CGIAR Gender

What to expect when hosting a webinar

Vacancy announcement photo
For the network, the webinar is a way to both engage network members, partners and external audiences and share their research methodologies and practices so as to also identify opportunities for collaboration. Photo: CIFOR

In February 2016, the CGIAR Gender and Agriculture Research Network launched its webinar series. The first webinar, entitled “Gender considerations in today’s post COP 21 environment: what’s missing?,” was based on work carried out by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), which is led by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

This was the first in a new webinar series on issues related to gender and agriculture, developed by the CGIAR Gender and Agriculture Research Network in collaboration with CGIAR Research Programs and partners. The webinar series has been designed as a knowledge sharing tool to facilitate exchange among the members of the CGIAR Gender and Agriculture Research Network.

For the network, the webinar is a way to both engage network members, partners and external audiences and share their research methodologies and practices so as to also identify opportunities for collaboration. This webinar series therefore, will be comprised of different types of webinars, based on different target audiences such as

  • Informational webinars: topics related to gender and agriculture such as this first webinar, which while specific to the CGIAR gender research community and its priority activities was also relevant and topical to a wider audience, including partners, donors, academia, etc.
  • Technical webinars: presenters will share their work and discuss research outputs and processes; technical in nature and most relevant to a specific audience (i.e. researchers from a specific discipline). For example, the second webinar in this series will be based on the standards for sex-disaggregated data collection developed by the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets
  • Internal knowledge sharing: this would be targeted at a smaller audience and would be most relevant for the internal communities of practice or working groups. Topics may include “how to create a functional network or community of practice”, “best practices on gender mainstreaming,”etc.

Lessons learned

This webinar series was envisioned as a knowledge sharing tool. Based on the first webinar, led by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security in collaboration with the Network Coordination team, below are some lessons learned and observations made during this process which could be considered to improve the quality of these webinars, and the engagement of the virtual community.

  • Time: timing is important. Always start and finish on time
    • Giving that the online community was based in different time zones, it would be good to identify a time that would be convenient to most, i.e. 8-10am EST so that it is still not too late in the day for those in Asia and Africa
  • Software: test,test,test. While we had several pre-tests, the audio quality with the on-site speaker suffered on the day of, and we also had issues with the audio of one of the other presenters. In the future, the webinar team should
    • Run at least 2 practice tests with all speakers, simulating the webinar
    • Do a quick tutorial with speakers on how to use the software
    • Have on-site IT support
    • Make sure that the presenters are facing the microphone to ensure better sound quality and less feedback
  • Pre-registration form
    • This really helped identify the attendees segments and also have some questions submitted before hand
  • Virtual audience
    • While we had a decent attendance list, there was very little interaction from the audience, except for the questions submitted beforehand. For subsequent webinars, it would be good to identify a strategy for engaging the online audience and asking them to not only submit questions but also perhaps invite other experts to give their input
  • Moderator
    • Have a resource person from the team providing the content who is knowledgeable about the content and can therefore facilitate the session
  • Technical support
    • In addition to IT, it is also good to have someone who provides technical support in that of launching the webinar, inviting participants, fielding the questions and managing the speakers (in addition to the content moderator)
  • Resources
    • All attendees were mostly interested in having access to the recording and presentations
    • Not much post-webinar feedback was received despite having contacted the attendees

Your checklist

In summary, your webinar checklist should include

  • Content outline
  • Identify speakers and resources
  • Pre-sign up form and webinar info page on
  • Pre-test
  • Start promoting the webinar: for example via the gender network, personal networks, linkedin, etc.
  • Send registration details to those who have shown interest via pre-sign up form and others
  • Day of the webinar; join about an hour earlier to run a final test and make sure that everything
  • Post webinar: share the recording with attendees, pose any remaining questions and provide answers via the webinar page on your website (continue the conversation)
  • M&E of webinar & lessons learned

The recipe for success

Despite the technical difficulties, almost 40% of the participants were logged in until the end of the webinar, thereby demonstrating that the recipe for success is good content together with knowledgeable speakers, a content aware moderator, followed by strong technical support. For future webinars, more testing is recommended to reduce technical issues, and better engagement of the online community to encourage more interaction and reinforce the use of the webinar as a knowledge sharing resource.

A significant factor for this webinar’s success however was the willingness and collaboration of the CCAFS team (including the speakers, Catherine Hill and Vanessa Meadu) to lead the webinar, promote it via their networks and support the Gender Network’s Communications Coordinator.

The next webinar will be held on April 21 and will be led by the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets. More information available here.

Tell us what you think

Webinars are a common knowledge sharing tool in the research for development community, including CGIAR and partners. Despite our best efforts however, technology can fail and technical issues can hamper the quality of a webinar. As with all online tools, there is a continuous process of learning, so do share your lessons learned and tell us what challenges and successes you have faced when leading or coordinating a webinar of your own via the comments section below. Download the complete webinar report here.

For more information visit or contact gender-network (at)  if you are interested in leading/contributing to a webinar related to CGIAR gender research.


2 Responses to What to expect when hosting a webinar

  1. Catherine Hill says:

    Re: engaging audience: In a Go-To-Webinar training series I did for an organization a few years ago, I used “polls” to engage participants. I assume this is still possible in the current version. It was quite an effective way to interact with the audience (who were from all over the world).

    In the slides, I included a “poll” every few slides – a series of lettered questions or statements – with corresponding letters on the webinar interface for participants to choose from. This stimulated discussion during and after presentation. Using polls does require good technical support with someone who knows Go-To Webinar well (or other webinar platform with similar feature).

    Re: Testing. Your recommendation to “Test, test, test!” is noted although technology can still fail our expectations at times. In a recent FB streamed event featuring a well-known, high-level speaker, the sound crashed for many participants (including me) – I gather likely due to the overwhelming level of interest and people trying to participate. As noted, on-site IT support, content moderator, and technical support to help field questions, etc. are important as well as a tutorial for those presenting in future webinars.

    All good lessons for the future. Enjoyable start to the series. Keep up the good and thoughtful work!

  2. Jetson says:

    This is an artclie that makes you think “never thought of that!”

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