Five steps to a fantastic Webinar

Someone taps you on the shoulder and says, “We scheduled a Webinar to show off the important technology the company has developed. And since you know it better than anyone else, we decided that you are the one who should be in front of the camera.”

Lucky you.

Many people would rather visit the dentist or pay taxes than speak publicly. They might even prefer to pay the dentist’s taxes than stand up in front of a crowd. Perhaps this fear of public embarrassment is why so many business professionals are nervous about hosting a Webinar.

Leaders’ soft skills:

now more important than ever

However, a Webinar probably is a good idea, at least for your business, because these online presentations are a unique opportunity to engage clients on a one-to-one basis, regardless of audience size. Using the right materials and presentation techniques, you can interact with each individual participant, instead of addressing a large, faceless group of strangers.

How can you get past the gut-wrenching fear that you’ll make a fool of yourself?

Use our tips to stop worrying and approach your Webinar assignment with confidence.

1) Prepare Properly Before The Webinar

One way to get yourself focused is to eliminate distractions. Make sure that you have taken care of all the details ahead of time, so you can put your attention on giving the presentation during the Webinar.

And, to some degree, that means, “Gosh, I hope people show up.”

So get the schedule in order, so that you attract the most people. Plan to host your Webinar at least twice, to accommodate different time zones. Avoid Mondays and Fridays, as these are peak meetings days; Webinar attendance is therefore often lower. The best times are 10:00 am and 2:00 pm, which is when your guests are at their desks before or after lunch. Send a reminder of the Webinar one week ahead of time, and a second reminder the day before the event.

Your initial planning stage should start about four weeks before the Webinar; this is not the sort of homework assignment you want to begin the night before the term paper is due.

That will only increase your nervousness. In the early planning stages, your primary attention should be on developing a compelling topic, identifying presenters and target audience, and — for marketers, not necessarily you, the presenter — the promotional outreach campaign.

2) Develop Your Content

Developing interesting, engaging and educational content is probably the most important key to your Webinar’s success. If your material is boring or doesn’t bring relevant value, you’ll lose your guests — and their sales.

Invite an industry expert, customer or partner to present a case study or conduct an interview during your Webinar. This will stimulate more interest and drive participation.

A well-known subject matter expert can double or even triple your attendance.

Here are some recent examples of Webinars that were truly home runs because of their compelling, timely content:

— A marketing consulting group offered a Webinar that provided tips for maximizing holiday sales at a time when the holiday period was key to many retailers’ survival. Over 90 per cent of the registrants attended; more typical attendance is half that.

— A program in January on how to qualify and nurture leads to enhance sales team success wildly exceeded attendance expectations. It provided practical how-to information and useful new ideas and featured a noted author.

The key mistake to avoid is being blatantly self-promotional. With the prevalence of DVRs, no one has to sit through a commercial anymore, so don’t turn your Webinar into one.

Prepare questions to ask during the Webinar registration process. Doing so can give you great insight into your audience, assuming that you ask questions that help you tailor your presentation to your audience’s needs and to learn the participants’ education or qualification level.

You don’t want to waste time on an introductory session on “heat and light come from the sun” when 90 per cent of those attending are physicists. In addition, prepare a post-event survey for use as people exit the Webinar. Ask them follow-up questions to further qualify them as sales prospects, to learn about their satisfaction with what you covered, and to find out if they laughed at your jokes.

Finally, prepare a Q&A session to encourage your guests’ participation. There is some risk associated with a Q&A session, of course. You might hear a question you can’t answer. Worse yet, a questioner might act more like a heckler. The solution, again, is advance preparation.

— Jot down ahead of time the questions you can anticipate, along with appropriate responses. Keep these notes handy so that you can refer to them during the actual Webinar if need be.

— Focus on those questions you hope you don’t hear. It’s like buying flood or earthquake insurance: It’s prudent to buy it, though you hope you never have to use it.

— Respond to critical questions as positively as credibly possible. Then move on. Don’t dwell on the negative. And, remember, if all else fails, you can always block a really abusive questioner.

Practice makes the difference. Webinars aren’t difficult, but they are different from running a meeting or a conference call. A webinar is an event. Attendees have higher expectations than participants in less formal ad hoc types of meetings involving small groups.

3) Avoid Murphy’s Law

Take a couple of test runs of your presentation, especially if you’ve never run one before. Yes, practice in front of a mirror. You will feel stupid. Do it anyway. Because the rehearsal will make you so familiar with the material that, should you freeze up in the middle of your presentation, you can just keep going on automatic until your brain re-engages.

It also means that you can develop poise as well as technical knowledge. You’ll realize that when you’re nervous, you, say, fiddle with your hair. This will teach you to tie your hair back, so that you can’t drive the participants crazy. You want them to put their attention on your brilliant technical presentation, not staring at you pulling on your bangs and wondering if they’re going to come off.

This gives you the opportunity to fine tune your material and catch any potential problems with the Webcasting solution you’re using. We’re not saying that technology breaks at the worst possible moment, but you don’t want people to watch you twist volume knobs and adjust screen displays. Learn how the software works when nobody is watching. You don’t want your audience to hear you say, “Hmm, what happens when I push this button,” and watch it all go black. (Oops.) Do your homework, too, concerning use of third-party technologies. For example, find out if your Webinar solution requires attendees to download the provider’s software. Imagine the plight of the Webinar organizer who either forgets to check or doesn’t think it’s important, only to discover that she just spent $20,000 on a Webinar that a fourth of the registrants couldn’t attend because their company firewalls prevented software downloads.

4) Day of the Webinar: Save Your Sanity

You might be nervous, but at the very least you can be prepared. Use this checklist:

— Wear clothing with a neutral or soft color or with

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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