You are not even 3 minutes into the webinar and you know it: The presentation will suck. You roll your eyes and switch to your email while you wait for the presenter to appear alive, for the next slide to have something meaningful, for the pain to end… and wonder if you’re the only one wasting your time watching this session. Yeah, we’ve all been victims of poorly delivered webinar presentations and hate when we sit through the whole thing waiting for that moment when something useful will come out of it only to find out we wasted a perfectly good hour!
How do you avoid the same mistakes you see people committing all the time when delivering web presentations? Here are five key rules to guide you when preparing your webinar:
1. Get in your head that this is NOT a live presentation: you can’t see people; you don’t know if they are paying attention or just checking their email, you don’t know if they have fallen asleep. All the great presentation techniques they teach when you have to deliver a presentation in person will most likely not work. So get over it and start thinking about connecting with your audience.
2. Your slides are more important than you: OK, this may be too harsh a statement, but if people can’t see you, then how do you keep them engaged? Yes, you should sound energetic, don’t speak in monotone and try to stand up while talking, but make sure your slides are top notch. All that public speaking help that is out there can’t help you if your slides suck. That means you really don’t know much about public speaking because your slides are supposed to help you deliver the message! This includes using animations to help make a point, graphics and diagrams to explain a complex idea, and easy-to-read font (think 18 pts or bigger). A good speaker with a great slide deck is something we don’t see every day, so show the audience that they are in for a treat!
3. Use strategically located polling questions: One way to engage the audience during a webinar is to use polling questions. If well crafted and placed, they can help get things going and keep the audience interested, but if used too much they can be a drag. I suggest using the first poll within the first 10 minutes of the presentation, the second poll in the middle, and the third poll can be used either 10 mins before the end or right after the end but before the Q&A part. Successful polls are the ones that make the audience think, that when the results are shown they are meaningful to the audience, and that the presenter can use to make a point or get ideas flowing.
4. Use a moderator when possible: unless you are a great speaker, the presence of a moderator can really help. Not only the moderator can help with instructions before the start of the presentation (how to maximize the screen, where to enter questions, etc.) but this person can also interject during the presentation to create a dialog. Some of the best webcasts I’ve watched were the ones where a moderator would interject at some points to feed a question that was relevant to the slide being presented or to make a comment that would help with a transition to the next section of the webinar.
5. Practice. Then practice some more: this is true with any type of presentation. Unless you practice, you won’t deliver a good presentation. For webinars, it is even more important since you don’t have your body language to help out; you have to keep people engaged with your voice, the slides, and the setup of the webinar. Prepare, rehearse, and train like you mean it!
Please do us all a favor and make sure your next webinar presentation doesn’t suck! 😉