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What Is a Webinar?

A webinar is an online presentation or conference. It’s typically hosted by a small panel or a single presenter for the purposes of discussion about, or explanation of, a topic. Webinar attendees can log into the hosting platform (typically something like Zoom or Webex) to view a livestream of the presenters, ask questions, and take in information. Webinars can be hosted by organizations or individuals. 

In our digital world, webinars provide a way to consume and share information in a way that, historically, was solely reserved for in-person meetings. Webinars allow attendees to learn from the comfort of their own homes or offices, and they provide opportunities for upskilling and professional growth. 

Benefits of Webinars Versus Conferences

Webinars allow for a much higher degree of flexibility on your part, as an attendee. Rather than traveling to a designated, physical space to attend a webinar, you’re able to learn and engage right from your home or office space. You’re able to save time and money, and you’ll still obtain new, beneficial knowledge.  

Webinars are also very focused, unlike large, in-person conferences, which may feature a huge variety of topics, seminars, and conversations. If you’re interested in a specific topic, a webinar offers an accessible and focused way to increase your knowledge. Even better, you’ll find plenty of free webinars to choose from. 

If a webinar allows for a question-and-answer session, you’ll also be presented with more opportunities to ask questions than you may be at in-person conferences. 

Opportunities for Professional Growth

Webinars can give you an edge by increasing your knowledge of a particular topic. If you work in an industry like marketing, a webinar about SEO or human behavior can give you invaluable insights into communication patterns and consumer motivations. 

Throughout your career, no matter how established you are, lifelong learning can help boost your career, hone your leadership skills, and increase your knowledge of skills. Webinars help you gain practical skills, increase your knowledge of a topic, and even help you get that raise. According to Meridian, 39 percent of lifelong learners report they used their newfound skills to work toward a promotion or a raise. 

An Introduction to New Ideas

When selecting a webinar, be sure to choose one whose topic you’re not already an expert on. For example, if you work in an industry like marketing, a webinar about SEO or human behavior can give you invaluable insights into the ways you interact with your audiences. Students conducting research for papers or projects can gain a more nuanced understanding of a topic or learn to approach topics through different lenses. 

How to Get the Most Out of a Webinar

Webinars can be fantastic for learning and for professional growth. The key, though, is to take steps to facilitate learning and participation on your part. Some tips: 

  1. Get situated at your computer early (check your connection, verify sound and microphone). Familiarize yourself with the webinar platform to troubleshoot any connection issues ahead of time.
  2. Make sure your desk or table is clear of distractions, and choose a relatively quiet space.  
  3. To reduce the chances of being interrupted, communicate to coworkers or family members (if you’re working from home) that you’re attending the webinar. 
  4. Participate by using the hand-raise feature or responding to polls. Take notes along the way, and be sure to jot down questions that arise. Many webinars have Q & A sessions near the conclusion, so be prepared. 
  5. Before you begin, write down a few learning objectives. What information do you hope to gain? Are there specific outcomes you’d like? Are there some questions that have been on your mind about the topic? 
  6. Remember to check in with yourself through the webinar. It’s easy to be distracted and let your mind wander when you’re “attending” a webinar from behind a screen, safe from the judgmental eyes of other attendees. Don’t let your attention drift. 
  7. If the presenters offer the opportunity to do so, download the webinar for later reference. Use the opportunity to share. If you loved the webinar, let people know what you learned! Tweet during the webinar or give your LinkedIn followers a debrief once it’s over. 

With the right environment, objectives, and webinar, you’ll set yourself up for a valuable learning opportunity. Not sure where to start? Search for a topic that interests you -- SEO, marketing, business intelligence -- along with the word “webinar,” and you’ll see plenty of options. If you’re a student, check with your educational institution, too. Universities often offer webinars to their students that span a variety of topics.