Webinars are a wonderful way to include people from all over the world at your presentation or training event. No longer confined by geographical location, the internet has made the impossible possible. Group discussions, whiteboards, shared screens … all reality now due to advancements in technology.
Attendees are there to learn or gather valuable information. Speakers also have a ‘what’s in it for me’ angle; usually they are present at an employer’s request or looking to sell something. No matter the reason, there are webinars and there are webinars, good and bad. We’ve all sat through virtual snoozefests as well as been delighted by outstanding presentations.
So, how does one improve webinar engagement? Follow these key tips to prepare, run and follow up on your webinar:
Great webinars have wonderful planning behind them. Start with a specific goal in mind. Are you teaching something, sharing an idea or selling? Develop your slide deck’s content summary around this goal to keep the presentation organized. Before the webinar goes live, ensure you rehearse it until your presentation is efficient and polished.
Equal Access for All
Equal access should be granted to in-person and online attendees. Platforms now have the capability of running hybrid event access. This is much more inclusive compared with the early days of internet meetings when online attendees were relegated to muted heads or typing in the chat box.
Top Notch Technical Assistance
It is impossible to act as both IT help desk staff as well as meeting presenter. No matter how good the platform is, one or more attendees will have connection or participation issues. Sure, some issues will be due to attendees’ lack of familiarity with the specific user interface, but technical assistance should be provided to ensure a seamless experience for all. On a related note, confirm a solid internet connection with bandwidth that can handle the anticipated number of attendees plus a few extra. It's quite common for many attendees leave sign up until the very last minute.
Send several reminders about the upcoming webinar: immediately after sign up, one week before, one day before, then finally one hour before it begins. Inboxes are cluttered and it takes patience to cut through all the noise. Sharing the login link and password at least twice with registered attendees, and nearer the time/date, is wise.
Share the Webinar Format BEFORE Registration
Let attendees know what format your webinar will take. If attendees should expect breakout groups and active participation – tell them ahead of time. Many will be annoyed if suddenly they are expected to speak to a group of strangers. It’s not fair to put attendees into live breakout rooms with no warning if they expected a pure lecture-type educational opportunity. Remember, many attendees are used to being muted the entire presentation time; suddenly being asked to go live on microphone and camera can be quite intimidating. A hint: look at your attendee numbers when you open up surprise breakout room discussions – see how the numbers go down as people leave the meeting? Attendees want to learn from the promised expert presenter, not random, unknown attendees.
Background and Lighting
Have a professional background. No one wants to see your laundry hamper with clothes spilling over the edge. Declutter your space. Another option is to pick from the enormous array of free backgrounds available; yes, there are backgrounds for nearly every theme you can imagine, including sales and sedate business topics. Lighting is something else to consider. Put a ring light in front of you for a warmer appearance and close the blinds over clear windows behind you to avoid dark shadowing. Test all of this before going live.
DURING THE PRESENTATION
At the start of the webinar, welcome attendees and give them the outline for the presentation. Remind them of the format (including camera and microphone status) plus how they can participate and seek technical assistance. Repeat the allocated timeframe. Let attendees know if there will be a Q&A session at the end and how long presenters are willing to stay online. Introduce your speaker(s), giving short biographies with key knowledge and qualifications.
Turning cameras on is a more pleasant experience for the presenter; staring at a sea of black boxes with static names is awful. Turning cameras on is intimidating for some attendees, a must have for others, and can slow presentations in large groups due to bandwidth limitations. Make your decision about cameras with all this in mind.
Having microphones on is challenging in a group setting when multiple people speak at once. Turn microphones off during a presentation, and then turn them on to allow questions after the presentation is finished. If you wish to only allow chat box Q&A for all attendees, have someone moderate them for the presenter as many times questions will be repeated.
AFTER THE WEBINAR
Don’t bombard attendees with demanding sales pitches in the twenty-four hours after the webinar; this tells attendees you only presented the material in order to gather email addresses for your sales prospects database. Give attendees a chance to mull over the education provided and try a softer follow up in a few days’ time, reminding them of the webinar and how you can help them in the future. It’s all about value and working relationships: earn attendees’ trust first before asking for the sale. People appreciate that approach.
Now you know the basics of how to improve webinar engagement. Follow these tips and watch your next webinar soar to greater success.