I’ve attended many of them over the years and learned a lot.
But today’s webinar typified all the mistakes that presenters make.
Prepare and Practice
You don’t have complete control over the technical part, and I feel for presenters when the webinar doesn’t work – that happens too often. Today, I received several error messages and had to log in more than once. Hopefully, the technology will continue to improve so that becomes less of an issue.
Still, you shouldn’t wing the presentation. This is particularly important when you’re discussing a topic that’s technical, like how to navigate Google Analytics or how to build a website. Too many presenters assume the audience knows more about the topic than they do. No, that’s why they’re attending your webinar.
They want clarity and not a display of your technical prowess.
Joyce Newman, who coaches top corporate executives on presentation skills, advises, “A webinar is like any other speaking engagement. You’ve got to organize your key messages and practice out loud beforehand. Your audience will tune out if you seem disorganized or you speak so rapidly that they can’t understand you.”
Follow These Tips
Nobody says you have to be perfect. But you need to understand your audience’s needs and communicate in easy-to-understand terms.
- What is your topic? Clearly state the topic of your webinar and book the expert speakers, who may be with your own company or from outside. Be sure each speaker has a designated role to play and you don’t step on each other’s lines.
- What are the information needs of your audience? Is this an audience of beginners or they knowledgeable about the topic and looking for more advanced content? Consider including a survey with your invitation to ask what they want to know. Discuss the content with a few people in advance to be sure you’re on track.
- Stay on time. The ideal webinar is 60 minutes or less including time for Q&A. Don’t use up the entire time and then tell people you can’t answer their questions. Have someone monitoring the question box, and identify the most asked questions to start the Q&A. The speaker(s) should not waste time fumbling through the questions when they’re finished talking. That just wastes time.
- KISS. Keep the slides simple, no more than 4-5 lines of type. Use graphics to illustrate how something works. Instead of citing the name of a reference book, use an image of the cover. When you’ve finished creating the PowerPoint, go back and replace as many text passages as possible with images. It’s deadly for the audience to read all copy slides.
- Practice and then practice more. It’s quite obvious the speakers haven’t practiced when the facilitator introduces them for the first time on the webinar! Book time with the webinar provider and have a practice session for the all the speakers, who should be sitting in a quiet room, away from distractions like barking dogs. In today’s session, the lone speaker sounded like he was speaking at the end of a long tunnel. He spoke rapidly and swallowed his words. I can guarantee I’m not going to listen to the recording to try and pick up what I missed.
- Provide a link to the presentation. At the conclusion of the webinar, send attendees (and people who registered but didn’t attend) a link to the presentation and recording. Your audience will love you if you also provide a written transcript, especially if the speakers spoke too fast or were indistinct.
- Ask for feedback. Send a follow-up survey to the attendees so they can evaluate the seminar. Then use this feedback to improve the next webinar you sponsor.
- Don’t sell too hard. It’s OK at the beginning of the webinar to give brief bios of the speakers and their companies. But don’t do a big long commercial either at the beginning or end of the program. We know why you’re doing the webinar and don’t need to be reminded with the whack of a 2/4.
Your audience has given up precious time in their busy day to tune in to your webinar. They deserve your best. Treat the participants as respectfully as you would your best client. Then maybe someone in the audience will become one.