By Julie Bawden-Davis
While webinars allow for some leeway in terms of formality, they’re not an invitation to ignore pleasantries. Holding a successful webinar that participants take seriously requires employing standard etiquette. For an event that leaves a positive impression, follow this step-by-step guide to good webinar practices.
1. Plan Ahead
Reserve the webinar time and date and send out invitations at least two weeks in advance. Two days before the webinar, email a reminder with the specifics: date, time, URL, pass code and audio dial-in number. Note if the participants must download specific software or use a certain browser. Include a contact phone number in case of technical difficulties.
Prevent last-minute chaos by familiarizing yourself with the webinar system well before the event. Plan to log on early the day of the webinar to make sure everything is working well.
2. Polish, Polish, Polish
In this media age, most people expect to be entertained. While it’s not necessary to have an acting background to hold a webinar, it is important to practice your presentation until it’s near perfect. Hold a mini-webinar with friends and family, and ask for feedback.
3. Start and End on Time
Even if some people are late, start on time as a courtesy to those who arrived on time. In the same respect, if your webinar is scheduled to end at 10, don’t finish at 10:15. If there is a valid reason to go slightly overtime, apologize and excuse those who need to leave before you finish.
4. Clear Up Confusion
At the start of the meeting, make sure that all participants can see the screen or slide and that the audio is working properly. Quickly review how to use features such as chat. Lay the ground rules for asking questions and completing any polls.
5. Provide a Detailed Agenda
Few have the time or patience to board a ship aimlessly headed into uncharted territory. At the beginning of the webinar, display the agenda clearly outlining the topics to be covered. Also share when you’ll hold Q&A sessions and if a recorded edition of the webinar will be available at a later date. Introduce any incentives or value-adds at this time, like raffle prizes and supporting documents.
6. Determine Who’s on First
Having multiple presenters on a webinar is fine, often preferable, but make it clear to the audience from the outset who the moderator is. Introductions should include each presenter’s name, company, affiliations and relevant background. Also display each person’s photo and bio.
7. Use Common Courtesy
The age-old rule of “do unto others … ” applies. Avoid wasting everyone’s time and making yourself look incompetent by not drawing excessive attention to technical issues that arise or commenting on personal, irrelevant topics. Make sure all background noise is muted and avoid making unnecessary noises yourself. Never eat during a webinar. If you will share your desktop, clear it of personal data prior to the event.
8. Provide Added Value Rather than Overselling
If you’re selling something during the webinar, while it’s important to share how to buy the product, it’s equally vital to focus on content so the participants find the webinar worthwhile. Announcing your availability after the webinar to answer any questions can go a long way toward reaching your sales goals.
9. Follow Up
Send an email thanking participants for attending the webinar. Attach any promised information and ask for feedback. Short surveys work well for this purpose.