Lately, I joined a webinar on webinars organized by GFAR and the Global Landscapes Forum managed by Peter Casier. The generous offer for “a peep behind the curtains: How to set up and run a webinar” made me curious. It was a dynamic experience. And this might not be obvious when I add that I was one of 70 participants; and that there were 7 speakers. So, how is this possible?

The chat function!
The peers chatting!
And the chat box facilitator!


Honestly, at the beginning I had my doubts. A webinar with 70 participants cannot be interactive. As e-facilitator, I stick to small groups where the core is conversation.

As participant, I experienced several great Knowledge Cafés LINK with David Gurteen LINK and unhurried conversations with Johnnie Moore. But I also must admit that I dropped out of many boring webinars.

How can we create webinars, which allow for deep interaction? What tools both technical and facilitation wise are available? Any experiences / examples? @Patrick

Great question; let's not transfer and repeat the input + Q&A model online; I see a risk of virtual "Death of PowerPoint" @Nadia


Then I started chatting and got confused.

Multitasking is worse for our brains than smoking pot (research shows); and what we are doing here as the audience is multi-tasking, isn't it? I try to follow to discussion threads; chatting and following the audio/ video presentation talk.... quite intense, and almost stressful.... I wonder the chatting is active and engaging, so more fun, the listening is.... mmmmm.... @nanadia

I completely agree. There are several communication streams (multiple in the chat). It is a bit overwhelming. Are there ways to structure communication time or topic-wise? @Patrick

Yes, I wonder; maybe stop the presentation fast train for a moment and let people think and write/ chat quietly for 5'? @Nadia

Confusion is a good sign that learning might happen, isn’t it? Through the chat function my brain was fully activated.


Then I was thrilled.

I changed my scepticism of ‘again a webinar’ to an active and engaged participant. The chat box conversation was not, as I first feared, a parallel discussion thread; it was weaved into the whole webinar conversation. The role of the chat box facilitator was crucial; as well as the thought chatting of the peers sharing openly their experiences, ideas, and doubts. The facilitator addressed our questions to the speakers. Speakers started chatting too. The chat box conversation was lively. The highlight was the wrap up; the chatters become documenters summarizing the golden rules shared by each speaker.


I changed my mind from the sceptic to a lost soul to an enthusiast. And this reminds me of Claes Jannsen’s 4 rooms of change; here visualized by Brandy Agerbeck:











Drawing: Claes Jannse’s 4 rooms of change by Brandy Agerbeck

My key take aways from the chat box experience

Prepare: Integrate functionalities like the chat box with a clear purpose into the overall design of the webinar. Know why you have a chat box function and prepare for it.

Without a clear purpose, tools and practices are empty and worthless.
Nadja Schnetzler

Facilitate: Attributing a chat box facilitator signifies that you care for the chat box contributions. I love the practice of GFAR to have chat box mentors with expertise on the specific content of the webinar.

Invite: At the beginning of the webinar, invite participants explicitly to chat and to ask questions.

Listen: The chat box facilitator is the one who is ‘listening’ to the discussion read and making the link with the overall conversation; she or he is working hand in hand with the main facilitator.

Document: Use the material from the chat box for documentation purposes. Even better, ask chatters to help in the wrap-up (as it happened spontaneously in this webinar). Then rework, repack and share the summary.

Many thanks to Peter Casier and the team as well as Nancy White and all the chat box contributors for sharing.

Further links