June 9th 2020
If you are thinking about conducting a webinar – and if you’re reading this material, the chances are high that you are – it is highly important that you understand one thing right away: in many ways, webinars are more difficult to conduct than offline events.
Why, you may think? At first glance, you are just sitting at home in your usual surroundings, and there’s no need to stand in front of a large audience – you get to quickly say your part and disconnect. But here’s the rub – a method like this only works if you want to conduct a webinar as a formality, to simply cross it off the bucket list.
On the other hand, if you want to properly accomplish the same goals as you would want at an offline event, like demonstrate your expertise or close a good deal – then you need to prepare much more thoroughly than for an in-person presentation.
Below I shall speak on several preconceptions that you should rid yourself of immediately.
1. I Can Do a Webinar by Myself
A webinar is not a loner event – you can’t pull it off on your own. You need a support team – at least one person who will help you with the technical side of things and act as a moderator who coordinates the proceedings during your performance.
For example, if a competitor suddenly visits your webinar and starts being insulting, or some troll starts spamming messages in your chat – you can delete their messages and ban them. It’s your webinar – you get to set the rules. That’s why a moderator is needed.
Another function of the moderator is to keep pre-prepared questions. These are needed for when the audience doesn’t ask any questions of their own. There shouldn’t be silence – at the very least, 2-3 questions need to be asked. The moderator can ask them.
Also, be sure to check your platform out in advance and work out any issues with your technical assistant – the beginning of a webinar is what ensures the interest of the audience. You can’t afford to have it go wrong.
2. Speaking Online is a Lot Easier Than Offline
Nope, that is very much not the case. You won’t be able to proceed with your webinar the same way you would with an offline speech. In a webinar, you do not get to see the audience, and the audience sees you poorly. You can’t feel the connection, and you can’t use the same tools that you would use in a face-to-face conversation (making eye contact, using gestures, etc.). You only have a PC screen and a webcam to work with.
Which is why you need to prepare in earnest. Rehearsal is necessary – no question about it. Conduct a test webinar – from start to finish, exactly in the same way you are planning to hold it in front of the public. Record it and listen through afterwards – you may notice things that you wish to change, which you didn’t see before.
3. Casual Appearances are Fine
Despite the fact that you are not standing in front of your audience, they can still feel you. Which is why you need to keep yourself and your surroundings’ appearance professional. Dress the part – proper costume, hairstyle, makeup, watch/accessories – like you would for an offline presentation. Keep your environment neutral and ensure that things will be quiet for the next hour or so. Warn your family, keep pets out of the room – whatever you need. It may not always be easy to accomplish, but it’s better to do it. This immediately sets you in the right mood, and the audience will catch onto it.
4. Just Telling My Part is Enough
Just talking isn’t enough – you need to interact with your audience. Keeping your audience engaged and listening is important for an offline performance, and doubly so for a webinar. Ask for feedback as you talk, throw in an occasional joke, tell amusing stories from personal experience – keep up the interest and anticipation. Maybe even promise some interesting event or prize at the end of your webinar, if it feels appropriate.
Also, no matter how interesting a story you tell, the audience will quickly grow tired of staring at a talking head droning on. A well-designed presentation is your best ally during a webinar – engaging slides can really help drive ideas home as you explain them in words.
Prepare a plan of your performance and show it to your audience – what you are going to speak about and when they can ask questions. Taking in a visual list will make things more comprehensive for your listeners.
Show slides with interesting facts and statistics in order to demonstrate the relevance of your topic. At the end of the presentation, add a slide telling who you are and how to contact you – if your presentation impressed someone, they may want to reach out to you afterwards.
5. How Do I Know if I Said Too Little or Too Much?
With that in mind, a popular practice is to plan 30-45 minutes to speak on the chosen topic and then give 10-15 minutes for the audience to ask questions. If you don’t have 30 minutes’ worth of interesting content, then you need to rethink your topic.
In every performance experience plays a big part – you will never know for sure what works for you until you try it. The first time is quite difficult. Later it gets easier, but there always remains that mix of worry and excitement. With webinars, it’s the same thing. The more of them you conduct, the more prepared and confident you become.
It is also a good idea to attend some webinars as a listener, and note things that you like and don’t like, and how the audience reacts to them. It can also help deal with nervousness if you’ve never done a webinar before – you will at least have an idea of how things generally go. It is said that you can learn from mistakes, but nobody said that those mistakes need to be your own.