Conducting a webinar requires more than just technical know-how. It means that you, as a presenter, are able to use this online platform in a meaningful way to effectively communicate your message.
In addition to the suggestions shared in Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this series for preparing and conducting presentations, here are 8 simple ways to conduct a successful webinar:
- Invite people to attend your webinar at least one week in advance (preferably two weeks if possible). Promote your webinar event on social media platforms and reach out to key contacts to assist you in sending out emails. Your first invitation should provide a brief overview of the content along with the date and time of the event (make sure to indicate the correct time zone). In your invitation, provide the registration link to the webinar along with any technical requirements or additional directions. A few days prior to the event, a follow-up email should be sent to those who have registered as a reminder.
- Become familiar with the webinar features and go through a trial run. Every webinar service provides free basic support pages online to assist you in learning the various features. Take time to download and read any available user guides or visit YouTube for posted demonstrations. Go through a trial run of the presentation with the assistance of a friend. Test your audio levels and screen sharing features while practicing the delivery of your content. Ask a friend for feedback on ways to improve.
- Decide if a webcam is necessary for your presentation. This may come as a surprise to some, but the use of a webcam is completely optional during a webinar. In fact, some presenters feel that this can be distracting to the audience. The use of a webcam also sets the expectation that you will maintain eye contact with it and your audience so that your presentation doesn’t look unprofessional. To easily address these issues, it is recommended that you only enable your webcam at the very beginning of your webinar. This will still allow you to make a personal connection with your audience while avoiding some of the downsides of using a webcam. Otherwise, if you are not comfortable using one, simply use a high quality photo of yourself during your introduction.
- Sign on at least 10 minutes before the presentation. Greet those who arrive early through the webinar chat feature. It’s okay to wait a couple extra minutes for late arrivals but make sure you don’t wait longer than that as this can make your participants anxious.
- Mute all attendees using the webinar control panel. When unmuting attendees, only allow one person at a time to speak and mute them again when they are finished. Close any applications such as email or social media programs that could possibly trigger an embarrassing pop-up during your screen sharing. Also, turn off any devices that may vibrate or cause distractions during your presentation.
- Speak clearly and slowly so that everyone can understand you. Avoid rustling papers or chewing anything as this can be heard by attendees. Use a conversational tone when speaking so that your voice engages your audience. Also, to ensure high sound quality, use a headset mic (one that places the mic by your mouth). Do not use a speakerphone or your computer’s built-in mic as these typically provide low sound quality.
- Make good use of the webinar chat feature to engage your live online audience. If possible, ask for someone to assist you as a facilitator by welcoming new attendees and answering their questions using the chat feature. This can be extremely helpful in addressing any small technical issues that participants may experience during the webinar so that you are free to present without disruptions. Use the chat feature to collect questions from attendees as well as gather their responses to your own questions. This can be done at the beginning, middle, and end of your presentation to ensure maximum audience engagement. If interested, you may also upgrade your webinar services to receive extra interaction features such as built-in assessment and polling options.
- Lastly, send a follow-up email and survey. Based on your registration data, consider inviting anyone who missed your webinar to attend a similar event that you may be conducting in the future. If you decide to upgrade to a paid webinar service, you will also have the option to send a recording of the presentation to those who missed it. As part of best practice, those who attended your webinar should receive a survey requesting feedback on your presentation. Some of the simplest and most robust survey tools that are available for free include: SoGoSurvey, Survey Planet, and Typeform. Each of these tools is unique in its own way, so take the time to see which one will fit your needs.
As with any new skill, becoming an effective presenter requires practice and a willingness to try something new. Whether you are presenting face-to-face or virtually, keep your focus on your audience and the rest will follow.
Check out the entire series on Best Practices for Effective Presentations: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.