How to Lead a Great Webinar
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How to Lead a Great Webinar

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How often have you signed up for a webinar and been disappointed? If you’re a small business owner, and signing up for webinars targeted for you, chances are you’ve been disappointed a lot.  It often goes like this – you see a topic advertised from a vendor, speaker, or other business personality and sign up.  Once you login one of two things happen – either the webinar turns into an eighth grade class presentation or the sales pitch is so heavy you expect a set of steak knives to spring out of your computer screen.  Ugh.

It’s also possible you’re thinking of holding a webinar to attract potential sales leads or reach out to your customer base about a complex topic.  If you’re considering it, we’ve assembled a few ideas to help you avoid being another one of those lame webinars.

Write it out

A lot of people think once they have the slide deck together to go by on the screen while people listen the webinar prep is over.  Not so.  In many ways having slides together is the least of your worries.  No matter how good of a public speaker you are, leading a webinar with “I’ll just wing it, I have the slides” is a recipe for disaster.

Use your slides to write a script that takes you from moment to moment on the webinar.  Not only is this important so that you can rehearse beforehand, but also in case a technical glitch catches you off guard.  It is much easier to look down at a piece of paper and find your place than it is to wait for the spinning beach ball of doom to catch up while you sit there with dead air.   Webinar’s are a lot more like radio, and a lot less like public speaking.  Think about it, even if your slides have a glitch while you’re giving a public presentation you can revert to paper, or some other means of showing people what you’re talking about.  On a webinar, when things freeze they freeze.  So approach your script in a way that you’ll be able to use it no matter what happens.

Rehearse

It is very important to go over your scripts multiple times and with other people as test subjects if you can manage it.  Think about how many times you’ve called into a webinar and listened to someone read a slide deck to you in real time. This is not good.  You should have something to say that is an additional value add to what is on the slide. You should also be fluent enough in what you want to say that it doesn’t sound like you’re back in school reading a term paper for the class.  Have some personality, feel confident and make sure the words flow freely.

Similarly, if you have multiple people joining you as hosts practice together.  You should have transitions in there to help you tee up the next person without making it sound robotic or ham handed.  Be confident but also natural, no one likes to listen to something that sounds fake and orchestrated.

Focus on the visuals

If you’re putting together slides avoid all of the canned themes in PowerPoint and all ClipArt. This isn’t 1998. While we’re at it, now is the time to ban the ComicSans font from your life forever. It’s unprofessional and dated.  The images in your slides should reinforce what you have to say, they shouldn’t just be bullets of what you’re already saying.

Similarly if you’re having a Google Hangout or other visually enabled webinar, put your laptop on a tall table so you have to look up into it.  This will give people a look at you that resembles you in real life, not the double chinned up the nostrils look that we get because you’re leaning over your laptop.  You’d never give a meeting like that, it’s not ok in a webinar.

Get a focus group

Yes, I just wrote focus group your webinar.  It doesn’t have to be anything super formal or even costly, but sit someone, anyone down with you and do a dry run.  Ask them to be brutally honest in return.  Do you have a tendency not to blink when you’re nervous? Do you even know if you have that tendency? You might want to take time out to have someone watch you beforehand if you’re doing a visual webinar so that people are focused on what you have to say instead of focusing on the fact that you haven’t blinked in 25 minutes. Trust us, it’s creepy and it could happen to you.

Ultimately, the critical point is rehearsing and comfort.  We’ve all been to too many webinars that sound like someone is in a hostage situation or an infomercial.  So stop the madness and pretend you’re just doing your own radio show for a half hour.  Keep it loose but on point. Turn those long time listeners into first time callers.

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