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How to give a webinar (and not look like an idiot)

Denise Persson | Feb. 20, 2009
Many people would rather visit the dentist or pay taxes than speak publicly.

Here are some recent examples of webinars that were truly "home runs" because of their compelling, timely content:

-- A marketing consulting group offered a webinar that provided tips for maximizing holiday sales at a time when the holiday period was key to many retailers' survival. Over 90 percent of the registrants attended; more typical attendance is half that.

-- A program in January on how to qualify and nurture leads to enhance sales team success wildly exceeded attendance expectations. It provided practical how-to information and useful new ideas and featured a noted author.

The key mistake to avoid is being blatantly self-promotional. With the prevalence of DVRs, no one has to sit through a commercial anymore--so don't turn your webinar into one.

Prepare questions to ask during the webinar registration process. Doing so can give you great insight into your audience, assuming that you ask questions that help you tailor your presentation to your audience's needs and to learn the participants' education or qualification level. You don't want to waste time on an introductory session on "heat and light come from the sun" when 90 percent of those attending are physicists. In addition, prepare a post-event survey for use as people exit the webinar. Ask them follow-up questions to further qualify them as sales prospects, to learn about their satisfaction with what you covered, and to find out if they laughed at your jokes.

Finally, prepare a Q&A session to encourage your guests' participation. There is some risk associated with a Q&A session, of course. You might hear a question you can't answer. Worse yet, a questioner might act more like a heckler. The solution, again, is advance preparation.

-- Jot down ahead of time the questions you can anticipate, along with appropriate responses. Keep these notes handy so that you can refer to them during the actual webinar if need be.

-- Focus on those questions you hope you don't hear. It's like buying flood or earthquake insurance--it's prudent to buy it, though you hope you never have to use it.

-- Respond to critical questions as positively as credibly possible. Then move on--don't dwell on the negative. And, remember, if all else fails, you can always block a really abusive questioner.

Practice makes the difference. Webinars aren't difficult, but they are different from running a meeting or a conference call. A webinar is an event. Attendees have higher expectations than participants in less formal "ad hoc" types of meetings involving small groups.

Avoid Murphy's Law

Take a couple of test runs of your presentation, especially if you've never run one before. Yes, practice in front of a mirror. You will feel stupid. Do it anyway. Because the rehearsal will make you so familiar with the material that, should you freeze up in the middle of your presentation, you can just keep going on automatic until your brain re-engages.

 

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