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Should you use chat in large webinars?

Hi all!

We had a great question from Wouter that was asked in a different thread about Producing. I thought it deserved its own thread so will copy it all out here below:

Wouter Ceyssens


Question concerning hosting webinars for 200+ attendees.
Can you give me some pros and cons about the question "Open chat for everybody" vs "Q&A only to moderators"?


My Reply

Hi Wouter,

Great question. I think first off you need to ask yourself what the webinar is for or more important, what do you want the attendees to do or think about after the webinar.

For example, if it is a webinar where the outcome is they buy a product/service or get onto a mailing list for information about a service or product for example. It is potentially very different to a webinar where you are providing free information for perhaps awareness about your business or organisation.

The above question can impact the following list of pros of cons but is just a guide, you need to use your own judgement and literally each pro has the flip side of a con if not handled correctly.


  • More communication. More points you can hear from the attendees the more you will find out about them

  • They can tell you what they want. You may planned the best webinar in the world and spent hours on it but you can bet someone will ask a question that you had not thought of. This could turn out to be a key point that helps the session and would not come up with potentially without a free flowing chat

  • Attendees helping each other. When an open chat gets free flowing with lots of interaction you often find attendees help each other. Provide advice tips or agree with your content. This can provide valuable information to other attendees and help foster even more interaction in the chat

  • Similar to above, attendees might feel it is easier to ask a quick little question or a comment on a point and get instant feedback from other attendees without disturbing the facilitator or moderators

  • Some attendees may not understand how to use a Q&A box, panel, etc. They might not think it is worth asking in it especially if it is a busy webinar. Depending on the software they might not be able to see the questions being asked, they can assume someone is asking it already. With the chat they can see what is going and quickly get involved where they might not have otherwise

  • A busy chat can make the webinar come alive! It can provide energy and a buzz!


  • More communication means more producers to manage it. If you want attendees to feel really heard and gain value from the chat you might need to think about a producer or at least a chat moderator per 100 attendees. Potentially having a Producer who deals with tech issues, a producer who then manages chat with the moderators

  • They can tell you what they want! Including what you don't want them to say! Your competitors, their complaints etc. This is a risk you take and you have to use your best judgement, based on the type of webinar and potentially how it is marketed. You may need to have producers ready to remove attendees for example

  • Having only a Q&A panel that potentially depending on the software the attendees can't scroll through and see what others have asked or see the written responses, can make the webinar feel a bit flat. There is only the facilitator who is going over content, perhaps responding to a question now and then. The attendee is only listening and looking at the content, this can be a positive but can also promote passive listening mode and getting them into their emails

  • A busy chat with 200+ attendees can get the chat window flying by. This can deter people from reading it or even responding. Facilitators and even multiple moderators/producers can struggle at times


Jo and I always love to have the chat enabled. We feel it provides additional interaction, support and value. But... We focus far more often than not on providing learning and information, if you are focusing on sales, the cons above could outweigh the pros.

These are just my thoughts. It would be interesting to see what others think!

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  • And there are two links that might help also:

    Jo wrote a blog called 'Eight reasons to remove chat from your webinar' - Reaad it HERE

    She also faciltated a webinar with 500 attendees and still used chat. You can skip to about three minutes in where Jo starts. Watch the video HERE

    Eight reasons to remove chat from your webinar
    Removing the chat to all function is something a lot of marketing webinars do – should you?
  • Thanks for highlighting this Mike. 

    I do like a chat window, but it can get too much. I'm on the Adobe eLearning World session today. There's no chat on it and I do feel I'm missing out. But I'm speaking on a session this week and Adobe have advised that there is likely to be 1,000 or more people, so the chat would be far, far too crazy for anyone to keep up with!

  • I joined a session with AbilityNet where they talked about issues with chat for screen reader users. I'm not sure I grasped it completely but I think the issue is different platforms interact with screen readers in different ways. Some might trigger the screenreader to read out chat OVER the speaker which of course would make it hard to follow either the chat or speaker, others don't read the chat panel at all so it effectively doesn't exist for screenreader users.
    Personally I really like the chat but I am now asking if people have any access requirements for online sessions so I can make more of an informed decision about when and how to use it.

    • Such a good point, thank you for sharing Kevin!

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