Webinars are a super easy and efficient way to transfer information, conduct training sessions and encourage constant learning. Unfortunately, they can also be a fantastic way to put people to sleep.
Will your next webinar be an eye-opener or a snooze fest? Well, that all depends on you. Whether you’re new to the webinar game or a long-time presenter, it pays to keep a few key things in mind as you prepare.
The pressure is still very much on
Just because your attendees can’t see you doesn’t mean you can relax and bring your B game. Quite the contrary, actually. Since you won’t have that face-to-face connection while presenting, you’ll have to work even harder to capture and keep your audience’s attention.
Yes, we registered for your webinar because we really wanted to hear the great information you have to offer. But when the day finally arrives, I’ll be sitting in front of my computer screen with little accountability and 57 new items that have creeped onto my to-do list since I signed up. If your presentation isn’t interesting or relevant, it won’t take long for me to find something else that is. And once you’ve lost me, I’m probably not coming back. Or attending your next session.
Less formal does not equal less practice
It’s kind of nice that no one is asking you to show up in your business best and present in front of a room full of people. And while this significantly reduces that panic factor for many presenters, it does NOT mean you can just login and wing it. If you want to keep your attendees engaged for more than the first 6 minutes, you’d better compose a clear, concise presentation— and practice the crap out of it.
People can be pretty forgiving in person and will often feel a sense of obligation to stick out a live presentation once they are in their seats. But as an online attendee, I can assure you we are not nearly as polite. If I can sense that you haven’t fully prepared to effectively use the hour of time I have marked out for you, I won’t think twice about switching over to email, popping you on mute, or logging out. Show that you value my attendance (and my time!) by putting together a well-organized presentation and then committing to practice, practice and more practice. And maybe just one last run through.
Watch your voice
Your verbal communication skills are critical to putting on a successful webinar. Because you can’t rely on your winning smile and personal presence, your tone and delivery become exponentially more important. Record a run-through of your presentation and listen to yourself. Are you stumbling over your words or are you polished and well-rehearsed? Is your tone friendly and engaging or are you droning on in monotone? Are you an up-talker? Do you say… um… like… so… you know? Are you burning through the material too fast? Are there some awkward pauses?
Visualize yourself as the webinar attendee. Are you being treated to a smooth, confident delivery or are you keeping a secret tally of how many times the presenter says, “…riiiiight?” at the end of a sentence? Space filling speech tics may be less glaring in person, but trust me, they become accentuated online. Don’t be the presenter who makes everything sound like it’s in question. Speak with authority and confidence, because when it comes to webinars, voice is king. Make sure yours rules.
Jazz up those slides!
Seriously, people. This is a biggie. Your viewers have nothing else to look at but your slides. If they are straight-up bullet points all the way through, by the end of your presentation, 36% of people will be crying, 22% will be snoring and the rest will be long gone.*
Lucky for you, webinar slides can benefit from a bit more flexibility than live presentation slides. It’s okay to have more pages and move them along faster. And because we have nothing else to look at but the screen, you can also make some of them a little more text heavy. This does not mean you should write your entire presentation out on your slides. If you think no one would ever do this, think again. I’ve seen it. And it’s not pretty.
If you want to keep my attention, make sure your slides and your presentation are related and complementary, but not the same. This is the time to get creative! Find interesting ways to present your information. Be colorful. Ask questions. Use lots of visuals. Humor is also a definite plus, so throw something funny in every once in a while to keep people entertained. If your slides are monotonous and boring, my eyes (and ears) are going to stray.
Make a connection
Webinars are a little one-sided by nature, but they don’t have to be impersonal. Here are some ways to ramp up the feel-good factor.
- Use friendly, conversational language
- Address your audience as if you are all together in the same room
- Acknowledge that everyone is busy and thank them for taking the time to be part of the group
- Design your session with built in interactions such as audience surveys, comments and questions
- Provide your contact information and invite people to follow up with you personally after the session
If you want to make people really happy, wrap things up early and encourage your attendees to take a quick walk or grab coffee with the extra time they have scheduled out. Who doesn’t love the gift of a few extra minutes in the midst of a busy workday?
We’ve all attended our share of good and bad webinars. Make sure you keep that ratio in the positive if you want to engage your audience and keep them coming back for more. If you’re feeling nervous about your next online presentation, just remember: great information + great delivery = one great webinar.
Now go insert some photos into those slides. You’ve got this!
*These numbers are not scientific. There is no boring webinar study to site. But I have personally fallen asleep during some of them.
Photo by Antonio Guillem