Keeping Good Webinars From Looking Bad

My business partner Patrick recently asked a group on LinkedIn how many bad webinars they've seen. One gentleman wrote: "Asking me how many bad webinars I've seen is like asking me how many hangovers I've had in college."

Blunt, painful, but true. There are more and more webinars out there (as more and more marketers embrace them as a highly-effective, lead generation tactic). That means more good ones and more bad ones.

How do you demonstrate that yours is one of the good ones? And once a prospect registers, how do you fulfill on that promise?

It's a challenge. Here are some actions you can take to meet it.

Pre-Webinar Podcast

Unless you have Steven Spielberg, Katie Couric, or Nelson Mandela speaking at your webinar, a speaker's name will rarely increase registrations. If not their name, what about their voice? Can you use it to establish their bona fides as a presenter?

Does your speaker have a charming British accent or endearing Texas twang or speak with genuine gusto? Your prospective attendees would love to know.

Does the speaker talk to listeners' needs? Does he or she make the material relatable? Prospective attendees would like to know if the speaker is not only knowledgeable, but also relevant and instructive.

As a writer, I believe in the power of written words. Still, they rarely replace a person's voice.

Your Assignment: Create a pre-webinar podcast. This is a 3-4 minute audio recording. It has an (anonymous) host who introduces the webinar topic and speaker and who asks some concise questions, such as:

The speaker then has space to advise, joke, teach, share, explain, and story-tell. Add some bumper music to the beginning and end and you have yourself a podcast.

The businesspeople you invite to your webinar can now form an instant impression of the speaker and can sign up with the confidence (presumably) that your webinar's speaker will be a good one.

One-to-One Conversations

Imagine sitting at your dining room table. Your friend is prepping you for a statistics exam—except he is speaking from behind a tabletop podium, projecting into a microphone, looking past you, and talking to an imaginary crowd.

This is how I feel listening to most webinars. I'm at my desk trying to learn something and the voice coming through my speakers isn't talking to me.

I feel this way because webinar speakers typically make the mistake of speaking to webinar attendees the same way they speak to an in-person seminar group. But with webinars, there is no group.

The speaker is talking to attendees who, for the most part, are listening alone at their desks. While a webinar may have 50-200 attendees listening, the speaker is having 50-200 one-on-one conversations.

Your Assignment: Have someone sit across from the webinar speaker while they present. Have the speaker talk to that person. Why? It is that one-on-one dynamic that works best and that you want to create.

As one example benefit, the speaker would have to speak in first and second person, using "you" and "I" or "we." Adobe's white paper, Leveraging Multimedia for Learning, explains why this is so powerful:

Have you ever been in a conversation when someone asks you a question and you realize you have not heard much of what was said? All of us feel embarrassed when we are caught not attending to someone talking to us.

This social convention is the basis for… "the personalization principle." According to this idea, learning is better when participants in eLearning feel they are engaged in a conversation.

To engage your learners in a social experience, use informal… first and second person language.… [We've] found that just a few simple changes in language that involved adding "you" and "we" pronouns resulted in dramatic improvements in learning.

The reason is that at an unconscious level, we tend to process more deeply when we are in a social-like setting.

Another benefit of delivering a webinar in front of another person is that the speaker talks at the proper volume, instead of overly projecting.

This happened in a pre-webinar technical check I recently did. When I had a conversation with the presenter during the tech check, the volume was fine because we were talking one-on-one.

Once the webinar went live, I had to re-adjust a number of audio settings because the speaker was talking much louder (and causing distortion) because he thought he was speaking to a large group and no longer to just one person.

Be Specific

Marketers, executives, and practitioners want to learn something at your webinar. They want to leave with specific actions they can take to improve their performance.

Strategy, philosophy, and bulleted best practices provide nice-to-knows but not happy-to-haves. Specific examples, case studies, exercises, and stories provide the juicy material people remember.

After listening to John Verry of Pivot Point Security in an on-demand webinar, I have added dialogue as another item to the being-specific list.

"Leveraging Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) to Reduce Web App Data Breach Risk" is not a topic I had heard of or cared anything about. (It relates to server security.) Yet he had me deeply interested in it by using dialogue. Here is what I mean:

 

John didn't give me the big picture, or the result, or an overview. John took me word-for-word through his thinking process as it happened with a client.

I could visualize the conversation. I heard first hand his line of thinking and the problems companies create for themselves. It was as riveting as OWASP could ever be for me and I will now hire Pivot Point Security if I ever have a data breach problem.

Your Assignment: The adage for selling professional services is show don't tell. Sampling a conversation you had with a client powerfully shows webinar attendees how you think and perform in action.

Talk with a colleague about some really helpful exchanges you've had with a client or two. Jot notes of how that conversation unfolded word-by-word. You'll then have material to use in a webinar that will be as powerful as John's. Just be sure you use it.

Polish Your Silver

The promise of 40-pound silver bars lured Spanish treasure ships across oceans hundreds of years ago. Relevant, instructive content is the most enticing marketing offer a professional service firm can provide to its prospective clients. Make sure you display your content properly so that your prospects know how good it is and go after it.

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