by Christine Wilks, Account Associate
So, your professional association has asked you to do an educational webinar for its members. Some people can deliver a killer in-person presentation but are very uncomfortable when it comes to presenting to an audience they can’t see. I’ve compiled a few webinar presenter tips that will help ensure that you are equipped to deliver an amazing and memorable presentation.
1. Know Your Audience
Speak the language of your audience. When preparing your webinar presentation, know who will be watching the webinar – companies, organizations, specialties, etc. This will allow you to tailor your presentation so it is valuable and relatable to your attendees.
2. Prepare the Presentation
The webinar should address ONE topic. Do not try to cram too much into a webinar, you will lose your learner and will simply run out of time. Avoid a “death by PowerPoint” presentation. Don’t just read the slides! If you use a PowerPoint, the slides should be prompts on points you need to cover to keep your presentation flowing. With your slides, ensure there is something new to look at every minute or so on the screen. Use powerful images in your presentation that align with your content to keep the audience’s attention.
A great way to include multiple engagement opportunities with webinar attendees to keep them entertained are polls. Create and provide to your facilitator one or two polls to be conducted during your presentation and have attendees enter their answers in the chat box. Some platforms even provide in-time results on the screen.
3. Write down an outline or create a script
The script is a valuable tool to keep you on track and prevent you going on tangents that could cost you time. Scripts should include when to ask webinar attendees a question or request that they answer a poll. To go even further, include when to take a breath and/or pause and also when to advance the slides (especially if you have more than one speaker). This visual cue will keep you in check if you start speaking too quickly or when to change presenters or slides.
Highlight sections that are important to add a little extra energy. With a solid webinar script, you will sign into the webinar fully prepared and ready to go without any hesitations on where to begin. Having said this, don’t let the script make you a robot. Even if you are nervous, keep working to channel the verbal and physical qualities that are unique to you. Audiences want personality! Do not be afraid to let yours come through. You need not to sound scripted or robotic to be an effective speaker.
4. Make sure your facilitator (or host) schedules a practice session
This is the time for mistakes! If your facilitator does not offer a practice session, ask for one. Practice sessions are crucial for a successful webinar. I always schedule a first practice session about a week before the live or final recording session. Scheduling within this timeframe allows speakers to ask questions, correct any timing issues or make edits to the slide presentation before going live. Other benefits of a practice session:
- It provides an opportunity to train on the platform. Whether it is how to advance your PowerPoint slides, type a question in the chat or mute yourself. Without proper preparation and training before a webinar, you may be confused if you are not familiar with their webinar platform. For optimal sound quality, use audio through the computer (VoIP), with a USB headset with microphone to avoid creating feedback/echoing during your presentation. If you consider yourself “technically-challenged” do not hesitate to ask for multiple training sessions until you have it down.
- You and the facilitator will have time to review the agenda and objectives of the webinar content to ensure it aligns with the text on the webinar registration page and that it fulfills the objectives. If there are other speakers, you will have the chance to generate some chemistry.
- Do a dry-run of the entire presentation including the introduction and conclusion. This is especially important if the facilitator or another speaker has prepared them to see if the content is long enough to last the entire length of the webinar, to get you comfortable with your pace, to test the slides, and to determine if and how much time there will be for Q&A.
Sometimes our anxiety can build up and we forget how to pronounce a word or we lose our train of thought. Practicing your presentation can help ensure that you are ready.
Expect at least a few hiccups and be prepared for them. Don’t panic if technical difficulties pop up. If you misspeak or accidentally skip one of your points during the live session, don’t make a show of it. Sometimes it’s best to just keep going.
5. Log in early
Request all key players of the webinar login to the webinar at least 30 minutes before attendees can log on to the webinar. Use this time to do a last review of the content, ensure your engagement tools are set-up, test the sound quality and check that the audio is working. For those who are used to speaking in front of an audience, consider having another person or two in the room. If your webcam is set up on your monitor, have a person sit directly behind it – looking at them will appear you are making eye contact with the viewers. Also, standing up to present (with the right headset to ensure audio quality) can ease you if you are more used to in-person events. Always keep your microphone muted when you are not speaking. Any other presenters, panelists and even the facilitator should do so as well.
6. Game time!
Before the webinar begins, here are some effective preparations for the best staging:
- If you are doing the webinar from a home office, ensure that your children, pets, neighbors, etc., won’t interfere or make any noise during the live webinar. Alternatively, if you are doing the webinar from a work office, find a quiet room with a door where you won’t be disturbed. I’ve found putting up a sign saying, “Live webinar in the process, please keep your voices down.” to be effective.
- Close all your windows, browsers and tabs, leaving only the webinar browser tab open. Turn off your cell phone, email and IM apps on your computer to eliminate potential disruptions.
- Have a glass of water or other beverage close to you without ice. You may need a quick sip and the microphone will pick up the clinking of the ice.
- Select a nice solid colored shirt to wear the day of the webinar, preferably not black.
- Ensure that whatever is shown behind you on the webcam screen is neat and tidy. Eliminate any pictures on the wall that may be considered unprofessional.
- Ensure there is a light set-up behind you. This makes everyone look better on webcam.
- If you are using a portable webcam, make sure you have the best angle on the camera, so it’s not too low or not too high. Ask your facilitator to provide feedback on your position on the webcam: too close will look strange, and too far away will be hard for the audience to see you.
7. After the webinar
A best practice is to offer your contact information to webinar registrants to be able to reach out directly to ask questions. If your facilitator is encouraging or mandating participants to submit evaluations of your presentation, ask for a copy of the results. Evaluations, especially if the respondents are anonymous, provide excellent feedback to improve your next presentation!
Do you need assistance in running your association’s webinars? Contact IMI Association Executives to see what we can do for you!