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See his face? That is the expression all of us wear when we attend a bad webinar. Today I offer you your saving grace. I've compiled my favorite tips and tricks for making your next webinar a success.
Do Shut up.
I mean it in the best way, honest. Unless the presenter asks participants to introduce themselves, don't do it. Let the presenter set the tone for how conversation will be handled during the webinar. Some presenters welcome discussion, but others prefer it once they've ended the presentation. It's their show, and yes, the internet provides many spaces for innovation, but in respect for the instructor, let them determine how the space will be used. And if you don't like how they are using the space. Leave the webinar. If it's a free webinar, and you dislike their technique, or they lack finesse, it's a sure sign that you won't like their product either. Save yourself the trouble.
And on that note….don't say anything that doesn't contribute to a point the presenter illustrated.
Seriously, no “Me toos” or “Yes, pleases”. No one cares. Not even the presenter, unless they've asked.
On your end, what it comes down to is determining whether the presenter's question is a conversation starter or if it's rhetorical.
Most presenters use the sage on the stage set-up (shame on them!). If you were in a classroom, you probably wouldn't just call out to the instructor without raising your hand. You'd acknowledge them with a nod or a smile or some other non-invasive gesture to indicate that you agree. That doesn't change in chat. Some apps let participants react to what is being said, but if the presenter isn't using one of those apps then just nod your head quietly. Chances are you're home alone anyway, and if not, your cat isn't judging you, I promise.
Don't ask a question that's already answered.
Read through the chat! Or... often, after the webinar is over, the presenter will send you a recording and you can re-watch it. Don't waste the presenter's and other attendee's time. If you need clarification, that's one thing, but otherwise, suffer. You'll live.
Don't torture your audience.
That means, no more than a single idea per slide, and don't talk for more than 30 seconds per slide. What?!?!? I know, you need to be expedient. If you don't speak quickly, or if you don't move through the slides at a quick pace then I'm going to check Facebook, which updates every second. Probably faster.
Give them something real, not just a taste, a tangible product.
If I get something from you that works, I'm much more likely to buy your full product. Before I buy in, I want to know that I'm making a wise investment, especially if I'm going to fork over a significant sum of money. So give me something I can use. Even if I don't end up buying your product, if it's awesome then I'm probably going to share it, and that person, well, they just might buy it. Either way you've earn a sale.
Let your participants discuss whatever they want to in chat, even if it is unrelated to the discussion. You don't have to engage in it if it isn't relevant, and if that is the case, it will probably die on its own. Webinars are for learning, sure, but they also can be a place for networking. We're a lonely lot, us authors.
And while I'm at it, don't just ask us to introduce ourselves as we enter the chat. Ask us a question that starts a discourse related to the topic. Get an idea of what we already know and then reference it when later you're talking about that subject. It makes attendees feel like you care about them, and increases their engagement after they've stuck around.
Plus, it allows you time to wait on those late comers without asking attendees to sit around. If I had a dollar for every time, I've heard a presenter say, “We're just going to wait another minute or two for the stragglers,” I'd be a rich woman indeed. If you do that, then your early and on-time arrivers will get bored and go somewhere else.
Don't talk about yourself!
Say your name, welcome us, and get started. Chances are we had to read your newsletter, visit your website, or something along those lines to sign up. None of us accidently ended up there. We've bought in. We've had time to research you. Don't waste our time telling us your hobbies and accomplishments unless it directly contributes to the larger discussion. For example: I know this method works because I used it for blah... blah.... blah..., and these were my results.
Avoid being a sage on the stage.
Use the webinar space innovatively. That is what sets you apart. That's what makes people buy in. Let the conversation get off topic. If that happens, it means that your presentation wasn't very good, or it didn't cover what was expected. Use that information to refine it. Make it the best it can be.
At the end if no one asks questions, it probably means you did a good job.
No, really. You don't need to fish. If you've been thorough and allowed for discourse in chat, then you've probably addressed most of the critical issues. And if you've a good presenter you've told them how to reach you. Also, you've told them where they can find future and past work.
I recently attended a webinar where the presenter read and responded to all that was written in chat. It was fine until we started thanking him and saying goodbye. Then it was tedious. He wasted our time, and I didn't buy his product.
When it comes to asking attendees for feedback: If you've asked once, good. If you've asked twice, great. Then leave it alone.
Do give attendees the slides.
That way no one panics if they've missed something, and it reduces the number of repeated questions. Yay!
Always set an end time.
You can always go over or under the time you've set aside, but when I'm deciding whether or not to attend, I'm checking to see if your webinar fits into my schedule. And on that note, if you can schedule a webinar between noon and 1pm. Do it! Most people get a lunch hour.
Lastly, these days, a half hour is a serious time commitment. Just don't do it. Aim for 10-20 minutes. If you need more time, break it up into a series. You want to make time for discussion. It is the most important part of your webinar. That's where the most learning happens for both of you.