The 5 worst mistakes in a live online seminar – and how to avoid them


Die 5 schlimmsten Fehler bei einem Live-Online-Seminar – und wie du sie vermeidest

After two years of delivering and attending numerous live online seminars, we’ve seen and learned quite a bit. In the process, we see repeating mistakes that result in disappointed participants and frustrated trainers. But it can be done better! Here you can find out which five serious mistakes you should avoid at all costs. As well as on a technical and a didactic level, and how you can do so.


#1 – Your Seminar is a One-(Wo)Man Show

Actually, this is nothing new if you already have experience with face-to-face seminars as a trainer. Nobody likes it, and the sustainability is moderate when the speaker delivers a monologue in the seminar. It’s just that the online format presents us with the challenge of having to rethink interaction under changed conditions, and many people find that difficult. Our surveys among seminar participants reveal: the great majority of participants also want interaction online. And it is absolutely possible to drive a creative mix here. Therefore, plan an interaction with your participants about every 7 minutes, so that they stay focused, actively participate and your seminar has a lasting effect. You have numerous options for this, which you should sensibly adapt to your seminar concept. Here are a few ideas:

  • Use the chat function to get feedback and short answers from your seminar participants. (But be careful: depending on the size of the group and the complexity of the questions, an additional chat supervisor may be necessary, otherwise you will quickly lose the overview).
  • Use a show of hands (whether analog or digital) to ask for agreement or disagreement on something.
  • Use break-out sessions to allow your participants to exchange ideas and work in groups of 2 or 4.
  • Use collaboration tools such as Concept Board or Mentimeter at “useful” points in your live-online seminar. The requirement here is that you practice using the respective tool well so as not to create frustration in the seminar. If it doesn’t work as planned, which leads us directly to the next mistake.

#2 – You don’t think the technical equipment is that important

Whether it’s bad sound, shadows on your face, or a picture from your last beach vacation as a virtual background – your content can be as good as it is, but it will lose a lot of quality due to poor technical equipment. Therefore, think carefully about how to set up your setup so that it appears professional and appropriate for the occasion.

Our experience has shown: You don’t have to be a technical professional to set up a really good setup, and you can achieve a very professional-looking result with less than 2000 €. Take stock of your equipment and replace step by step what is not good enough. Start with a really good mic that transmits your voice without crackles and dropouts. I promise you this won´t be a mistake. Choose lighting so that you can be seen well and without shadows. Think about what kind of message your background is currently sending and what kind of atmosphere you actually want to create, etc.


#3 – Your technical skills are not up to scratch

It’s no secret that a professional appearance is also essential online. In seminars, this means that the technology you use must not only deliver good quality images, lighting and sound, but that you must also be able to use it professionally. How to achieve this: It’s easy – try it out and practice!

You don’t have to be a professional right away. You do have to get involved in becoming more and more competent in handling your technology and the tools you use. At first only use the things you really know how to do. When you’re ready to take a practice test, grab a friend or colleague and give your seminar in front of him/her. That way you’ll get honest feedback and be able to iron out the last stumbling blocks involving Zoom and co. Also very important – you can come up with a plan B if something doesn’t work as it should. This will save you a lot of stress and even worse: disappointed seminar participants.


#4 – You think breaks are a waste of time.

Online seminars are often more stressful for participants than face-to-face seminars. If you don’t schedule regular breaks, your participants will quickly become overwhelmed, annoyed, and unable to retain the content well. Therefore, plan more breaks than you would in a face-to-face seminar. At least every 75 minutes, there should be a 5-minute break where participants can stretch out, go to the bathroom, or get a coffee. It’s better to skip some of the content in order to maintain these breaks. Because the bottom line is that your participants will definitely get more out of it!


#5 – You forget the analog world

Who ever said that in a live online seminar all elements have to take place online? Send your participants a small material box in advance by mail. In this box they will not only find documents that will be used during the seminar, but also some food for themselves (like candy bars) and other things that you can use in your seminar. For instance,  colored Post-Its for a vote in front of the camera, a pen or whatever else you can think of. Using analog elements adds variety and promotes learning and interaction in your online seminars. In the case of multi-part online seminars, you can also give your participants a homework assignment until the next meeting. Than they can use it to apply and implement the seminar content. Your participants will thank you for it!

If you avoid these five mistakes, you will be on a great way to inspiring your participants. We wish you every success in implementing them.


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