A common challenge more and more of us are facing with security awareness presentations is they are no longer in person but over the web, using technologies such as GoToMeeting or Webex.  From a cost perspective this makes sense.  You can reach far more people all over the world with no traveling costs, no conference room costs, and it is far more convienient for people to attend.  In addition, webinars are simple to record and archive, so people can watch after the event.  However the challenge with webinars is engaging your audience and having an impact.  Many of the presenting tips we have discussed in previous posts relied on techniques such as body language and eye contact, not possible with webinars. As such here are some webinar tips I wanted to share.
  1. If the webinar software is something you have never used before as a presenter, do a test run.  You want to be sure you understand the basic controls, such as how to turn on or off screensharing, how to chat online with people, and how to turn the microphone on and off.  The fastest way to lose an audience is to be fumbling with controls for five minutes as you try to start your talk.
  2. Do a sound check ahead of time.  You know what I found works great?  Use the hands free ear piece cable from your smartphone.  That way people get high quality sound with less background noise.  Also make sure all other participants microphones are disabled.
  3. Make sure you kill all other applications on your computer.  When you start sharing your screen the last thing you want is the world to read your email.  Also kill programs like Skype or Growl.  You do not want pop-ups constantly interrupting during your presentation.  The last thing you need is your friend messaging you on Skype about your beer drinking adventures the night before, for the world to see.
  4. If you have a bad Internet connection, don't use the Internet for voice.  Instead, most webinar applications let you dial in from a phone, then just use Internet for the slides.  This way if everything goes pear shaped you can at least still talk to the audience.  If nothing else let them know you have to call it quits and reschedule.
  5. If your webinar is a part of a series, be sure to let people know on the last slide when the next webinar will be. Also be sure to include a link where they can find the archive of this and other webinars, and where they can get more information on information security.  At the minimum include a URL, email address and perhaps a phone number to you or your security team.
  6. Most webinars support some way to interact online with attendees. First, when you start the presentation encourage people to post questions on the chat channel during your talk.  Then, if they are not as interactive as you like ask them questions during your presentation. Just like we discussed the importance of asking questions when doing regular presentations, so to you should during webinars.  This is especially important for webinars as it is one of the few ways you can engage your attendees.  For example, ask your attendees who has seen phishing attacks before or who has family that fell victim and then have them post their response to the chat window. You can then respond or answer questions via voice. Most webinar software also has a feature that lets people virtually raise their hands or show smiley/sad face.  Use features like these to take polls.  For example, ask them who knows what encryption is or who knows what rogue anti-virus is.
  7. Always tell people at the end that you will stay around for an extra 5-10 minutes to answer any additional questions.  Based on my experience, there is always at least one person waiting until after the webinar to ask questions.
What tricks do you have?  Feel free to share in the comments section or email me at lspitzner@sans.org.