Webinars have fast become a popular form of presenting. They are relatively inexpensive to host – even free, with the right platform – and let you reach out to the world from the comfort of your home or office.
Those with limited public speaking experience.sometimes find hosting a webinar intimidating, even frightening. It shouldn’t be. In fact, you’ll find it a fun exercise once you start hosting your own webinars. These tips will help ensure your webinars are successful.
1. Treat it like any other presentation. A webinar is essentially a seminar given remotely. The biggest difference (which can work in your favor; more on that later) is that your audience isn’t right in front of you. Even so, you must follow the same steps you take for a standard presentation. They include:
A. Write down your objective. What do you want your audience to know or do afterward? Writing it down helps to keep you focused.
B. Develop an outline. This will also help to keep you on message.
C. Perform the research. Don’t assume you know the topic well enough to just wing it. Whether it’s online or off-line research, including interviews, take the necessary steps to collect your information. Don’t worry about becoming too informed about a topic. (Think of the professors who teach freshman-level courses.) The more you master the material, the more confident you will be. And you’ll be able to handle nearly every question thrown at you.
D. Create notes or a script. Some people figure that the PowerPoint slide will be enough. No, it is not. It’s ok to print the slides or masters; refer to those during your rehearsals and the webinar itself.
E. Speaking of rehearsals, you must practice your webinar. This is especially true if you’re using the webinar program for the first time. You want to make sure you know how to set the recording, start screen sharing, and take any other steps that are necessary. Practice at least three times before going live. Play your recordings. Listen and watch for areas that need improvement. Rehearsing also gets you acclimated to talking with a headset on. It’s a weird experience initially. You can hear yourself, but the sound is muffled. (Your audio is not piped into the headset. Those are used to listen to callers when you’re in conference call mode.) This isn’t as much an issue with the half-headset design.
F. Put thought and effort into your delivery. Employ vocal variety – change your pitch and cadence, and insert pauses throughout. Speak naturally, and keep it conversational. Imagine that you’re talking with a couple friends. Let the dialog flow. But if you tend to talk fast and non-stop, work on that.
Also, remove any verbal tics. These can include the traditional Big Three: um, ah, and you know. I haven’t heard those very much. Instead, I hear a lot of these: so and now (at the beginning of sentences), along with actually and go ahead inside sentences. Each word or term has its place in your vocabulary. Just not in the frequency in which they are often used.
G. Add commentary during the webinar. Don’t just read the text on the PowerPoint slide (if that is what you’re using). Each phrase on the slide should trigger at least a paragraph of narrative. That’s one reason for rehearsing. You develop and practice what you’re going to say during the presentation.
2. Post your invitations, and send out e-mails. Post messages on social media, and include a mention in appropriate e-mails. Remember to include the registration link. How far out to announce? Some people say two weeks. I recommend no more than one week. In these busy times with so many messages coming at us, we’re not as likely to sign up for a program more than a week out. Send reminders about every two days, including the day of. That one can go out just a few hours in advance. (“Hey, folks, you still have three hours to catch my webinar on….”)
3. Hold the webinar even if no one shows up. It’s good practice for you. You gain experience meeting a time commitment. Plus, people could show up late. It’s bad form and bad for your reputation if you’re not there. Finally, you need experience preparing for a live audience.
During your first few webinars you will feel the anxiety building in the moments leading up to the start. That’s OK. Put that anxiety to work for you by helping you deliver a more passionate webinar. In order to become comfortable hosting webinars, you have to hold them in a live setting. Many people find that performing at home – that is, not in front of a live audience – is actually quite easy. And it allows them to really express themselves. They bee-bop in their chairs, pace around by the desk; move about to help them deliver a fine performance. It shows in their voice. You don’t need to sit still when you’re giving a webinar. Just don’t walk so far away that you unplug your headset.
4. Evaluate your webinar. Listen and watch the recording for ways to improve. Don’t get down on yourself. You’re likely to have technical glitches and times when no one shows up. Take a deep breath and plow on. Even if you’re not thrilled with a given performance, you can pat yourself on the back for putting another one under your belt.
Webinars give you a chance to showcase your knowledge of the topic, as well as your presentation and leadership skills. Offer them whenever the opportunity is appropriate – and the more successful you are, the more opportunities you will have.
For related reading, see Hosting a webinar?