On 2 April 2020, we had originally intended to hold a live event titled 'Traffic Removal in Leeds: Reshaping the City for People', in conjunction with our partners at Traffic Removal UK and Institute for Transport Studies - University of Leeds, plus speakers from WSP and Leeds City Council.
This was going to feature a walking tour of Leeds city centre, showcasing the existing and planned pedestrian spaces, new bus and cycle infrastructure and reduced space for private motor vehicles.
Then COVID-19 came along and those originally registered for the live event were invited to join us in our first webinar, a condensed online version of the original plan, with the live event to be postponed to autumn 2020. At least 38 out of 50 registered participants took part on the day, plus there were some others who attempted to join but didn't manage to overcome technological hurdles.
The webinar programme:
2:00 - Welcome
2:05 - Dr Steve Melia, Centre for Transport and Society, University of the West of England on 'What is Traffic Removal and Why is it Becoming More Important?'
2.20 - Dr Caroline Mullen, Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds on 'Clean Air, Inclusive Mobility and Healthy Communities: The Case for Prioritising Pedestrians in West Yorkshire'
2:35 - Gwyn Owen, Project Manager, Leeds City Council and Sophie Best, Transport Planner, WSP on the project underway to create a more pedestrian-friendly Leeds city centre
2:50 - Randall Ghent, Act TravelWise, on 'Car Use Reduction Measures at Leeds Climate Innovation District and Kirkstall Forge'
3:00 - Q&A (for all presentations) and discussion
3:30 - Closing
In short, the webinar was a success, and we have uploaded PDFs of the four presentations to the members' area of the website along with a link to the webinar recording.
We now have three further webinars planned for the coming months.
Based on our experience, here are some tips for would-be webinar hosts (most of which we implemented, but there are learning points here as well):
• Use a registration platform that allows you to keep all registrations together (presenters and participants), cap registrations in accordance with your webinar account's maximum participant number, and communicate with everyone easily.
• If demand for registrations is likely to be higher than your cap, set up a waiting list on your registration platform. Those on the waiting list, even if places can't be freed up for them, can been sent the presentations and recording afterwards, along with any other follow up information.
• Send the webinar joining instructions several days ahead. Mention to everyone including presenters that the webinar will be recorded, if that's the case.
• Encourage participants to test out the technology before the webinar, as leaving it to the last minute will reduce the chance of it working for them.
• Emphasise that downloading the desktop app (blocked by many local authorities) version of the software is not necessary. Suggest using the web app instead and provide a link on how to use it. If the web app isn't working in their browser, ask participants to try it in another browser e.g. Chrome.
• Ask presenters and participants to use an Ethernet cable rather than wireless Internet where possible. If they don't have one, they should move as close as possible to the router. An Internet speed test can be used to compare the speed of Ethernet vs wireless.
• Test the technology on a test call with all presenters together, ideally a few days before the webinar, to allow time for any issues to be resolved. Show them how to open their presentations, advance the slides etc. Check that any videos to be shown are working properly.
• On some computers a USB headset with microphone is invaluable. On other computers, it doesn't seem to make a difference. Be sure your audio is high quality either way.
• Consider the background of the video camera image. Some webinar platforms allow you to blur or change your background. Alternatively, put up a couple of pop-up display stands behind you!
• Make sure you know in advance how to mute everyone's microphone other than the presenter's. Asking people to mute themselves has a limited success rate, as many participants think they're muted when they're not.
• Be sure to have a different host to the presenters, as it's not easy to fill both roles at the same time.
• After each presenter or at the end of the webinar, ask participants to pose their questions in the Chat window, but don't have people typing and reading questions and/or responses whilst the presenters are speaking, as this creates a distraction.
• Participants can be asked to send questions in Chat to the host only, or perhaps to the relevant presenter only, so that some or all of these can be paraphrased when it's time for presenters to answer them. Alternatively, individual questioners can be unmuted and asked to (succinctly) state their questions. The latter may make Q&A take longer, but it does provide a more participatory feel.
• Be flexible with the format e.g. there may not be any questions for a presenter by the time they've finished speaking, so you may need to bring all presenters together for a Q&A panel at the end.
• As you get more accustomed to running webinars, you may want to consider using some of the more advanced options such as polls in the Chat window. That will require some thought and preparation.
• Communicate any follow up actions at the end of the webinar e.g. commit to circulating a recording and presentation PDFs, along with a request for feedback.
• Thank all of the presenters and participants for taking part and take the opportunity to announce any future events (with registration details to go in the follow up email).