If you're hosting a webinar (or conference call), be sure to do these 6 things:
1. On the same email you send to participants with dial-in/log-in instructions, include: a) how to mute the call when listening; b) how to un-mute the call; c) how to ask a question during the call
2. Go over those 3 details again at the START of the call (remind them it's on their email too), AND when it's time to take questions. If you only have instructions on a slide, and then REMOVE that slide from view, the Participants might not remember how to un-mute or ask a question when it's time.
3. If you have a feature where attendees can "raise their hand" to ask a question, be sure to maintain control of that as the process. If dozens of people can just start asking questions at any time, by speaking into the phone, while others are "raising their hands" using the web system, it gets chaotic.
4. Have the list of email addresses and phone numbers of attendees. If a participant does something wrong during the call, and you can figure out who it is - you'll have three ways to TRY to track them down to correct it -- that is, email, text and phone. (For example, when an attendee takes another call in the middle of your webinar without muting - and no one can hear anything but that phone conversation; or they put the call on hold and everyone gets to her their hold music/message). OR, if you don't know who it is, send an email out to everyone saying THIS IS YOUR WEBINAR HOST - PLEASE DISCONNECT IF YOU ARE TAKING ANOTHER CALL OR PLACED THE CALL ON HOLD.
Better yet, find out in advance if you as the host have the ability, and then how, to mute everyone on the call - especially if that happens.
5. Respect everyone's time. Do not say over and over "who's here? who's here?" especially if you're just going to do a roll call at the start of the call anyway. Ask your call or web provider HOW you can tell who is there. You SHOULD have a process to have the attendee names appear as "present" or require them to "sign in" as part of the log-in process.
6. And my pet peeve: can we ever escape from the "how's the weather" discussion while we wait to start on any conference call or webinar? Some calls I try to arrive exactly at the start time just to avoid the host going on and on about weather everywhere. Pick ANY topic but that one - or just say "I know you're all multi-tasking so we'll wait for the roll-call to start talking".