Tips and Tricks for Keeping Your Online Audience Engaged Throughout Your Entire Webinar

Webinars offer an ideal way to connect with an online audience that often surpasses live gatherings, which makes them the meeting of choice for many.

This is especially true for speakers motivated to connect with as many participants as possible in a single gathering. However, keeping an online audience engaged can be tricky. That’s why we’re sharing some of our key tips and tricks for keeping an online audience engaged throughout your entire webinar.

Identifying the Challenges

Although webinars offer significant benefits over live meetings, it’s important to remember that there are some unique challenges to consider when presenting a webinar to an online audience.

With a screen (and potentially hundreds of miles) between you and listeners, zoning out during a webinar can be commonplace amongst an online audience. Simply pushing the mute button on a session is all it takes to multi-task during a webinar that isn’t completely holding your audience’s attention.

In order to avoid the dreaded webinar “tune out,” you will have to up your engagement game during the session. This will ensure your online audience remains plugged in during your entire demonstration. Implementing several proven tips and tricks for keeping your online audience engaged throughout your entire webinar can help keep everyone on task.

When planning for success with your next webinar, consider the following advice:

 

What’s Your Point?

Don’t go into your webinar with an extensive range of topics and ideas you’d like to cover during your session.

Going too broad with your dialogue can almost guarantee you’ll lose the attention of your listeners at various points if they determine that what you’re talking about isn’t relevant or interesting to them personally.

When choosing the topic of your presentation, get as specific as possible so all users logging in understand exactly what they will be listening to during your time together. Also, know going into the topics selection process that pinpointing an outline that works for everyone is virtually impossible.

It’s better to develop a webinar that makes a significant impact on a smaller audience than one that covers far too much information and loses traction with a larger one. If you’re not sure how to select an engaging topic that will resonate with your niche, ask.

Consult with your team for ideas or send along a survey directly to your demographic to ask what they want to know more about so you can focus your event accordingly.

 

Get Specific About Your Benefits

Choosing the right topic is only the first step in successfully connecting with your listeners. Beyond the points you’ll discuss in your session, you will also want to outline why it’s your online audience’s best interest to attend.

Get specific about what each listener in your online audience will reap from attending your webinar. Seeing the list of benefits offered by your conference will pique their interest and help keep them on point with you throughout the discussion.

 

Command Attention Right at the Start

Don’t rely on a long buildup to captivate your online audience.

Make it your mission to command attention as soon as you start speaking. Avoid spending too much time with introductions and miscellaneous details.

Instead, get the intros done quickly, move on to an engaging (albeit succinct) anecdote and then dig into the meat of your presentation. Keep it concise to let attendees know right at the start you won’t be wasting precious time on monotonous details and will be keeping the discussion moving forward. It’s an excellent way to keep them listening.

 

Make it a Dialogue, Not a Monologue

allow webinar participants to submit questions and responses in real time

It’s no secret that the discussions we remember most are the ones we get a chance to participate in; the same holds true for your webinar’s online audience.

As a presenter, you have options. You can choose to speak at them, droning on (and on…and on…) about countless details and facts and risk losing their attention; or, you can speak with them, continuously asking for their input, feedback and opinions to ensure they stay plugged in no matter how long the presentation runs.

You can actually use your webinar software to help with this; today’s webinar technology allows your participants to submit questions and responses in real time. As a host, make moderating and integrating these comments a priority so your attendees remain attentive.

 

Stay Charged!

Don’t underestimate your responsibility to keep everyone listening.

Rule of thumb: it’s not (entirely) about what you say…it really is how you say it. Even the most compelling presentation can have lackluster results if it’s delivered with ho-hum energy. Keeping your online audience engaged is the key to an effective webinar.

Do your part; make an effort to keep your energy level up when speaking to keep your participants connected to what you have to say.

Turn nervousness into excitement by moving around when speaking. Also, whenever possible, create natural-feeling interruptions to help break up the potential monotony of too many consecutive slides. This will help keep your participants plugged-in and on their toes.

Finally, repeat your previous point before moving on to your next one to really reinforce your message to listeners.

The best way to guarantee you have what it takes to give a dynamic speech? Practice. Do as many dry runs as needed to really nail down your delivery to resonate best with attendees.

 

Give Your Online Audience Bragging Rights

Everyone loves a chance to show off what they’ve learned. Keep this in mind during your online presentation. If you’re hosting a training session, tell your online audience that there will be a brief quiz at the event’s conclusion for them to earn professional development credits – it’s a guaranteed way to keep them engaged at all times.

The quiz approach can add value even if you’re not hosting a training event. Use end-of-sessions quizzes to encourage participants to earn points, achieve recognition or even receive discounts off of products to ensure they are encouraged to listen to your webinar.

 

Diversify Your Speakers

Know some industry thought leaders that also love to work a great webinar? Ask them to speak at yours. Creating a panel of presenters who all offer something just a little bit different than everyone else will immediately build buzz around your webinar.

Most importantly, when you do go live, changing hosts can keep the energy up in your virtual meeting room, encouraging everyone logged in to pay attention to the information being shared.

keep your online audience engaged with diverse webinar presenters

 

Test Your Audio

Audio is important during any type of gathering. However, sound quality may prove even more critical during an online session than a face-to-face meeting.

No one wants to hear the dreaded, “can you hear me now?” during a webinar.

If one segment of your attendees are struggling to hear what’s being said, you may find yourself spinning wheels trying to remedy the sound situation while simultaneously losing the interest of the attendees who actually can hear you.

Before you go live, optimize your audio input options based on the system you’re using as well as perform audio checks to ensure your online audience gets the royal sound system treatment.

 

Manage Your Time Wisely

Always consider your listeners’ busy schedules when developing your webinar presentation. No one wants to log into a conference only to feel like they’re being held hostage for the next several hours. Those who stay on at a webinar that is too long (and even those that disconnect before you end) will feel resentful and taken advantage of.

Prove that you value and respect their time by creating a conference that runs no longer than 60 minutes.

As a general rule of thumb, 45 minutes for speaking with 15 minutes at the end for questions should provide a manageable balance for participants to remain attentive throughout the webinar.

 

Set Aside a Specific Q&A Section

You should always allow for questions throughout the session to hold listeners’ attention. However, setting aside time near the end of the event for a final question and answer period can keep attendees listening for the whole webinar.

When sending out an agenda, be sure to list out the different Q&A segments you plan to host. This will help your online audience know that it’s worth staying until the very end to ask their questions. It will also let them know that they will be able to hear what others may inquire about after hearing your presentation in its entirety.

Worried no one will have anything to ask? Fret not; come prepared with some of your own relevant questions to build momentum. Chances are, the rest of your attendees will follow suit.

 

Save the Best for Last

Reward your attendees for tuning in throughout your entire presentation.

After setting aside time for a thorough question and answer segment, you may want to consider offering a giveaway of some sort.

Let participants know that at the end of the discussion, listeners will receive an added perk.  Examples include: free resources, promotional discounts or even access to exclusive products.

In short, never underestimate the power of the freebie to keep your online audience engaged throughout your entire webinar.

 

Conclusion

There are many ways to engage an online audience during your entire webinar. If you use the suggestions above, you’re guaranteed to host a successful online event from start to finish.

If you’re looking for powerful webinar software, BigMarker can help. Sign up for a 14-day free trial today. Or send us a message if you have a question.

 

Why and How to Host a Q&A Session During Your Webinar

Live webinars offer a model forum for speakers to deliver information and innovation to the masses, all in a single online session. However, many webinar presenters miss out on one key advantage of real-time communication: audience interaction. To avoid losing the interest of your participants, hosting a webinar Q&A session is an excellent way to engage your audience.

 

The Why: Benefits Of Hosting a Webinar Q&A Session During Your Webinar

 

More often than not, webinar hosts simply run through their slides and notecards, hoping that their message somehow sticks without encouraging a dialogue with listeners. In other words, they talk at the audience, rather than with them. As a result, they miss out on the chance to make a meaningful connection with the listeners and may risk losing their attention before the presentation ends.

 

Benefits Of Hosting a Webinar Q&A Session During Your Webinar

 

Generating an intentional webinar Q&A dialogue between you and your audience that yields sustainable impact can be a surprisingly straightforward fix. If you feel like you’re simply racing through a planned itinerary without actually connecting with your crowd, using a webinar Q&A in your next live session can prove an easy solution.

In this section, we’ll share the reasons why you should start integrating webinar Q&A sessions during your live webinars. Beyond enhancing interaction and engagement with listeners, allowing for a question and answer segment in your conference yields a wide range of benefits, including:

 

Hold Attendee Interest

Hosting a webinar means working hard to command and hold audience interest from start to finish. Allowing for inquiries throughout your session via webinar Q&A can pique guest interest and encourage listeners to stay tuned in so they don’t miss an opportunity to ask for the specific information they need.

Boost Energy Levels

Not only can a webinar Q&A hold audience interest, it can also prove a major mood boost throughout your session. As you hit various time milestones in your web conference, you may find that energy levels take a dip. However, you’ll notice an instant upswing in energy levels when you take a break from speaking and ask others for input.

 

Watch the full Wednesday Webinar Wisdom episode on hosting a webinar Q&A session 

 

Personalize Your Brand

Webinars provide an excellent way to help your listeners put a face to your brand…without an actual face-to-face meeting. Fielding questions via webinar Q&A is a great way to humanize the session and achieve a more personal connection with your audience. The audience collaboration can ultimately further strengthening brand identity and exposure.

 

Establish Industry Authority

Anyone can read a script. However, subject matter experts can effectively answer most ad hoc inquiries. Providing information during a webinar Q&A can establish your credibility on any given topic as well as build trust (another key ingredient to developing brand identity) with your participants.

 

Emphasize Message / Promote Brand

Every question you take acts as another opportunity to reinforce your message and most salient selling points. Directly promoting your specific products/services in the presentation segment can feel forced and set an awkward vibe. However, during the webinar Q&A section, with its more informal tone often lends itself to a more comfortable way to market your brand.

Best of all, every audience member will have a chance to hear your answers, further reinforcing your overall speaking objectives.

 

Strengthen Your Future Webinar Presentations

Most importantly, including a webinar Q&A segment in your presentation can deliver a major return on investment for future webinars. Write down every question you field; each inquiry grants you invaluable insight on information that interests your audience. Additionally, writing down the questions you receive will help you strengthen your delivery the next time someone asks it.

 

The How: Optimize Results With Your Webinar Q&A

 

Now that you understand why you should include a webinar Q&A segments in your webinar, it’s important to know how to effectively implement them throughout your conference. A successful inquiry session requires strategic planning and preparation. However, don’t let the process intimidate you. Knowing a few easy-to-implement tips can help maximize impact with your webinar Q&A.

 

Optimize your webinar q&a session

 

Put Inquiry Segments On The Agenda

Don’t simply verbalize you’ll allow for questions; list these segments on your webinar agenda or on one of your introductory slides for all participants to see. Putting the webinar Q&A session in writing lets them know what to expect during the presentation. Knowing when you’ll pause for input can encourage your attendees to stay focused on what you have to say until it’s their turn to speak again.

 

Know Your Audience

Every webinar has a specific targeted audience. Knowing who’s tuning in allows you to modify your presentation for your participants. There are many factors to consider when customizing your session for each individual listener. Think about details such as:

  • Attendee demographics (geographic location, age, etc.)
  • Degree of formality
  • Relationship to attendees: Peers, clients, students, etc.

Knowing this information prior to your live webinar can help you create a final session that truly resonates with your guests and prompts thoughtful inquiries.

Also, when speaking to multiple people at a single company, you will also want to customize your online conference to suit each individual organization. Modify your template to include brand-specific information; tailoring every webinar will provide a comfort level to listeners and encourage them to participate in the webinar Q&A segments of your presentation.

 

Come Prepared

If it’s your first time hosting a webinar on a specific subject or topic, you will want to proactively anticipate some potential questions so you can come prepared with articulate answers that help further emphasize your main points. Similarly, if you’ve presented on an upcoming topic before, you should think about questions that have been asked in the past. Use any notes as a guide (and not as a script) so you sound natural when answering.

Going forward, put a plan in place to have someone take notes of all questions asked during the webinar. Tracking trends in what people want to know more about can give you insight on tailoring your exhibition in the future.

Pro Tip: Come prepared with a few relevant questions you think your audience would likely ask. Then, if none of your attendees ask questions at the beginning of your webinar Q&A, you’ll have a few backup questions to share to keep the momentum going. Oftentimes, webinar Q&A sessions are slow to start, so preparing a few canned questions will help break the ice.

Include Panelists

Nothing says a live webinar should only have one speaker throughout its duration. In fact, adding panelists into the discussion can have a significant impact on the session’s results, particularly during the webinar Q&A segments. Co-hosts with unique areas of expertise can offer invaluable insight to listeners beyond the basic scope of your demonstration.

Guest speakers can also deliver an added dynamic to the webinar Q&A session, further entrenching your brand with everyone who has tuned in. Finally, adding panelists during the questioning can add a very practical perk; it can provide an opportunity for you to rest and catch your breath a bit before you have to start presenting again.

 

Offer Instructions

Yes, really.

If you’re hosting a webinar Q&A session via chat submissions, you’ll want to tell your audience how and where to submit their questions.

If you opt for a live audio Q&A, sharing instructions is even more critical. You may be surprised to learn just how often background noise and the inability to un-mute a microphone adversely affect a webinar. Fortunately, high-performing software programs make the entire process fairly intuitive; however, you always run the risk of barking dogs and unplanned “dead air” silence ruining the flow of your speech if users aren’t given a little advance instruction. Give your participants a quick tutorial before beginning the session so they will know how to quickly go from listener to speaker when the time comes for inquiries.

 

Set Time Limits

It’s important to set upfront time limits with your webinar Q&A sessions. You have limited bandwidth to get your information to the group. Fielding questions for an extensive stretch not only gets you off track, but you also run the risk of losing the attention of audience members who simply want to keep moving forward with the demonstration. Worried of having to cut questions short? Don’t be; tell listeners who haven’t had a chance to ask their questions that you’ll happily connect with them after the webinar.

 

Offer Topic Suggestions

If you distribute webinar Q&A sessions throughout your presentation, you may want to offer topic suggestions for each segment so it’s relevant to what’s been most recently outlined in the demonstration. Also, when giving your audience a focus, it’s okay to also outline subjects that will not be discussed, such as confidential information or products/services not yet available.

 

Expect The Pregnant Pause

Sometimes a crowd needs a little push to actively participate in your Q&A. Nerves and fear of asking something irrelevant can prevent people from speaking up. Make it as easy as possible on them; combat the prolonged pregnant pause by proactively offering up various topics that often warrant questions. They will welcome you getting them started. Even a gentle nudge can encourage them to keep the momentum going.

 

Value Attendee Input

Your audience wants to feel like you actually value their input. Go beyond just answering what they ask. Give them encouragement by thanking them for their inquiry and showcasing to the audience the thoughtfulness and insight behind the question. Not only will valuing their input encourage them to ask again during other webinar Q&A segments, it will also inspire others to get in on the conversation as well.

 

Be Honest

Honesty is always the best policy when managing your webinar Q&A. Many speakers feel tempted to embellish or over-promise as a way to captivate the audience. While you may gain some momentary attention during your webinar, exaggeration will generally bring backlash. Always give straightforward, honest answers to establish credibility and build trust amongst your audience. Additionally, don’t be afraid to let a questioner know if you didn’t understand what’s being asked.

Whether you need further clarification or it’s simply a technology issue hindering your audio, take the time to let listeners know you didn’t quite catch what’s being asked. Most importantly, if you don’t know the answer, say so. Not only will your guests appreciate your honesty, it also gives you a reason to follow up with them once you have an answer, for future conversations, the ultimate webinar win.

 

 

Get started!

To begin hosting your own amazing webinars, check out BigMarker.

Sign up for a 14-day free trial today! Or, send us a message if you have any questions.

 

 

 

Sources

http://blog.clickmeeting.com/10-ways-to-make-your-webinar-qa-rock-the-house

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/8-benefits-having-qa-session-during-your-webinar-karen-repoli