Webinar showing laptop and three speakers

Preparation and Practice Are Key to a Successful Webinar

Hardly a week goes by without my receiving an invitation to attend a webinar.

I’ve tuned in to many of them over the years and learned a lot from the content presented. But I’ve also learned that too many presenters fail to prepare properly and their ineptitude drives attendees to an early departure.

Prepare and Practice

You don’t have complete control over the technical part, and I feel for presenters when the webinar goes awry. I’ve had the experience of receiving error messages and having 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 technical topic, such as 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.

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 they don’t step on each others lines.
  • What are the information needs of your audience? Is this an audience of beginners or are 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.
  • Engage your audience. Consider polling the audience during the webinar to keep them interested and engaged. The audience feedback will also help you to tailor your remarks.
  • Stay on time. The ideal webinar is 60 minutes or less including time for Q&A. Don’t use up the entire hour and then tell people you can’t answer their questions. Have someone monitoring the question box to 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.
  • 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 to each other 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 noisy distractions. Each panelist must speak clearly and not rush their words. The audience can’t see them so their voices have to carry the load.
  • 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 it 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. I recently registered for a webinar and within a few minutes, I received a sales call weeks prior to the presentation. That was a total turn-off.

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.

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Comments

  1. Technology woes aside, the advice not to simply wing it is priceless. Your post reads like how one would also go about a good lesson plan if teaching. Only after tons of practice at planning lessons, could I even start to imagine winging it. I observed a lot of teachers as a student and then as a mentor. Winging is never goes as smoothly as the winger thinks 😉

  2. These are great tips. Jeannette, I have cut back so many on these. More often than not these days, there is a limited available link, even to attendees. It makes me feel like I HAVE to listen, but the truth is, I don’t bother with those. It communicates, “no evergreen info here” or, there’s a time stamped upsell at the end. I find the majority are back-ended with LONGER selling pitches. I’ve shared post once and, will share it again!

    • Patricia — I’ve cut back on webinars, too. Too often I start a webinar and find that the presentations are so poor that I drop off. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I’ve yet to do one, but I have participated in a few. Some were well-prepared others were not and were way less impressive. On those I found myself leaving before the main topic I was interested was address. When they’re done well they are fun to watch. 🙂

    • Susan — I’ve participated in some very informative webinars — but others were not well done. The problem so often is that the presenters are not well prepared.

  4. Hi Jeannette,

    I’m just planning the webinar to show my knowledge. This article make me more confident and thanks to let me know the KISS..
    I think it will increase my productivity and I have to consume less time to prepare my data 🙂

  5. Excellent tips Jeannette! I must admit I don’t often attend webinars anymore because I have opted out of most of them before they ended, wishing I’d put the time to better use. Happy to share this post in the hope that it will help others do a little better job preparing their presentation. Thanks!

    • Marquita — Interesting that people commenting on this post have all seemed to experience the same problem — that the webinars didn’t deliver. What a wasted opportunity.

  6. I can’t stand it when I see somebody ‘wing it’ in a presentation. It makes me cringe. Practice is imperative. I know more and more people are just starting out with webinars, but they should put a little more effort into prep work. I also think a call-to-action at the end is critical. Asking for feedback is a great way to keep the conversation going. Nice post!

    • Jen — I should have included a call to action in my post. That’s key to the next steps in reeling in potential clients.

  7. Such an Informative post for a newbie like me who is looking to start with webinars soon!
    I am saving this for future reference definitely 🙂

  8. Hey Jeannette,

    Indeed a Great Post.

    All the points which you have mentioned are very vital in a Webinar, specially i focus on engaging viewers, do whatever they like, try to be simple, but explain deeply, provide what they want and that completes a successful Webinar.

    So your post is valuable. It will help many learn vital tips for Webinars.

    ~ Jenny

    • Jenny — understanding and responding to the needs of your audience will keep them engaged and they will most likely stay for the entire session.

  9. Excellent post, Jeannette. I so agree with you that too many webinars are ALL sales and very little useful info. I rarely stay with those to the end. And that some think the audience has a higher level of knowledge than should have been expected. Too many unprepared or unqualified people offering webinars these days!

    • Doreen — It’s true that just because you can rent the technology doesn’t mean that your content is webinar-worthy. Agree that too many people aren’t ready for that stage yet.

  10. You are SO right about these tips, Jeannette. I have been on too many webinars where the presenters were ill prepared and the slide deck a poor match for the topic. It’s obvious that they are winging it. I consider that a waste of my time and usually sign off the webinar, frustrated. Hope this post gets the attention it should and that presenters take it to heart!

    • RoseMary — Nothing is worse than a slide presentation that is so dense with text that it is a complete turnoff. I was at a live seminar yesterday at the local Ritz-Carlton with two doctors presenting about new developments in cancer research. It was a lay audience but they used slides from presentations to other doctors. The slides were densely packed with unreadable technical terms. I snuck out early.

  11. Excellent tips, Jeannette. Have not got the time to do webinars but if I had I would follow your suggestions. Only had something similar when I had online verbal exams at university in the autumns. They worked out very well.