As more companies are relying on presentation technology to pitch new ideas, train their workforce, share information, or conduct meetings, webinars have grown in popularity as a cost-effective alternative to face-to-face events.
In addition to thoughtful planning, webinars require a slightly different approach than an in-person meeting. To avoid some common pitfalls, here are 3 tips to help you nail your next “virtual” presentation.
Tip #1: Engage the Audience with Participation
Let’s face it, without the “in-person” accountability of paying attention, it is easy to multitask while listening to a webinar presentation – muting the line allows participants to answer e-mails, converse with others, or retrieve v-mail. So how do you turn half hearted listeners into active participants? First, remember, content is king . . . ensure that the presentation contains useful information to your listeners. If not, you run the risk of sounding like Charlie Brown’s teacher, “Wah wah woh wah wah”.
In addition to a clear and well-organized message, plan for participation by building interactivity into your presentation. Consider using polls to gather opinions, ask for questions or, if a point needs to be clarified, ask participants to provide personal examples.
During one of my most popular webinars, “Don’t Make Me Think: Presentations that Achieve Results,” participants are encouraged to hit a “bulls eye” by throwing a wad of paper at a target displayed on their computer monitors during a specific exercise (and from the feedback I’ve received they really do it!) The purpose of this exercise is to drive home the importance of being focused on what you want to accomplish as you craft your presentation. So, think outside the box, but make sure that there is a purpose to the activity.
To gain participation, reach out ahead of time to let participants know that it will be an interactive session. Then, at the start of the webinar, once again invite and encourage participation.
Warning: Be prepared to wait 10 – 15 seconds before looking for a response . . . it takes a few moments for your request to register and for listeners to “click” or type in a response.
Tip #2: Team Up
Another way to keep the audience engaged is to team up and have a co-host. A co-host can:
- Add interest, as the hosts can interact with each other as well as with the audience Monitor any questions or comments that come in, so the primary presenter can stay focused on content
- Serve as a “plant” to get things going (e.g. ask a planned question to kick-off any Q&A)
- Keep an eye on time
Tip #3: Practice with the Platform
Until you’ve rehearsed out loud you can’t truly tell what works and what doesn’t, what trips you up, what’s too complicated, or what doesn’t sound like you.
When it comes to a webinar, in addition to practicing out loud, plan to rehearse using the platform that you will be using for the webinar. There are many options, from a free or low-cost version such as Join.me or the more elaborate paid plans such as Go To Webinars that allow for more control and interactivity. Each platform has its own idiosyncrasies. So take the time to familiarize yourself with the system prior to going “live”. Practicing out loud using your presentation platform allows you to master both the technology and your presentation.
Effective webinar presentations can be as engaging, entertaining and life changing as any other type of presentation. Using these 3 tips will help your next presentation stand out and be more effective than ever before.