Webinars take a lot of work, but in the end a well-planned and executed webinar will prove its worth by gaining and engaging qualified prospects – who will expect you to follow up. Get off on the right foot by planning thoroughly, and you’re more likely to deliver a smooth event that satisfies your audience.
The first decision: Is a webinar the right thing to do?
The first question you need is to ask yourself is, whether a webinar is the right tool for your needs. Consider your audience, the subject matter, and the time you’ll need in order to cover your topic.
Do you have a topic enough people care about?
Can you address the topic with expertise and credibility?
Can you deliver an engaging presentation (allowing time for a Q&A) in 60 minutes or less?
The second decision: Who will staff?
If all your answers are Yes, you can start recruiting speakers and a support team. In general, there are three main roles you’ll need to fill: the organizer/facilitator, the presenter or presenters, and assistants.
The organizer is responsible for developing the webinar topic, locating a speaker, marketing the event, setting up the registration, managing the event itself, and communicating with participants.
The presenter’s main focus should be the presentation itself, as well as fielding questions from the audience. They shouldn’t have to worry about software, event registration, troubleshooting, or any other logistical details.
Experienced organizers often produce webinars without any assistance, but consider having an assistant if you or your audience is unfamiliar with webinars and webinar tools, if you’re working with new software, if you plan to play a large role in the conversation, or if you expect a large audience. Give your assistant specific tasks to do.
The third decision: format
There are several different ways you can structure your webinar – here are a few options:
-One speaker: A single presenter speaks, presents, and answers questions from the audience.
Pro: Fewer people need to be coordinated and trained on the webinar tool.
Con: A lone presenter is more likely to become an authority figure and/or deliver a didactic presentation, which might make some audience members reluctant to participate in the conversation and ask questions.
-Two speakers: Two presenters engage in a discussion, with one or both controlling presentation progress
Pro: This presents an interesting range of opinions without being scattered, and enables speakers to split up the topic, reducing the amount of preparing that each of them must do.
Pro: An interplay of two voices is more stimulating and engaging for the listener
Con: If one speaker’s personality is much more forceful than the other’s, it can be easy for that speaker to dominate the webinar, reducing the impact of the other speaker or even generating resentment.
-Interview-style: An interviewer asks a set of predetermined questions.
Pro: It’s engaging to hear multiple voices, and the fact that the interviewer is asking questions of the expert(s) often encourages the audience to do so as well.
Con: As there are more people to train and coordinate, scheduling the run-through and the actual webinar may be more difficult.
-Moderated panel discussion: Multiple people discuss the subject at the same time, with a moderator running the discussion.
Pro: This offers a variety of voices and perspectives.
Con: It can be challenging to keep panelists from talking over each other, especially if they are all remote.
-Interactive: Audience members participate in instructor-led exercises and facilitated conversations.
Participants receive a deeper understanding of the topic because they’re fully engaged in the discussion and exercises.
Even with a skilled and experienced facilitator, this can only accommodate a small group.
The fourth decision: visuals
Webinars are not just glorified teleconferences—the ability to share visual content can tremendously enhance your message. But weak visuals will literally cause your audience to avert their eyes, and once that happens it will be difficult to regain their attention.
Create images which are easy to read and engaging to look at. Whenever possible, make your point with pictures, not words.
Avoid the trap of designing your images for a large projection screen. Your audience may be watching the presentation in a window on a small screen—even a tablet or a smartphone.
That also means a presentation which works very well in a conference room or auditorium needs to be revised for the webinar format. Slides look very different in a 5-inch window than they do on a 15-foot projection screen.
Make sure your visuals complement the material rather than repeating it.
Keep the slide template simple so the audience focuses on the content
Use a single template even if there are multiple speakers
Use common fonts so you can have confidence that they display correctly.
Use a handset or headset – never a speaker phone.
Be on a landline rather than a cellphone.
Mute the lines of speakers who are not actively presenting to avoid confusion and unnecessary noise.
No matter how vital or valuable you feel the information you’re sharing is, remember that your audience’s time is valuable and should be treated accordingly. Even if you feel the invitation and confirmation pages or emails made this information clear, when you begin state clearly the objectives for the webinar as well as the estimated runtime, and if possible, tell the audience how much time will be set aside for Q&A. Most webinars top out at an hour long; any longer, and a webinar might start to seem onerous, and will likely be difficult to fit into a busy schedule.
Provide a call to action
Establish clear and unique takeaways for your webinar content—simply putting your own brand on information available anywhere on the Web will waste your viewers’ time. Create a call to action which helps the audience realize value from your advice in the short term. Instant gratification builds loyalty, helping your brand identity and meaning your audience will be back for more.
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