I think it’s important to put yourself in the position of the audience. Just think what it’s like to sit for 2 hours holding a phone to your ear. Maybe some of your audience will be doing this. What physical demands are you making on them?
Even the most dedicated, passionate participants are likely to get physically exhausted in a long Webinar – even if they are simply sitting listening to a streaming presentation. Furthermore, if you want any kind of good audience interaction, this is going to be more difficult the longer the session.
I’ve seen some research which has suggested that 40 minutes is the optimum length of time to concentrate on a particular task but I actually think depends on what you are doing. If you are engaged in what’s called a ‘lean forward’ activity like filling in a form or conversing via text chat, I think it’s possible to concentrate for musch longer than in a more passive ‘lean back’ activity.
Other factors could include:
- the style of the session
- the characteristics of the audience
- how passionate the audience is about the subject
- the scarcity of the topic or the contributors
For example, a concert by the audience’s favourite artist or a TED talk on a favourite subject by a world-renowned expert may make a longer session much easier to cope with.
Imagine the difference between attending a Webinar for a work reason or for one of your personal passions – they are not often the same thing!
So consider our audience – if you know them well enough, you’ll know:
- how well they will react to different lengths of session
- what equipment they are likely to be using – telephones, headsets, mobile devices
- their average age
- their level of commitment to the subject or the presenter
Of course one of the best ways of finding this information out is by asking for feedback from your audience on differing lengths of session.
Make a conscious effort to make deliberate alterations to your sessions after considering the feedback and the needs of the audience. You might consider altering:
- the overall length of session
- the mix of activity – listening or interacting
- how the session flows to avoid ‘padding’ i.e. can it be tightened up to get to the point more quickly
- the briefing given to a presenter or how that presenter is managed
- a long session to split it up into a series
…knowing your audience and considering the purpose of the session are once again the most important factors when considering the length of your Webinar.
Design and prepare the right length for both of these pillars with the right mix of activities. This will create a more effective Webinar and therefore a higher chance of creating fans who become repeat attenders because the length and style of the Webinar suits their needs and preferences.