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Liven Up Your Next Webinar – Part 1


I recently provided some consulting to TAG – the Technology Association of Georgia – on an upcoming orientation webinar that they’re putting together.   I thought that others might benefit from the advice as well.

After all, none of us want our audiences checking their email or falling to sleep during our webinars!

Today and tomorrow, we’ll talk about ideas for how you can liven up your next webinar!




Your Webinar – The TV Program

While a webinar is a form of business presentation, to your audience it feels more like watching TV.

If you, like me, watch more TV than you’d like to admit, than you know it’s hard to watch the screen for prolonged periods without becoming bored or distracted.

Inspired by my friend Roger Courville, the Virtual Presenter, who did something similar, I timed the scene cuts in a TV documentary and found that, on average, the length of the time from one image to the next was 5.9 seconds.  And that’s a documentary.  You can imagine it’s even shorter for TV shows that your audience will be most accustomed to watching.

Does that mean you need to change slide every 6 seconds?  No.  But it does mean that you shouldn’t be fearful of having too many slides!

I often will start a webinar with a story.  And as I tell the story, I’ll use visual slides or slides with just a few words like the samples below to accompany the story.  It helps create that TV feeling, gives the audience a reason to keep tuned into the webinar (rather than being tempted to multi-task), and it lets the audience know that this isn’t going to be me reading bullet points from a list.

(Caution – If you are working with a webinar system that requires you to upload your slides before your webinar, remember to start in as much of your advance of your webinar as you can to load your slides!  In fact, do a rehearsal so you’ll know how long it takes to load you particular slide deck, then add extra time for the day of your webinar, just in case!  More on the practice session later.)



Interaction Is Absolutely Possible in a Webinar

When working with TAG, my contact said something about the webinar not being interactive like the live session.  I let him know that wasn’t true!

Assuming you have a live audience for your webinar, you can absolutely can and should have interaction to keep the audience engaged.  It will take planning and practice on your part but will make the webinar more engaging and memorable.


Suggestions for Audience Interaction


What Are You Hoping to Get from Our Time Today?

While I recommend that you interview a sampling of audience members before a presentation, it’s still useful to take a few minutes to ask your audience about their desires related to the topic of your webinar.

If you’re doing an orientation, ask why they joined the organization.

If yours is an educational webinar, ask what they’re hoping to learn about during the webinar.

Depending on the software you’re using for your webinar, you may be able to have people speak up to answer these questions.

If it’s a really large audience, ask people to use the “raise hand” feature that’s available on most webinar systems, then turn the microphone on for people who’ve raised their hands.

Ask people to type their answer in the chat window of your webinar system.

Read their answers aloud, mentioning the name of the person who wrote the response.  Comment on whether or not you’ll be able to address the items that they tell you.  Help level set the expectations for the webinar.

By asking people what they’re hoping to get, you’re seeing where your audience members’ heads are at.  If you know you can adjust on the fly, then you can address their concerns.  If you need to stick to what you’ve prepared, then at least you’ve gained some insight that you might be able to use in future webinars.


Use the Polling Functions to Reveal Statistics or Interesting Facts

Using the polling function in you webinar software give you an opportunity to engage the audience and bring out the competitive vibe that most of us have.  Polling also gives you a spot to add humor by making one of the multiple choice questions outlandish and fun.

For example, here are some multiple choice polling questions I created for TAG – the Technology Association of Georgia.  Rather than just telling these facts in an orientation webinar, the speaker can ask the attendees to interact using the poll.

  • Which 3 organizations merged to form the Technology Association of Georgia

a.  Business & Technology Alliance, Southeast Software Association and Women in Technology

b.  Southeast Software Association, Atlanta Business Technology Association and Hardware Association of North America

c.  Blackeyed-Peas, Aerosmith, Grateful Dead

  • How many members are there in TAG?

a.  5,000

b.  7,000

c.  15,000

d.  300,000,000


Using Chat to Relate Content to the Audience

Look for places in your presentation where you can make the information specific and relevant to your audience.  For example, within TAG, there are 31 special interest groups called societies.  These societies are based on functional roles, industries and people related aspects of technology. For their orientation, they can ask the attendees to indicated:

  • What role do you play in your organization?
  • What industry are you in?

Then, the presenter can comment on information relevant to the responses.  For example, the orientation facilitator could say, “Bob said he’s a product manager.  Bob, you might be interested in our Product Manager society.  Jill, I see you work in healthcare, you might be interested in our Healthcare society.  And later we’ll talk about the Georgia healthcare summit, that might be of interest too.  Fred you’re with a new start up, you might be interested in our entrepreneur society.”

By mentioning names, you appeal to the human side of us.  (There is no sound sweeter than the sound of ones own name.)  And by commenting, you demonstrate that you’re paying attention to the audience’s needs.


Does This Make Sense?

We’ll end with the suggestion here for today.  What do you think?  Could you apply these ideas to your next webinar?  What is still unclear?  What tips would you add?

Join the discussion in the comments section below!