Teleforums Combine Webinar Strengths With Podcasts' Portability

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"We started [teleforums] in 2014, and it has grown to become a value-added outreach program. While our members travel in the car or fly in the air, they can listen to a live or recorded conversation that feels more like talk radio than a slideshow presentation."

That quote comes from Lia Zegeye, director of member relations for the Auto Care Association, in an article in Associations Now yesterday.

In the last few months, Zegeye has seen record-high attendance—more than 400 participants joined their last call! "Instead of avoiding the tough topics or conversations, we address them head-on," she says. "This allows us to continue to be a leader in the industry."

Call it appointment radio, I guess, or must-hear audio. Earlier this week I wrote about AAA Northeast which is currently featuring an audio interview front and center on its SIPAward-winning site with director of publications Andrew Rosen speaking with travel celebrity Kate Linendoll.

What's interesting about those teleforums is that the Auto Care Association is combining the moderator and panel of a webinar with the listen-anywhereness of podcasts. It also sounds like you only have to dial one number and you're in. No fiddling with your desktop to get the slideshow right. As we know with digital sales, the easier something can be made for customers the better. Another value-added touch they do is put this question on the webinar sign-up sheet: "What's your top business challenge for 2018? "

The article compares the teleforum series to fireside chats. Zegeye tries to focus on hot topics that might be controversial but are issues on every member's mind. "What's also important is your panel," she said. "You want to have a pre-call to structure the conversation and make sure they feel comfortable to discuss and engage with each other."

That's also different. Most webinars that have multiple speakers give each an allotted time period for a separate presentation. Only in the Q&A do they sometimes square off—with the moderator's help. But the goal should be to spark engagement, and those types of discussions plus more time for Q&A can do that. Hyon-Young Kim, webinar producer of Education Week, told us last week that one of their advertisers likes to pause the webinar for short, 5-minute question breaks to keep everyone engaged, instead of just waiting until the end when some attendees might have already left.

Kim also suggested using the chat box to pose questions and encourage attendees to post responses, thoughts and ideas. And if the Q&A's don't get to every question, collect the extra questions and create a PDF with responses to be used as an additional resource. I've also heard of speakers willing to come back another time to answer those questions. Audience polls during the webinar can keep engagement high. She recommends displaying results to attendees immediately after each poll.

It's a multi-tasking world and to think that your audience is only listening to your webinar and not doing other things is a bit naïve. A teleforum format and Kim's engagement ideas might solve some of those issues. The key, of course, is featuring the content that your audience wants to see, hear and engage with.

Ronn Are you subscribed to the SIPAlert Daily?
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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…