Top Tips for Webinar Presenters
Presenting a webinar is not like presenting to a live audience. When I work with presenters, the first thing they say is “Oh, I’ve presented this topic before, so this should be easy.”
I immediately ask if they’ve ever presented a webinar. If they say “No,” I explain how webinars are different from a live audience, particularly in the fact that you get no response or energy from the audience.
For example, when you crack a joke, no one laughs. I have them think about how it would feel if no one laughed at their joke - what kind of energy does that give them? Their response is usually “Oh, wow, yeah, I’ve never thought of that.”
I don’t do this to scare them; I do it to get them in the mindset of how they should prepare differently for a webinar than for a live audience presentation.
Below are tips I share with presenters to help them prepare for their webinars.
[Related: Help For The Reluctant Presenter]
Pick a specific topic.
An hour webinar is usually only 40 minutes of content if you take into account five minutes of introduction and 15 minutes of Q&A. Depending on the person, I suggest planning for 30-35 minutes of content, knowing that some may take longer or dig deeper into a concept than planned.
Though it rarely happens, this also leaves time for any technical issues that could take up time, especially if you are using video clips. If you get done early, I see this as more time for Q&A or giving attendees back a few extra minutes to their day, both of which attendees will enjoy.
With all of this, it is important to pick a specific topic and keep to it. If there’s more information you want to share, but know there won’t be time, have a reference page where attendees can go to learn more. You can’t cover everything, and attendees don’t want to feel like they missed out on information because you ran out of time. So stick to a specific topic you can easily cover in the time given.
Focus on key takeaways.
To help keep you within time, think about 3-5 concepts from the specific topic you want listeners to leave the webinar knowing. Starting with learning objectives will help you build out the rest of the content. If the content doesn’t apply to the objectives, then you should scratch it.
When attendees share constructive feedback about webinars, they usually share that the presenter had a lot of great theory, but they left the webinar with no real action items. If attendees shared it was a great webinar, it’s usually because they left with action items or next steps to move forward with.
Theory is great and validates the information, but it shouldn’t be the focus of your presentation. Start with some theory as a basis, reference it so attendees can go back to it, and then focus on specific applications. Strong presentations focus on learning objectives, and clearly highlight them during the presentation. I also suggest recapping them at the end.
Visuals are everything in a webinar. When you are in front of an audience, you can use your energy to engage the audience and keep their attention, but in a webinar, all you have is your screen and your voice. Use images whenever you can - from your headshot to introduce yourself, to charts and graphs to introduce topics.
With that said, if you are using an image, make sure it’s useful and gives the audience context to what you are talking about. Think of it like hand gestures: If they don’t bring meaning to what you’re saying, they’re just distractions.
Use your voice.
Using your voice is similar to using images - it’s a way to engage an audience that can’t see you. When you read straight from your notes, your voice can become dull and stagnant, so you want to make sure you include in your notes a reminder to smile when you’re talking about something exciting, or to slow down when a big topic comes up.
However, there is a balance here: You want to make sure it sounds natural, not forced. You should inflect your voice when it brings context to what you are talking about. I suggest listening to talk radio or books on tape, as this will help you hear how you can use your voice to build context.
It will also help to practice your script a few times. If you don’t have anyone to practice in front of, record yourself and listen to see if it sounds natural and engaging. Note that you will have to get over hearing your voice on the recording; focus on the context it gives your words, and not the fact that it’s awkward to hear your own voice.
Here are other quick tips that serve as logistical reminders:
- Close out all applications on your computer. I suggest sending yourself an e-mail or message to see if icons pop up or blink while they are closed.
- Take off any jewelry that could make noise when you move or could cling to the table.
- Put your phone on silent and off the table where your computer is sitting. If it vibrates on the table, the computer will pick up the noise.
- Have the dial-in number handy in case your sound goes out. This way you can call in and not waste time figuring out what went wrong with your sound.
- Send the moderator a copy of the presentation, so they can share the PowerPoint if something happens with your screen. This keeps you from losing any time fixing technical issues.
- Practice! Practice! Practice!
[Related: Entrepreneurial Skills No One Can Teach]
Melissa Turk started her own consulting brand, MT Collaborative Consulting, where she works with clients to develop training programs that help their organizations come together and solve problems.
Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.
Alumni Association, Academic and Professional Programs
Carnegie Mellon University
Most of my work has been in personal and leadership development for college students, event planning and supporting student transition. I have now transitioned into career and professional development for alumni, including: professional development webinars, regional in-person programming, virtual networking opportunities and corporate engagement. I recently started my own consulting brand MT Collaborative Consulting, where I work with clients to development training programs that help their organizations come together and solve problems. I have experience... Continue Reading
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