4 Tips for a Successful Webinar

By Sharat Sharan, John Carucci

With so many pieces to make work together for every webinar, things are bound to go wrong sometimes. So, until you can eliminate the possibility of an embarrassing image popping up while you’re speaking or the program not going as planned, it’s important to go over your upcoming webinar with a fine-toothed comb.

Plan, plan, plan … and then plan your webinar some more

Although there’s no shortage of theories when it comes to the secrets of success, one thing is certain: Poor planning will always lead to poor production. Even mediocre planning can lead to poor production, and things don’t get much better with haphazard, moderate, or occasional planning. Be sure to plan your words and assets each time.

Breaking it down, you need to concentrate on each of these areas, both separately and together:

  • Schedule: Make sure you have a tightly scheduled program with the appropriate amount of time allotted for each segment. You also need to take into consideration the type of format you’re using for the webinar.

  • Have a Great Script and Stick to It: It’s nearly impossible to cover each topic in a limited time by ad-libbing. That’s why it’s imperative to proceed with a tightly written script. When you find the words and images that strike the right tone, lock them down.

    That’s not to say you shouldn’t correct small errors or change words for clarity. But you should consider your script done at some point so that you can move on to the next step: executing it successfully.

  • PowerPoint presentation: Make sure it works and all the slides are in proper order.

  • Q&A period: Figure out how much time you’re going to need to sufficiently answer questions. Keep in mind that allowing too little time will not satisfy your audience, but also be aware that allowing too much time leads to a lull.

  • Video: Consider how you plan to use video. Besides showing the speaker, you can also show clips to support your topics, either from your hard drive, or a video site like YouTube or Vimeo. Also consider whether you want the presenter to use a webcam or more sophisticated video equipment and so on. All of these things factor in.

Why to rehearse with your webinar slides, graphics, and video

Since the beginning of time — or perhaps some time after the invention of the Gutenberg printing press — pictures have done a good job of supporting words. But there’s nothing more embarrassing during a webinar than a malfunction with your slides or video.

Don’t just check: Double-check. And if double-checking is your style, triple-check it too. Remember, the time you spend now may save you a great deal of embarrassment later.

Consider the following:

  • Use a remote: If you let the show run automatically, the wrong slide can pop up. Even if it belongs in the presentation, it may come up before or after you expected it. Use a remote to manually change slides.

  • Take it slow in rehearsal: The first time you rehearse, just be concerned about getting everything right. Don’t worry about timing; just make sure your words match up well with the slides. If they don’t, make new ones that work.

  • Display an introductory slide: Provide viewers with webinar information, including the start time. Let it stay up until the designated start time.

  • Be sure your content is accurate: If you’re showing screen grabs of website addresses or other addresses or factual information, check it all before you go live with the slide.

How to interact with your webinar audience before, during, and after

All too often people forget the social in social media. Be sure to engage your audience throughout the process. That means more than just during the presentation, but during the time leading up to it, as well as the follow-up period.

Remember the following:

  • Let your audience know what you’re doing: Send out e-mail announcements a month or so before your webinar.

  • Use social media: Use Twitter and Facebook to remind your audience about the webinar. Then tease them with a preview of what they can expect.

  • Summarize during the webinar: Recap what’s happened so far. You could do a summary at the halfway point, or highlight an aspect of the webinar.

  • Get feedback: At the end of your webinar, check in with your participants to find out what they thought.

How to use presentation slides and images to Support the webinar theme

If a picture is truly worth a thousand words, using some well-placed images and information can increase the message to the second power, and do so without boring the audience. Remember, the multimedia aspect is what separates a webinar from a conference call. Take advantage of using as much illustrative material as it takes to make your point effectively.