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Better webinars from the audience’s perspective

June 19, 2016

webinar setup

Photo: Stephan Ridgway (CC)

I’ve attended quite a few webinars lately. Most gave good information and ran smoothly. But I find with presentations of any type, we always have room for improvement.

I’d like to do more webinars down the road, and having one under my belt, I’d like to share my tips on making webinars as stellar as they can be.

Webinars can be an excellent way to present ideas and demonstrations, to connect with an audience yearning to learn and to generate qualified leads. They can also turn off a lot of visitors quickly, so let’s work to make them compelling and easy to follow.

Keep the interface simple. I know some presenters are stuck with whatever enterprise solution the brand uses. One webinar I watched had five or six separate windows in one screen. It’s sufficient to have a single window for the presentation, with an optional second window to chat or send questions to the speaker.

Put a microphone on the speaker. And if multiple speakers, panelists and moderators are on deck, each one should have her own microphone. Audio is the main vehicle, so why skimp on this critical channel?

Be sensitive to the audience’s limited time. Most webinars I attended this past month didn’t give the most critical piece of information in the promotions or the introduction: the end time. I want to know if I’m signing up for a 30-minute commitment, 1 hour or longer. Pick a time limit, and stick to it.

Answer the most important audience questions up front. That means in the promotion, in the registration, in the confirmation email or in the first 60 seconds live.

  • Will the slides be posted?
  • Will the video replay be posted?
  • Will the speaker have a Q&A session? At what point?
  • What is the speaker’s contact info? Include URL, email and Twitter account.
  • What is the schedule? This can be a rundown of speaker start times or topics to be covered.

Employ a producer. This person is critical to the success of a webinar. She keeps the speakers on schedule, handles the technical aspects, monitors audience questions and problems and frees up the speaker to shine. The producer runs at least one practice session in advance of the actual webinar to work out transitions, technical issues and flow. She should have a private channel to all speakers to guide them during the event.

• Use more slides or more demonstrations. Each new slide is a new opportunity to sustain an audience’s attention. The longer the screen remains static with a slide (no matter how lovely), the easier it is for an attendee to check his phone or email. That’s the hazard of webinars: We can’t see the audience. Combat the stillness with lots of slides and a brisk pace, or a live demonstration. (Personally, I’m not a fan of videos in webinars or onstage talks.)

Taking the time to make webinars better not only makes the speaker look better, but the brand, too. It gives the attendees incentive to sign up for the next webinar and to share what they learned with colleagues.

Don’t use the slides to hide poor preparation and lackluster presentation skills. Make the webinar the highlight of each guest’s day.

More posts on holding better events.

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