Webinar Presentations That Suck

May 25, 2009

Webinar Presentations

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! 😉


Is Your Brand Trustworthy?

May 16, 2009

This week I attended an event put together by the American Marketing Association (AMA), Tampa Bay Chapter, in which Todd Taylor, Area Director for FranklinCovey, was giving a presentation on  “The Speed of Trust”. The presentation was based on the new book by the same name, authored by Stephen M. R. Covey, the son of famous author of “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, Stephen R. Covey.

I haven’t read the book, but the content of the presentation was interesting and provided some food for thought. The premise is that people do business with companies they trust. Employees are more productive if they work in an environment that feels trustworthy. Company’s costs go down when trust is rampant throughout the organization, and customers come back to do more business with you if they feel they can trust you.

Here are some of the main ideas behind The Speed of Trust:

Five Waves of Trust

Trust is like a drop in the water that creates waves reaching out, ever expanding. This is the core message from Covey’s trust theory, described as 5 waves of trust:

  1. Self: the confidence we have in ourselves, how we set and achieve our goals, our ability to inspire trust in others.
  2. Relationship: our behavior towards the people we interact with (spouse, co-workers, friends, etc.) and our ability to expand trust to the other people in our lives.
  3. Organization: this is how leaders can generate trust throughout the organization, how people interact during work and the impact trust has throughout the company. This is a key principle for managers, on how they lead their teams and inspiring them.
  4. Market: your organization’s reputation in the market as a trustworthy company to do business with.
  5. Societal: contributions you and your company make to the community and the world.

For a great overview, check out the video below.

Four Cores of Credibility

These are the four factors that create credibility:

  • Integrity: honesty, if you act according to your values
  • Intent: your motives, your agenda
  • Capabilities: the abilities we have that inspire confidence
  • Results: our track record, our history of accomplishments

It’s interesting to note these four “cores of credibility”, as Covey calls them, and look back at why people do business with you or your company. Better yet, think about the people YOU trust and why is that so. That mechanic you take your car to because he’s the only one that you feel will give you the correct diagnosis and pricing. The accountant you go to when you need to get your taxes done. Why do we trust people? The “four cores” above are the summary of what we go through as we think of trust.

Thirteen Behaviors

As if five waves and four cores weren’t enough, we’re given 13 behaviors. These are the behaviors that trustworthy people follow and that you should too if you want to increase your ‘trust index’.

1. Talk Straight
2. Demonstrate Respect
3. Create Transparency
4. Right Wrongs
5. Show Loyalty
6. Deliver Results
7. Get Better
8. Confront Reality
9. Clarify Expectations
10. Practice Accountability
11. Listen First
12. Keep Commitments
13. Extend Trust

Seems obvious, right? But are you really behaving in a trustworthy manner? And how can you influence your team, your department, your company to start practicing these behaviors? This is the question you should be asking yourself.

Marketing Trust

As marketers, we tell stories. Our stories are told via our website, our emails, our presentations, our product collateral, and with every other customer touchpoint. By understanding how trust is created, disseminated, and by practicing the thirteen behaviors in our campaigns (honoring opt-out requests, being upfront about product shortcomings, being honest in the description of product features, etc.) we can positively impact our company’s business.

Helpful links

Some helpful links for those interested in learning more about the “Speed of Trust” book and concepts:

Tools of the Trade: Webinars and Online Presentations

April 29, 2009


Webinars or webcasts, as they are sometimes called, have increased in popularity and in effectiveness within the past 5 years or so. A common tool for today’s marketer they provide a great way to reach a large number of people with your message.

I believe in three simple rules for a successful webinar program:

  1. Understand and map your needs
  2. Choose the appropriate webinar platform
  3. Put in place a well documented webinar process

 1. Understand and map your needs

First and foremost, you should list out all the ways in which your company will be using webinars and the platform. For example, typical uses of webinar software often fall into one or more of these categories:

  • Online sales demos and presentations: a sales rep shares a PowerPoint presentation and his desktop screen while walking through a product demonstration.
  • Marketing presentations and educational sessions: usually involving a moderator and a speaker, sharing PowerPoint slides and often making use of polling questions and maybe annotations to engage the audience.
  • Online training: an instructor sharing PowerPoint slides, maybe sharing the desktop screen and using arrows, circles, and other annotation tools to illustrate a point.
  •  Technical support: a technical support representative with a customer on the phone where the customer shares control of his desktop and the rep troubleshoots.

OK, before you tell me that training and tech support are not part of the traditional definition of webinar, please bear with me for a moment and I’ll explain it in time.

Depending on the category, or type, of webinar usage you will be able to list out all the features you need. Each webinar platform has a set of features that can be useful or useless and why pay a premium if you don’t care whether circles can be drawn on the screen? An interesting way of looking at it is by making a grid on a sheet of paper or using a spreadsheet comparing your needs versus the features required.



Sample requirements grid for webinar platform selection

Sample requirements grid for webinar platform selection




Why list technical support and online training? Although often outside the marketing/sales spectrum, there are tools out there that may not only help with webinars but can also help with the needs of the tech support and professional services departments. Why not kill three birds with one stone? So don’t discard them completely until you have spoken to these departments and determined whether they should be included in the requirements grid or not.

2. Choose the appropriate webinar platform

Now that you have listed how you will be using webinars, you’re ready to investigate and fend off vendors. In your first conversation with a vendor, you should list all the uses (maybe even share the grid with them) for the tool you want to buy and ask for a demo showcasing the specific requirements you have. This way you make sure you control the sales process and don’t waste time with a tool that does not have a feature you consider critical.

Some of the most used webinar providers are:

          Microsoft LiveMeeting

          Adobe Connect


          GoToMeeting / GoToWebinar


          Lotus Sametime

If you do a quick Google search many others will show up, including free ones like:



The Web Conferencing Council has some good information on webinars and has recently released a whitepaper comparing some of them.

One other thing to consider is the teleconference provider, especially for your marketing webinars that are likely to have dozens of attendees. Some webinar providers have their own conferencing service (GoToMeeting / GoToWebinar offers one for free and Adobe Connect users needs to use Premiere Global for an extra fee), so you should ask the question during your evaluation. The price for phone conferencing will increase the overall costs for your webinars.

3. Put together a well documented webinar process

Now that you have the tools in place, you should think carefully about the procedure to be followed for webinars, especially for the marketing webinars where multiple attendees are involved. Online lead generation events are more effective when there’s a formal procedure that is followed every time, preventing occasional glitches from happening. Thing of the following:

          When should a new session / room / webinar (the terminology varies according to the platform) be reserved?

          How will registrants get login information? Some webinar providers handle this process for you.

          Do polling questions need to be prepared in advance and uploaded?

          Do slides need to be prepared in advance and uploaded?

          Will registrants be contacted by email or phone prior to the webinar to ensure attendance?

          Will the online event be recorded? Should any special steps be taken in this case?

          Should a moderator make opening remarks and help with Questions and Answers?


These are only some of the questions that you should ask yourself as you are setting up your company’s webinar program.

Webinars, webcasts, online events, and whatever other name you have for this can be expertly handled once you know your requirements, have done vendor due diligence, and setup a process that can be followed and standardized.

I hope these simple tips will help you with your webinar initiative!

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