If you’re a business leader, chances are you get invited to webinars at least weekly. This is not surprising, since the medium offers the chance to reach both broad and targeted audiences to educate, establish thought leadership, build brand awareness or generate sales leads. The problem is, so many webinars turn out to be disappointing. Why? The content doesn’t deliver on the promise, the technology is poorly managed, or the delivery is far from compelling.
When it’s your turn to take advantage of this popular and promising medium, how can you conduct your own webinar in a way that engages your audience, satisfies their needs, and meets your goals all at the same time?
I recently asked clients and colleagues who are experienced webinar presenters to share their tips, tricks and strategies for webinar success. Here’s their best advice, along with some of my own.
Use a producer.
One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is trying to do everything themselves. When you’re delivering your presentation, you need to focus on your content and your audience. You don’t want to be worrying about sorting through attendee questions and managing the technology. Invite a colleague to serve as producer. During your webinar, the producer can welcome listeners, provide information and instructions, track comments and questions, and make introductions.
Make it interactive.
A conversation is much more interesting than a monologue, isn’t it? That’s why I recommend a team approach (and many of my colleagues and clients agree). This might mean including a co-host or having a panel discussion. Also, include your audience in the conversation as much as possible by polling or taking questions throughout the presentation, instead of waiting until the end. You can ask people to share examples that illustrate your points or, even better, get them to engage in a creative and fun activity that’s relevant to your message. In one of my popular webinars, I drove home a point about focusing on goals by encouraging participants to throw wads of paper at an on-screen target. People really did it!
My colleague Teri offers this Pro Tip, “I always post a slide at the beginning with a question around the topic (something like, ‘what’s your biggest challenge’ or ‘share your best tip’) and ask people to post a written response. As others are joining I read the responses and credit the participants for good feedback and insights.”
One important prerequisite for engagement is managing your audience’s expectations. That includes preventing confusion about the technology. Begin your presentation with an explanation of how to use the platform. Then preview what you’ll cover in your presentation, and let people know how and when questions will be answered. Ideally, you’ll have a producer to handle these important tasks.
Don’t forget to do the same at the end: summarize your key points, let people know what to do next (ideally take a specific action), and tell them what they will receive from you and when.
Give them a reason to watch.
How often are you reading emails or doing other tasks while listening to a webinar (not watching)? This behavior is common because webinar visuals are often ho-hum and not helpful for understanding the content. That’s why you must do better than showing 30 minutes of talking heads, or worse, a slideshow with text that you read out loud. Make sure your visuals help the audience to grasp your message and are compelling enough to get their attention.
Practice with the platform.
Chances are you’ve heard this before, but it bears repeating: you must practice your presentation out loud using your webinar platform! Record your practice and watch it several times. When you do this, you figure out where you need to tweak content and where you should work on delivery, with the added benefit of getting familiar with the technology (remember the rule…if something can go wrong it will!).
Improve on-camera delivery.
Many webinar speakers are inexperienced when it comes to on-camera delivery. Here are a couple of tips from Matt Abrahams, author of Speaking Up Without Freaking Out.
- Eye contact. Just like you make eye contact with your audience in a live presentation, you also need to make eye contact with your webinar audience by looking directly at the camera. My trick: I position a photo of my family directly behind my webcam so I can look at them while I’m speaking, but it looks like I’m looking at my audience.
- Slow down. When we’re nervous, many of us tend to speak too quickly. My trick: I deliberately slow down my gestures, which automatically slows my speech.
Read my review of Matt’s book here.
Don’t forget to follow up!
When you want to connect with your audience (your ultimate goal), it’s essential to deliver on your promises by following up. If you didn’t have time to answer every question, send responses directly to attendees later. Send helpful materials or the webinar recording to everyone who registered.
To a first-timer (and even to presenters who have done it before) delivering a webinar can seem intimidating. It doesn’t have to be! By using these tips, you can be more confident and improve the quality of your webinar to achieve the results you want.