I host or give roughly 70 webinars a year, most over with AEA and others right here at Evergreen Data. Here’s what I have seen that makes for a good webinar presentation experience (as opposed to presenting the same content in person).
Use a faster pace.
In face-to-face presentations or classrooms, the charismatic presenter (that’s you, believe it or not) carries most of the burden of engagement. That engagement is significantly reduced in many webinar platforms, where the bulk of the focus rests on the slides. Thus, delivery at the old 2-minutes-per-slide pace is a surefire way to send the audience off to check their email. Quicken the pace by breaking up the slide content. This solution doesn’t require a radical slide makeover. Simply break up one slide with four bullet points into four slides with one bullet point each. I’ve demonstrated this process, which I ironically call the Slow Reveal, over at my blog. This method of presenting prevents people from reading ahead and losing interest while also increasing the frequency of the appearance of new slide material.
Swap pictures for text.
People can read a LOT faster than they can speak. This means the audience has finished scanning the slide content and is on to checking Facebook before the presenter is finished reading the same set of bullets. Here is one method for transitioning from typical slides to those that are more image-based.
Cut out the distractions.
The webinar is going smoothly until suddenly the audience sees a popup box that says “kylieh is now online.” Close email, turn off Outlook notifications, log out of Skype, shut off your Twitter feed, silence your cell phone. Get someone else to take your puppy for a while. Close your blinds and put a Do Not Disturb sign on your door. Sure, cutting out these distractions helps your audience. But more importantly those interruptions can derail you, the presenter. They throw the speaker off track, as she stumbles to x out the notification and get herself back into the webinar flow.
Get stable audio.
Far and away, the best audio situation is when you, the presenter, are on a landline telephone with a headset. Cell phone reception sucks and VOIP is fine until you actually get an audience, at which point the VOIP audio depletes the bandwidth. Use a landline. With a headset. Then, stand up. Gesture, if you are a gesture-er. Use your facial expressions and smile – all of these things are conveyed through your voice and make the webinar interesting to listen to. That’s me over there, standing up, wearing a headset, making a face, and talking with my hands even though no one can see me.
You’re like, no duh I should practice. But seriously, I’ve seen it hurt very good presenters. If your webinar is two hours, you need a two hour practice session. You must run through the whole thing from beginning to end at least once. There is no other way to assess your time and flow. Whenever possible, arrange to practice on the same platform you’ll be using for the live webinar. Use the same landline, headset, and computer so you can be sure your technology will cooperate with you.
These five tips, somewhat particular to webinarland, will help you rock your next web-based presentation.