8 More Tips for Effective and Engaging Webinars

Webinar

By Julie Bawden-Davis

It’s no easy feat to hold an effective webinar that keeps participants engaged and not distracted by what’s on their desks or watching the clock to see how long until it’s over. The key to a must-see and stay event is adapting your presentation to the webinar environment. These 8 tips will help you hook and keep an audience.

1. Introduce Yourself

Depending on how you set up the webinar, attendees may not see you right away or at all during the presentation. Start with a welcome slide that includes your head-shot and that of anyone assisting you. Label the photos with names and titles. Those listening will be more engaged if they can put a face to the voice.

2. Choose a Narrow Topic

It’s hard for webinar participants to get excited with an unfocused, broad topic, no matter how thoroughly you cover the subject. Attendees are much more likely to be pulled into your webinar and stay with you when the topic pinpoints a particular concern or walks them through how to accomplish a certain task.

3. Deliver Exceptional Content

Webinar organizers sometimes get so caught up in the logistics and mechanics of the webinar that they forget the importance of content. Superior graphics alone won’t keep participants engaged. Craft a presentation that persuades, inspires, educates or informs your attendees. The best way to do this is to consider that each of your viewers will ask himself or herself—what’s in it for me if I stick with this webinar? You want your attendees to obtain useful takeaways and feel satisfied that they stayed until the end.

4. Use Memorable Visuals

To keep participants engaged, introduce visually appealing graphics and photos that get your message across, including short videos. Use text-based,
bulleted materials sparingly. A static list on the page while you drone on will cause participants to lose interest.

5. Pay Attention to Pacing

Many online meetings make the mistake of either screeching through information so quickly that attendees have difficulty comprehending, or they repeat the same information so many times at tortoise speed that everyone but the speaker is asleep or gone by the end. Strike a balance and keep things exciting by providing just enough time in between points for attendees to take notes.

6. Involve Participants

Asking participants for their involvement during the webinar keeps their interest piqued. Starting at the beginning and throughout the online presentation, encourage interaction with attendees through on-line polls, quizzes and by opening up the floor for questions. Offer incentives for participation, such as raffle prizes.

7. Stand Up and Walk Around

If the audience sees you presenting during the webinar, rather than giving a static impression by staying seated, introduce a dynamic element by getting up and walking around like you would in a face-to-face presentation.

8. Rehearse

Practice might not make your webinar perfect, but it will make it engaging.

How do you keep your audiences interested and engaged throughout your webinars? Let us know in the comments.

What My First Social Media Webinar Taught Me

Computer Girl
Your first webinar can be scary, but you'll get the hang of it

By Anita Hovey, Twirp Communications

THIS IS A SPECIAL GUEST POST BY ONE OF OUR ANYMEETING USERS. WANT TO WRITE FOR THE ANYMEETING BLOG? GET THE DETAILS.


My first webinar on anymeeting.com was interesting for so many reasons, not the least of which was the fact that I was having a conversation with people I had known in cyber space for years. I offered a free webinar about Facebook features and tactics to my e-friends from the papercrafting community as a means for me to test out the anymeeting.com platform. I was scared to schedule a “real” webinar until I had done a test run and the papercrafting community has given me so much, this seemed like perfect way for me to give back a little something. Here are some observations from my first webinar.

Talking to Yourself
It’s really hard to concentrate on what you’re saying when you’re staring yourself in the face…and that face is time-lapsed just a tiny bit. Once you get moving and get on to the slidehow or screen-sharing portion of the webinar it’s much easier. At first I put the screen share up, but I quickly realized that sometimes the screen share just isn’t that interesting. You have to remember to come back to your face when there’s really nothing happening on the screen. I tried to switch back to my “talking head” during long explanations so at least the audience would have something dynamic to look at. After a little while the switching back and forth became intuitive and I learned to look at other parts of the screen when my face was on-screen.

Talking to an Invisible Audience
It’s really hard to talk to yourself for two whole hours when there are no faces looking back at you. Because this was a free webinar I opted for chat only and I didn’t enable any voice inputs. I missed the instant interaction I was used to with in-person workshops because:

  1. You can’t tell if they’re awake.
  2. You can’t tell if they’re listening.
  3. You can’t even tell if they’re still in the room!

To overcome this, when I asked a question I would simply wait for the answers to pop up in chat–it didn’t take very long–and then I would continue. At this point I would always make sure the screen was showing me reading or waiting, so the audience knew I was still there and not “timed out” or something like that.

Ummm, Errr, Ahhhh
I still say “um” a LOT. I don’t know if the participants noticed it, but I sure did. Years ago when I was on the public speaking team in high school my English teacher worked really hard to get me to the point where I didn’t do that. Now it’s back and I’m disgusted by it. I always notice it in other people, so it really bugs me when I catch myself doing it. Better preparation will prevent that next time.

Doing the Necessary
Sometimes you just have to do something…it can’t wait! I was scared to death to touch my nose when it got itchy because I didn’t want anyone thinking I was doing anything gross. You can always pull up a screen shot at that point, I guess, but I didn’t think of that in time.

Overall, my first webinar went very well. The participants learned a lot and so did I. Another win-win.

Have you given a webinar? What was your experience like? Share your thoughts in the comments.

5 Ways to Prevent Boring Webinars

Boring
Follow these tips to make sure your webinar is not a snoozer

By Angela Stringfellow

Few words in a busy professional’s world can cause such deep sighs and rolled eyes as “webinar”. The virtual meeting held via the Internet is often perceived as a schedule buster, a mundane exercise in futility, a manager’s way of keeping tabs, a corporate executive’s way of hearing his or her own voice.  It’s only mildly comforting that 200 of the company’s best are feeling the same way; each receiving the same mandatory “join” invite.

In that moment when you realize you’re not alone, you also quickly realize that a webinar of such magnitude is going to lead to either a very boring, moderator-driven call or complete chaos with participants speaking over one another, asking the same questions over and over, or providing too much information and extending the length of the call indefinitely.  Is it really necessary, and more important, is it really effective to have this kind of meeting?

Webinars are a crucial tool in the business world. They provide mass audiences with crucial and timely information in situations where emails cannot convey the importance, the urgency or sometimes even the emotion that is needed.

For many, putting together a successful, interactive online meeting is a daunting task. Here are five tips to help make your next online collaboration a success.

1. Moderator Interaction: Nothing is worse than listening to a moderator speak for two hours straight.  It is essential for a successful remote meeting to have some sort of interaction among the participants. Whether it be through instant message or verbally, ask participants questions. With larger groups it’s often difficult to see if everyone has interacted, so it’s up to the moderator to call on participants to answer questions. By keeping the participants on their toes, they’re more likely to retain the information being presented.

2. Best Practices/Questions: Allow the group to share best practices or ask questions of other group members. Often, the moderator has the expertise on the topic, but the participants are in the trenches.  For example, in a sales environment, management may know the figures, the analytics and strategies, but the sales professionals know the market and the ins and out of the field.  They are able to share best practices with one another or ask questions of their colleagues.

3. Preparation: When working with a large online group, providing the attendees with necessary documents prior to the meeting is essential, unless breaking or bad news — like corporate down-sizing or mergers — is being shared.  If it’s simply a sales plan or projections, send the slide presentation or accompanying files ahead of time.  This will help attendees come prepared, with questions already formulated, which will help with interaction.

4. Keep an Open Mind: People are going to be multitasking as the meeting is taking place.  There will be moments when information is missed.  If the moderator calls on someone who missed the question because he was attending to another matter, give that person a do-over, a mulligan.  Allow for one mulligan, one trip to Bermuda or one siesta with no questions asked.  Then, perhaps, pose the next question to that same person.

5. Follow Up: Assign someone to coordinate the questions and answers that are raised during the meeting and to get them to the participants as soon as possible.  There is nothing more frustrating that being told that the answers to the questions presented will be emailed shortly, then nothing comes.  Following through with requests and sometimes demands, will build trust among the participants and they will be more willing to participate again.

In addition, provide opportunity for feedback. Let the team members have the opportunity to share their thoughts and views on the meeting.

With the advances in today’s technologies and more and more opportunities available for remote meetings, the days of traveling to meeting centers is quickly coming to an end.  Creating a forum for meetings is essential. Creating one that fosters teamwork and interaction is paramount.

What do you do to keep your audience engaged during webinars? Let us know in the comments.

9 Tips for Better Webinars

Exciting-Webinar
Want this guy to cheer? Follow these tips for your next webinar.

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.

How To Put On A Killer Webinar Featuring Ken Molay (Sign Ups)

Ken Molay
Webinar Guru Ken Molay will lead the way

10/20/2011 Update: How to Put on a Killer Webinar is now available on-demand

Have you ever wished there was a “how to” guide for hosting a perfect webinar?

If you’ve ever hosted a webinar, or even participated in one, you probably (rather quickly) got the sense that creating a successful and engaging webinar is an art of its own.  We know that at least some of you got this feeling, because we here at AnyMeeting have been overwhelmed with questions on how to host a successful webinar.

In response to your concerns, we’re coming to your rescue!  Naturally, we’ve gone out and recruited one of the best webinar experts around, Ken Molay, who will present “How To Put On A Killer Webinar” on Tuesday October 18th at 10am PDT.  Ken Molay is a business webinar veteran, having been producing and delivering business webinars since 1999.  His background in public speaking, stage acting and corporate training has helped him gain insights into how to deliver compelling presentations. He  offers consulting services through his company Webinar Success where you can also find a vast amount of web conferencing tips.

Who should sign up and why?

This will be a valuable webinar for anyone that is involved in the planning, managing or presenting of web seminars. It will be very helpful for current webinar users and those that are on the fence and curious about webinars for future use. Ken Molay will help you gain a better understanding, or enlighten you, on how webinars can benefit your organization and why they should be a part of your communication tool box.

You’ll leave the webinar with a step by step instruction guide on how to host a fail proof webinar. The best part about all this is that it’s free. Sound too good to be true?  Well, there is a little catch…we only have a limited number of “seats” available, so sign up now!

How To: Write a Killer Blog Post

Robot Blogger

Guest post By Susan Johnston

Susan Johnston has written for AOL Jobs, The Boston Globe, Mediabistro.com, Parade Magazine, and SELF, among other places. 

Blogs are a powerful way to engage customers and attract new ones. But with so many businesses turning out blog content, it’s not enough to throw up a few quick posts and hope for the best. Here’s how to ensure that your blog posts stand out.

  1. Craft an Enticing Headline
    Without an eye-catching headline, it’s unlikely that people will even read your blog post. That’s why it’s worth spending the time to brainstorm a headline that will pique curiosity and encourage clicks. Blog headlines should be short, specific (don’t make readers guess), and make the reader want to know more. For instance, “How I Doubled My Twitter Following in Two Months” is better than “How to Build Your Brand and Attract New Customers With a Strong Twitter Presence.” But remember that your post should deliver on the headline’s promise, so don’t go overboard with the hyperbole.
  2. Incorporate Relevant Keywords 
    The goal with SEO is to mention your target keywords while still sounding like a real human being instead of a spambot who spews out keywords by the minute. Try to include your most important keyword or phrase in your headline and a secondary one in the first paragraph of your post but keep it natural and conversational. This may mean trying a few different combinations before you find the right balance, but the pay-off is that readers will understand immediately what your post is about and search engines will correctly index your content so future readers can find it.
  3. Turn Your Topic on its Head
    One way to create irresistible blog posts that attract comments and links is by taking the opposite point of view from the crowd. If everyone is blogging about how to grow your circles on Google+, you might blog about why having smaller, but more engaged circles is actually more valuable. Or you could draw surprising comparisons between your topic and some aspect of pop culture. Is there some parallel between SEO and your favorite TV program? Does Lady Gaga teach us something about building a brand? Get creative to find ideas that go beyond the obvious.
  4. Use Blog-Friendly Formatting 
    Blog readers expect posts to be formatted differently than a book or newspaper article. Keep paragraphs short and use sub-headlines, numbered lists, or bullet points to add white space between each point and make posts more skimmable. Also include a call to action and encourage readers to leave comments or ask questions.
  5. Add a Related Image
    They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, so it’s always a good idea to include images to accompany your posts. Photos offer visual keys that reinforce the topic of your post and also break up the text (see number 4). Be sure to include alt text and title your images descriptively (“Maui Wedding” instead of “PGH12458.jpg”) so that they’ll show up in image searches. Also keep in mind that your image doesn’t have to be a literal depiction of your topic. For instance, if your post is about celebrating milestones in your small business, you might choose a photo of a birthday cake or a glass of champagne. Search for images that are royalty-free or buy stock images to avoid copyright issues.

In keeping with tip number 4, what do you think of these? Is there anything you would add? Do tell! 

AnyMeeting Calls for Authors

Write for Anymeeting
Write for AnyMeeting

Do you like to write? Do you have your own blog or articles to share? If you create great content that helps our users, we want to talk to you.

We’re looking for material about:

  • Web meetings
  • Web conferencing
  • Webinars
  • Presentation skills
  • Small business tips
  • Social media advice
  • How To: Use small business tools
  • Marketing tips
  • Non-Profit resources

Here’s what’s in it for you:
You’ll be featured on our AnyMeeting blog that has a global audience of small business and non-profit users. The best articles will also be added to our email newsletter with over 60,000 subscribers.

Your name, business and a link to your site will help drive traffic to your website. It’s a win-win. Our users get great content, and you get more exposure.

Remember our audience is mostly small business owners and non-profits.

To apply, email Bobm(at)AnyMeeting.com with the following:

  • Name
  • Email
  • Website
  • Links to previous blog posts or articles
  • The post you are submitting for review (not previously posted publicly)