The best webinar is more than one speaker in a lively discussion that includes interaction with the audience. Here are some practical tips for preparation, attracting the right audience, lively interaction, and follow up.
Essentials of Selling Your Expertise In a Webinar
Consultants can leverage the webinar format to share past results of your work with clients, demonstrate your ability to diagnose and solve problems, or showcase your thought leadership on an emerging challenge your prospects are likely to face. Any of these approaches to a webinar can lead to serious conversations with prospects and ultimately business. We have helped clients develop, rehearse, promote, deliver, and distribute webinars for more than fifteen years now. This article is a summary of lessons learned combined with checklists of best practices for preparing for a webinar and attracting an audience. While the primary focus is on consulting organizations, many of these guidelines (really hard-won painful truths) are also applicable to product startups who are providing expertise enabled services to bootstrap their product development.
A Successful Webinar = Preparation + Right Audience
+ Lively Interaction + Follow Up
A successful webinar requires a combination of four elements: preparation, attracting your audience, lively interaction, and follow up after the webinar. This balanced approach will guarantee high-quality content that attracts an audience who will value and benefit from taking part in the conversation. It also enables you to reach a larger audience over the long-term who will appreciate the content from the webinar.
Before you start creating slides, understand what would be useful to your audience so that your content offers them genuine value. The best place to start is with content that addresses the same problems that your consulting can solve. Two examples of the kinds of content you should cover: tips for diagnosing the severity and root cause of problems for face and guidance for how they can address these challenges on their own.
The key to a good webinar is preparation.
- Select a topic that’s of interest to your prospects and provide them with useful advice and guidance. It can be a case study or lessons learned. It can be a technique for diagnosing a problem or need. It can be about how to assess and manage risk in a particular situation. Look back at questions that prospects have asked you in the last 6-12 months and prepare a briefing that incorporates your best diagnostic questions and answers.
- Plan your handout(s) and leave-behinds: your presentation deck may be useful for jogging people’s memory, but a short article that summarizes key points or an edited transcript may be a more effective complement to the video from the event.
- Practice your presentation and time it. A few key points presented well are much more effective than a stream of conscious rambling that runs over time but does not end with a useful conclusion.
- The trick is to rehearse in a way that you agree on a spine or outline of key points to address, but presenters are still free to improvise with additional ideas or follow up questions to each other to keep it interactive.
- A “run through” rehearsal allows you to debug your presentation deck and major items to be addressed but keeps it light enough so that it still feels spontaneous.
The following ideas are a good fit for a webinar:
- Panel discussion of a timely issue in your industry
- Interview with an industry thought leader
- Detailed examination of a niche topic from a fresh angle
- Example-driven “how-to” tutorial
Resist the temptation to host an epic webinar about a general topic. Instead, focus on a highly specific topic, A good 20 minute webinar is better than a long rambling webinar. Pick the right webinar format. Use poll questions to engage your audience. Do at least one run-through several days before the live event to make sure that everyone knows the important points they will make and their equipment is functioning correctly.
Attracting The Right Audience
The key to attracting the right audience is:
- A good title and a strong one to two sentence description are the first two hurdles you have to pass to capture people’s attention. These should address the prospect’s perspective on the topic. Make it clear who the target audience is for the webinar.
- A potential attendee will evaluate you presenters next. Here you need well-crafted biographies for all of the participants that highlight accomplishment and expertise that is relevant for the topic.
- A short list of key items an attendee will take away from the webinar.
- Select appropriate groups, forums, and mailing lists where you can announce the webinar.
- Put a short announcement about the webinar on your home page that links to a longer description in either a blog post or event listing on your website. Include an easy way to register, either embed a form or link to it.
- Start early so that initial announcements are available at least three to four weeks before the event itself.
- Select a time of day and day of the week that is appropriate for your audience. It’s hard to find a time that works well around the world. Consider giving it at different times for the Americas, Europe and Africa (EMEA), and Asia and Australia.
The panelists or presenters should rehearse at least once and be familiar with rough outlines of everyone’s key points. The panelists should be comfortable asking each other questions and interacting directly. It’s important to prepare some questions upfront for the audience (either in the form of a poll or a short free form reply that can be answered in the chat) to gauge the audience’s relevant background with the topic and their learning objectives for the webinar.
The audience should use chat or the “ask a question” feature so that time is not lost due to sound problems, etc. If you do have someone playing the “voice of the audience role,” they should be familiar with the rough outline of topics. They can answer basic questions directly or let the questioner know it will be asked of the panel later during a segment that is more appropriate.
Panelists should also use the annotation tools to mark up the slides to complement their verbal answers. You can complement the slides and audio with a shared edit document that is annotated with the questions, answers, and other vital details from the presenters’ remarks. If you are addressing a narrow topic that will attract a dozen or two dozen attendees, you can give both panelists and audience members write access. If you have a larger audience, it’s probably easier to add a dedicated scribe, grant panelists write access, and grant the audience read-only access. The notes can both complement and extend the slides (e.g., with additional links or supplemental material) and audio if done correctly.
If it’s appropriate for your topic, you can also create a breakout discussion section. Some tools, like Zoom, offer the ability to divide the audience and panels up into separate mini-webinars for a period of time where the discussion can be more free form.
Follow up is essential to leveraging the value of what you have created. It’s not uncommon to feel a little drained even after a good webinar. It an take a lot out of you, and those who are more introverted can feel as drained as they do after giving a talk. The key to successful follow-up is to pre-plan as much of it as possible. Then you are executing your plan instead of trying to make decisions when you are tired.
Follow up with the other speakers and other members of your team: debrief on what worked and what didn’t and what you might experiment with next time. Schedule a short online meeting for 15-30 minutes after the webinar ends and send the URL out before the event. Do not recycle the webinar address for your debrief as audience members can linger unnoticed. Never give a good talk once: plan for a series and use this debrief to lay the groundwork for an improved version in the next iteration. Avoid the temptation to make a webinar longer, break it into a set of smaller, more narrowly focused topics instead.
Follow up with the audience: provide them with whatever materials you promised during the event. If there were questions left unanswered, answer them either directly or in the general distribution. Your goal is to spark follow on conversations that go beyond what was covered in the webinar. These can become sales conversations.
Follow up with prospects who did not attend. Leverage the Webinar recording, transcript, and handouts in outreach to and contacts with new prospects who did not attend. Use a separate intro for folks who registered but not attend.
The best webinar is more than one speaker in a lively discussion that includes interaction with the audience.
There can be a strong temptation to focus on the presentation aspect of a webinar and neglect the interaction with the audience. If a video can replace your webinar, then make the video. You can still record your webinar and release it as a video, but give the audience a chance for live interaction if they take part.
A good way to increase interactivity is to invite a customer or two to help you present on the topic. Inviting a partner or two to take part is also a good way to mix things up and keep it lively. SKMurphy can interview you in a Q&A format on a topic that is of interest to your prospects as a way to get started.
We like to see one person dedicated as the “voice of the audience.” They watch for incoming questions and voice them to presenters. This approach incorporates the audience as part of the conversation, especially if you are willing to take questions throughout (note that this may require some discretion on the part of the person playing the “voice of the audience” role to defer them to a more appropriate time).
We can help
If your business requires a high degree of personal interaction for sales and customer support then you are in trouble. The “new normal” of social spacing and remote interaction is not going away anytime soon. Making face to face sales calls, presentations and hunting for customers at trade shows is in the past. Your future depends on a virtual strategy and implementation. At SKMurphy we have the experience and expertise to help you with:
- Preparation and rehearsal.
- Lead generation to attract an audience.
- Act as an interviewer in a Q&A or panel format.
- Act as the voice of an audience.
Give us a call if you need help preparing, promoting, or delivering a webinar.
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- A Briefing on Thought Leadership: Notes from a briefing on thought leadership which I define as “Discern important events and trends at work in the present, predict their likely effects, and offer perspective and actionable advice in time to have an impact.”
- Three Features For A Webinar Or Conference Call: (From 2008) let someone raise their hand and speak; break a larger group into small groups and then reconvene; automatically manage the “queue for the microphone” during the Q&A segment.
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