheduled for the same time. Now, they can participate in one live session and the other on-demand.
4) Don’t forget the data
Don’t forget to check out the metrics after your event is over. Digital events and online engagement statistics give you much more data than physical events ever could.
For example, not only can you see who actually attended and engaged with each session while it was happening, but you also get a long-tail, on-demand audience that wouldn’t get from a physical event.
Don’t squander those opportunities. Make sure you capture as much data from your online event as possible and be sure to get that information to the appropriate people to follow up. Consider giving someone a special assignment to guarantee attendees are contacted in a timely fashion and with accurate information.
For more tips, suggestions and guidelines on moving physical events online, check out our other resources:
In response to COVID-19, schools across the United States have shuttered their buildings for the remaining 2019-2020 school year. But that doesn’t mean students and teachers have to give up on learning. In fact, many teachers are looking for ways to connect with classes and promote distance learning.
Recently, The Learning Network held an event explaining its Lesson of the Day program. The premise of the webinar was to both show how educators can integrate Lesson of the Day in classes and how teachers can adjust the Lesson of the Day format to fit their students and curriculum.
But The Learning Network also provided some lessons webinar practitioners can use in their day-to-day events. Let’s take a look:
Widen Your Audience
Though most of the participants were teachers or other types of educators, a few parents and life-long learners also joined the broadcast. The hosts from The Learning Network encourage this for two reasons:
When learning is incorporated into everyday activities, students see that it can be fun and doesn’t have to have negative feelings and associations, which they hope helps students see learning as a positive experience and something they want to continue.
Everyone should feel encouraged to learn throughout life because it keeps the mind sharp — especially as we age.
Create A Unique Format (And Stick to It)
The Learning Network’s overall demo and its Lesson of the Day process are entirely unique to The Learning Network’s services. And these two elements both dictate the format of the webinar and its content. This means The Learning Network has a powerful format it can use to address a specified audience.
The Learning Network’s three-person panel introduced participants to Lesson of the Day, its basic formula and its guiding philosophy throughout the hour-long webinar. Participants saw a few example lesson plans and learned how to incorporate Lesson of the Day’s fundamentals into a larger lesson topic.
For example, all of the Lessons of the Day are based on an intriguing article recently published in The New York Times. Each lesson opens with an overview outlining the goals of the lesson and previews the activities within the plan.
Then, it moves on to a short warmup activity asking students to do some pre-thinking and to activate any prior knowledge on the topic. After the warmup, students read the article and then have questions for writing and discussions. These are meant to check for understanding and ask students to think critically and more in-depth about the topic.
Every Lesson of the Day concludes with “Going Further.” This is a 15-20 minute activity that extends learning beyond the single article. It may ask students to read a related article, watch a short video or complete a mini-project related to the topic. Finally, The Learning Network encourages educators to pick and choose the parts of the lessons that work for them.
Finally, each Lesson of the Day makes use of its comments section. For The Learning Network’s purposes, the comment section provides teachers with the opportunity to share how they used the lesson in their classroom and provide feedback, tips or suggestions to help others.
During the webinar presentation, attendees were able to participate in a short example warmup activity that asked participants to analyze an image. The exercise asked them what they noticed, wondered about and inferred from the photo. The topic for this webinar: Katherine the Shark’s Twitter Account!
Participants were asked to post their thoughts and comments to the group chat feed. Comments included noticing that she’s swimming close to shore, that she’s smiling in her profile picture, wondering why she’s misunderstood and inferring that she’s looking to change how people think about her.
In addition to doing the example warmup with Katherine The Shark, the staff from The Learning Network also took participants through warm-up activities about technology Easter Eggs (the kind hidden in software, not around the house during Easter) and the intro video to the Syrian version of Sesame Street. Participants were asked to try an Easter Egg connected to Google, and to infer about the values, lifestyles and points of view in the Syrian Sesame Street video.
These are great ways to encourage attendees to participate in the webinar and interact with one another. These activities also underscore both The Learning Network’s unique offering and ways participants can interact with material over a digital medium.
See The Learning Network for Yourself
The Learning Network provides free current classroom resources for every school day since they began in 1998. These resources contain lesson plans, writing prompts, activities, news quizzes and educational contests based on New York Times journalism.
Having received plenty of feedback throughout the years, The Learning Network resources are most commonly used in three ways:
Connect the classroom to the world: One of the main goals of The Learning Network is to help students be aware of current events and understand how they’re relevant to them in their own lives. To do this, The Learning Network produces materials in five different areas: Current Events Lessons, News Quizzes, Geography Quizzes, Lesson Plans and Teenagers in The Times.
Give students a voice – and strengthen literacy skills along the way: Through the writing prompts and contests, staff at The Learning Network hear from students often and they highlight the best submissions on the site. Topics in this area include Student Opinion Questions, Picture Prompts, Word of the Day, Current Events Conversation, Contests, Our Writing Curriculum and Crosswords.
Promote critical and creative thinking through multimedia: Because The New York Times is no longer just a black and white hard copy newspaper, the staff at The Learning Network leverage the many types of multimedia available and find ways to build them into their topics. These prompts include What’s Going On in This Picture?, What’s Going On in This Graph? and Film Club.
The Learning Network can be accessed through The New York Times website or by clicking here. You can also check out their many professional development videos and past webinars on its YouTube channel.