TOP TIPS FOR EFFECTIVE ONLINE INFORMATION SESSIONS

Today’s prospective students really do their homework. Through online research, they consider their options for advanced education sometimes for a year or two before deciding to apply. 

UW Continuum College grows awareness of programs through precision marketing, delivering valuable information to students in the places where they're already looking. As they browse, prospective students gravitate toward web content, personalized emails, text-message alerts, and notably, express a real desire for authentic human interaction.

Online information sessions are a great way to connect students with a real person behind your program, helping to establish authenticity and trust. And once students feel they can trust the organization, they’re much more likely to stay through the long-term pipeline. 

Effective information sessions are designed with the interests of those prospective students in mind. To offer live sessions, you’ll need a well-designed slide deck and access to Zoom, an online video conferencing tool provided by UW IT. You’ll also need an engaging host, someone who can bring emotion to a storyline that explains your program.

Here are a few tips for you to think about as you prepare to engage with prospective students in an online information session. 

Tell a story. Narratives bring facts to life — and emotion is the key to memory. When you tailor your information to your audience and meet them where they are, they will appreciate it.

Know your goal. What exactly do you want attendees to do? Whether you want them to apply, enroll, tell a friend or stay in touch, be very clear about the actions you want them to take.

Show billboards, not books. Your slides are not a script. If listeners are reading along with you, they aren’t listening. Instead,  condense text to bullet points, use compelling photos and strip out excess info from charts or graphs so they’re easy to consume.

Use terms your audience can understand. Remember that your attendees don’t know as much about your program as you do, even if they’ve done their research.

Templates are your best friend. No need to stress about designing your slides — just add your own text and images to existing UW-branded templates. The UW logo will give your presentation extra credibility.

Give ‘em something to remember. People who join your information session don’t want the presentation version of an email. Offer them something unusual or special they can only get from your live event.

Test the Zoom experience. With compelling content ready to go, take time to get to know your technology — before your info session goes live. This includes understanding what viewers will see on their own screen. Make sure the computer that will be used to host the session has the latest version of Zoom and that both your audio and video are working. While hosts need to log in to a Zoom account, attendees don’t. They’ll join your information session via a unique URL. And like hosts, attendees can choose to access full audio and video.

Ensure a good connection. Check your internet speed, and use an ethernet cable, if necessary. Make sure you’re in a space where you have a stable connection, and not somewhere like a cafe or where you’re using free wifi.

Look the part. If you plan to be on video, look professional. Try to eliminate background noise, close blinds and curtains behind you, and keep your face lit with light sources in front of you. And, adjust your webcam — you’ll look best with the camera angle at eye level.

Share your screen. You worked hard on your presentation, so show it off! But only share your active slides or the Zoom whiteboard, not your whole desktop (or potentially embarrassing pop-up notifications). 

Get feedback. Enlisting a second person to help manage questions can be helpful. Welcome participants to use Zoom’s feedback icons during the session, and encourage questions via the chat room, instead of live audio. It encourages people to speak up without actually speaking.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to host a live, online information session, contact Eric Irvin, director of academic partnerships, at eirvin@uw.edu.