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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.

Make sure you're in a quiet place and use the telephone handset. Handsets normally have good quality microphones, so background noises are kept to a minimum. Using the "hands free" option or conference phones can result in low-volume voices that sound compressed, pick up background noise in the room or produce an echo from the room. In other words, you might sound like you're talking from inside a bucket. It's hard enough to capture everyone's attention when they're rather be playing with their BlackBerries; don't make it easy for their attention to stray because they can't hear you. Or because you sound like a dork.

And don't forget to turn off your own IM, cell phone, PDAs, e-mail, and other possible distractions. This may be the hardest task for you, we realize.

[True story: during a webex conference a few years ago, with about 40 people in the room and on the phone, an IM message popped up on the manager's screen. The IM popup was from Bradâ's wife, saying, "I love you honey!" Brad was so embarrassed, though actually it was pretty sweet and everyone said Awwwwwww. I was just glad that it was from his wife.]

Join your webinar early. Verify that all links and presentations are working. Never assume that you're too smart, too important or too busy to be trained ahead of time on the webinar platform. The most flustered webinar moderators are those who wouldn't take the time for a pre-event sound check and then discovered that their audiences couldn't hear them. Display a "welcome" slide that says your meeting will start shortly. At the beginning of your meeting, provide a quick review of housekeeping items, such as how to use the chat feature or how-and-when you'll address questions and answers. Ask speakers to identify themselves. Finally, relax and have fun! This will help keep the viewer focused on your presentation.

After the Webinar: WERE You An Idiot?

Do plan on issuing a post-webinar survey to participants to solicit feedback. They are usually brutally honest. But the reality is that you won't have to wait until after the webinar for the answer to that question. People are not shy. Even during the event itself participants will critique your webinar via chat. They will let you know, for example, if you are talking down to them versus enlightening them. Another real-time metric: audience members will start dropping off if you are being an idiot.

Record your seminar. Post the webinar on your website for future viewing and then evaluate results of this on-demand viewing. A popular webinar is usually a well-done webinar. Build a reference library of past webinars for your customers and prospects to view when they have time. Webinar content and Q&A's can also be useful for training employees.


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