The most important aspect is identification of participants with the online meeting. To let participants literally “participate” is the key for identification. This can be achieved by e.g.
- Discussing the content of the webinar before the event at online boards, collaborative text editors etc. Email should be avoided as nobody wants to be encouraged to contribute to the current overload of daily emails.
- Using voting/crowdsourcing tools like tricider.com (example for deciding about the topic of a webinar http://www.tricider.com/brainstorming/36Ro)
- Encouragement of your participants to be real contributors. Everybody has a story to tell and usually likes to do so. Let them appear on the stage and thus give them visibility. But take care to set a clear goal and time frame for that. The rule could be max 10 minutes or max. 5 slides per contribution.
- Adding value to your webinar through connecting participants: establish an online community to accompany your online meetings. This can be done through a Facebook group, a Google+ community or if you want to be more independent from these market leaders with Open Source tools like WordPress/BuddyPress or Drupal.
Another important issue to make people feel welcome is to open your webinar room 15 or 20 minutes before the start. Say hello to everybody and try starting a conversation. Try to behave as in an on-site meeting room. Encourage participants to switch on their cameras and microphones. This usually leads to a more personal atmosphere.
Set-up a second chat pod/window and ask participants to introduce themselves there. Encourage them to post links to their personal web-sites, Twitter, Facebook LinkedIn profiles… This gives participants the opportunity to connect and will contribute to an atmosphere of trust. This chat window should only be used for the introduction of participants. It allows easily to see who is present.
A nice icebreaker to be used during the minutes before the start of the webinar is the free Adobe Connect extension “Location Map”. It allows everybody to indicate his or her location on a map.