Webinars can be great for brand building & generating leads. A whitepaper published by Xant found that 73% of sales and marketing professionals identify webinars as one of the most effective ways to generate quality leads. Webinars can also be extremely useful for product or service demos. They can also be terrific for educational programmes for existing or potential customers.
But keeping your audience hooked throughout your webinar can be a challenge. Unlike ‘live’ or in-person training sessions where you have a captive audience, webinar participants can easily log out, tune out or get distracted with other things on their computers.
So if you’ve been wondering, “How do I make my webinars more engaging?”, our tips for presenting a great webinar are for you. In this article, we’ll highlight the five biggest don’ts, and also the five key dos when presenting via webinar.
1. Don’t think of webinar sales without thinking of your audience first
Webinars are a useful way to introduce new customers to your business. But if you create your webinar just to generate leads, you might have trouble cutting through. People only consume content they find enjoyable or helpful. If your webinar is neither, you’ll find it challenging to keep your audience interested.
While utilising a subject matter expert from within your business can be a successful strategy, you should consider whether another speaker might actually be more engaging for the audience. If this is the case, source an expert from outside your organisation to co-present or chair the webinar.
Choose a subject that is topical, and one where you can provide a unique view or new data. Gearing your subject matter to decision makers is also key. Make your presentation useful and informative, and you’ll find that your audience will be more likely to respond positively and therefore be persuaded by your message.
For example, to promote an Earth Sciences course at your university, an informative webinar on careers and employment trends in the sector would be more valuable to prospective students than a webinar simply showcasing programme modules.
2. Don’t use text-heavy presentation slides
In a live presentation, audiences are visually engaged by the body language of the speaker, their facial expressions, even the way they walk across the space. In the case of a webinar, sometimes all you have are your PowerPoint slides – so they need to be good.
But mere slides full of long walls of text are not engaging. They can be overwhelming, tiring and dull.
To avoid this risk, condense your written material and use bullet points following the 5 x 5 rule of thumb. Even better, use images, charts, graphics or videos to bring your message to life.
If you do need to include in-depth and lengthy content consider providing links to this, which people can access after the webinar. More about this in Point 8.
3. Don’t ignore the technical aspects of your webinar
The fastest way to sabotage your webinar is to ignore the technical aspects of the presentation. These three points should be on your technical checklist in the lead up to your webinar:
- Use reliable, familiar tools: Managing webinar attendees from different parts of the world requires coordination and failsafe technology. You could use Google Hangouts if you’re on a budget. But if you need professional features like pre-recorded webinars or want to co-host with another company or gain access to analytics after the webinar, use software that’s built to host webinars. Platforms like Demio, WebinarNinja, ClickMeeting, GoToWebinar and Livestorm are just some of the many options available.
- Always check your hardware: Double-check all your equipment in advance. This means testing things like the camera, lighting, microphone, sound levels, slide transitions and the live chat function.
- Conduct a ‘dry run’: Make sure you schedule a full rehearsal. Sometimes even the best laid plans fail. Doing a run-through a day or two before your scheduled webinar can help you discover and troubleshoot any technical, and also timing, issues.
4. Don’t schedule your webinar last minute
Speaking of timing, you’ll need to give any potential attendees enough notice to block out their calendars or rearrange existing appointments. Sending out invites to a webinar planned for next week is unlikely to yield the audience numbers you desire.
Give everyone at least a few weeks notice, if not a month or more. The further out you plan and advertise, the more people you’re bound to attract. Of course, don’t forget to schedule reminders for people that don’t sign up immediately.
More importantly, let invitees know what they will get from attending the webinar when you send out invites.
5. Don’t speak from memory – write a narrative
This is especially important if you’ve chosen a format where the viewers can only see the presentation slides (which we recommend avoiding as far as possible). When your audience can’t see the speaker, their spoken words become much more important in delivering your message effectively.
Even the most skilled speakers can struggle to talk for up to an hour without guidance. Writing a clear narrative will keep your points in order and ensure you’re delivering the message you want to in an easy to follow and engaging way. It will also help you keep track of time!
Now, let’s look at 5 things that you should do to create maximum value in your webinar, articulate your thoughts well and engage your audience.
6. Do interact with the audience.
A common question that many businesses ask is, “How do I get my webinars to engage more?”
The answer is simple: Make the webinars interactive. You can reach out to the audience before the webinar, asking them to submit questions for you to answer during the presentation. Or you can include polls during the webinar as well as using live chat to encourage participants to send their comments and questions through. Just make sure you allow time to respond to their comments and questions.
Another key aspect of holding your audience’s attention is using lingo they will relate to. A scan through the participant list will give you a fair idea of the organisations they come from and hopefully their job roles. Use these insights to tailor your presentation approach.
Regardless of whether your audience is watching the webinar through their mobile phone or laptop, engaging with them will go a long way in making them feel heard and connected, which adds value in itself.
7. Do use storytelling to keep your webinar presentation engaging
People are more receptive to stories than plain numbers, especially stories with a human element. Data makes a strong, logical case and adding a human angle connects the dots emotionally.
When crafting your presentation, make sure to include relevant case studies or real examples – these could be from within your business or from other sources.
Contextualising your data or assertions with a human example will drive your message home, and keep your audience engaged.
Let’s go back to the example of promoting an Earth Sciences course at your university. You could include a story from a student detailing how they created a seismic monitoring system that reduced false positives and accelerated evacuation efforts. Such strategic storytelling can be woven into hard statistics about skills gaps in the industry for better impact.
8. Do make the most of visuals
Most webinar formats only show the speaker in a small frame at the top of the screen – if at all. This means your presentation slides need to work harder to drive engagement.
Use imagery, photos and infographics to visualise data. Try to have at least one visual element per slide to break up the text. If it makes sense, using humorous or nostalgic pictures will keep your audience engaged and make your presentation memorable. Remember, a picture paints a thousand words.
Another great technique is to switch between slides and video clips, infographics, images or your own screen for different points you want to explain.
9. Do leave time for questions – and be prepared for them
Questions turn a presentation into a conversation. Always leave enough time for your audience to ask your speaker questions. Ideally invite questions throughout the presentation, or if more practical allow time at the end for questions and also for broader discussion. Either way, ensure you’re actively encouraging audience participation.
If you’re not overly experienced in handling questions from the audience, consider preparing answers to common queries you anticipate. Have notes handy, and data from examples you cited earlier.
10. Do follow up with a summary
Following up is key to converting attendees into potential leads. Try to do this within a day or two of your webinar. Reach out to those who attended, but also to the “yes” RSVPs that didn’t make it. Your follow-up message should include the presentation slides, and ideally a recording of the webinar.
Providing a range of content gives you a better chance of your audience revisiting the presentation, remembering it, referencing it and returning to your business in the future.
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Written By Belinda Huckle
Co-Founder & Managing DirectorRead Bio
Belinda is the founder and managing director of secondnature. With a determination to drive a paradigm shift in the delivery of presentation skills training, she is a strong advocate of a more personal and sustainable presentation skills training methodology.
She believes in a training approach that harnesses people’s unique personality to build their own authentic presentation style and personal brand.
Belinda is currently helping to transform the presentation skills of people in organisations such as BBC Worldwide, DHL, ESRI, Heineken, MARS Inc., Moody’s, Pfizer, Roche, Triumph and Walmart – to name just a few.