In recent months I have been asked by a couple of clients to critique their webinar presentations. After spending time listening and evaluating those and after reading the literature on conducting webinars, here are suggestions for improving your webinar presentations.
A webinar allows a presenter or a group to conduct live presentations over the internet. Webinars can include many features, but here we will assume the speaker can show PowerPoint slides and that audience members can ask questions. Audio is usually received via phone lines. The benefit of a webinar is that organizations can save both time and money by the attendee not having to travel to attend a seminar or presentation in some other part of the country or world.
During preparation, practice your presentation exactly as you plan to deliver it. Work with your moderator so that you are in sync with each other. Time your presentation with the software you are using.
Prior to the actual presentation, spend some time talking one-on-one with people in your office. This warm up activity will enhance your vocal quality and create more warmth in your voice. Your introduction should be short and state exactly why you are qualified to conduct this presentation. Your introducer should have excitement in his or her voice and announce your name with punch. Your voice is everything with the webinar. Show enthusiasm in your voice from the very beginning. Punch out key words, pause for effect, create variety in vocal quality, speed up, slow down, and don’t speak too rapidly. In the beginning, after setting ground rules about when questions can be asked, relate a story related to your topic or to yourself to personalize the presentation in what can be an impersonal environment.
Because the audience can’t see you, you must work every minute to hold an audience’s attention. If you have a lull in your content, you may lose your participants as they wander off to check email, answer instant messages, or converse with a colleague. If you can check out your registration list before the presentation, you should mention names or a city where some audience members are listening from. Any proper noun will usually perk up the attention of the listener. Prime the pump for questions by asking a question you think they may ask and then answer it. If you are including much data and definitions, use concrete examples whenever possible.
I have always stressed starting a presentation on time, but because people are in a variety of locations and stopping what they are doing to participate in your webinar, you will probably have a few sign on a minute or two after the presentation is scheduled to begin. So wait a couple of minutes before starting, but end on time! You will want to keep the presentation under 45 minutes because the listener will not stay with you any longer than that.
In the question and answer period, keep your answers short and specific. Do not evaluate the question with “That’s was a great question.” Instead, if you must comment, say, “I’d be happy to address that.” Mention the name of the person who asked the question whenever possible.
Although not a substitute for a live presentation, today’s economic climate and emphasis on using time well pinpoint the webinar as a viable alternative; many organizations are finding webinars effective to disseminate information and provide training for their people. I trust that these suggestions will help you not to shun but to embrace this very effective medium.
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University. He presents keynotes and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and listen effectively. See additional articles and resources at www.sboyd.com. He can be reached at 800-727-6520 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.