Webinar software grants the unique opportunity to connect with the masses instantly, making it an effective way to expedite the impact of any specific message. However, if you want your audience to retain your message it is imperative to structure a presentation that encourages attendee interaction. In this article we will share five tips for hosting more effective, engaging webinars.
Know The Challenges Associated With Video Conferencing Solutions
Despite the many benefits offered by webinar hosting, it’s important to remember that this particular medium is still, at its core, a meeting. Like other meeting formats, web conferencing often faces one formidable opponent: distraction.
Attendees of both virtual and live gatherings face a multitude of potential disruptions at any given moment, and often simultaneously. Incoming emails, text messages, and phone calls can inundate your audience throughout your time together, tempting them to tune you out and focus on other things.
Also, unlike in-person meetings, these online conferences don’t provide real-time attendee responses and visual cues. The absence of body language and facial expressions from your attendees can sometimes make it challenging to determine how well a presentation is going, or effectively gauge crowd focus. In order to achieve maximum success with your listeners, it’s critical to carefully craft an engaging webinar that commands (and holds) attention from start to finish.
5 Tips to Keep Webinar Attendees Tuned-In
Once you recognize some of the similarities and differences between live and virtual conferences, you can proactively strategize ways to keep your audience captivated and engaged. When putting together your presentation, consider these five important suggestions to create compelling material that resonates with attendees and leaves a lasting impression.
Tip #1: Pick an Enticing Webinar Topic
Topic selection should top your priority list when developing your presentation. The best way to choose a pertinent subject is to know your targeted audience. Rather than settling for a generic, (read: overdone) theme, familiarize yourself with your attendees so you can chose a distinctive topic that adds a perceived value.
Don’t strive to simply inform; instead, make your ultimate goal to address and solve a specific problem your viewers may face. Beyond knowing your audience, you should also know your subject matter. In short, teach what you know. Select a focus area where you can establish yourself as an invaluable resource to gain the crowd’s trust.
Even if you know your audience and subject matter, you still may struggle to identify a relevant focus. Tap into available resources to help with your search, beginning with your existing blog and social media accounts. Scan through your articles and page updates to find topics that proactively solicited follower comments and subsequent shares. These popular posts can offer an invaluable starting point for material that your guests will want to learn more about.
If you find you’re still struggling to find something worth discussing, ask your audience. Send out a questionnaire with specific inquiries about existing trends and issues they’d like to learn more about. Asking for their input can prove a powerful way to get their buy in before you kick off your event.
Bonus Topic Note: Once you’ve designated your topic and created your outline, get the word out. Use social media to connect with the crowd well before your lecture date. Create a unique hashtag for your workshop and begin sharing it on all your pages to promote the value and benefits your session will deliver. Relevant posts that use your designated hashtag can help pique interest, encourage followers to share information about your event and even serve as a way to interact with attendees after your webinar for added influence.
Tip #2: Remember Content Is King
Choosing an enticing subject is not enough. In order to ensure successful, engaging webinars, you must develop high-quality, relevant content to truly captivate your attendees and hold their attention. When creating your materials, employ both visual and audio strategies to deliver an optimal sensory experience.
Start with your visual presentation. Incorporate eye-catching colors, bold images and easy-to-read graphs to command attention. Use concise text on each page that you can elaborate on verbally throughout your lecture. When using graphs and charts, don’t embellish; use proven data and statistics to establish trust with listeners. Finally, refresh slides often (a general rule of thumb is to refresh to a new slide every 2 minutes) to maintain a dynamic, stimulating visual throughout the meeting.
You should also carefully consider your verbal content component. Talk to your guest, not at them to encourage their investment in your message. Resist the urge to dive right into your list of action items and meeting agenda; it runs the risk of kicking off your web conference with a giant virtual yawn.
Instead, start your time together by sharing a compelling, yet relevant, anecdote that sets an inviting tone and grabs your audience’s focus. Once you’ve garnered their interest, move forward with your presentation, addressing them as individuals (rather than a group) as often as possible to personalize each listener’s overall experience.
Bonus Content Note: Many speakers hand out all webinar slides and notes prior to the session, for various reasons. Some want guests to familiarize themselves with the material in advance. Others send the material as a backup in case something goes awry with their online connection. Whatever the motivation, many attendees may simply view an advanced glimpse of a presentation as an invitation to multitask (read emails, answer calls, etc.) during the conference, confident they can catch up on the information later. Build their anticipation by keeping your materials to yourself until after the initial discussion.
Tip #3: Encourage Participation
Perhaps the quickest way to lose listeners? Failing to recognize that it’s not a video monologue, it’s a video conference. Audience interaction and participation are two major advantages of implementing engaging webinars. Yet, many hosts fail to engage guests in an active discussion; instead, they race through their presentation by rote, without allowing for questions and comments.
Don’t miss out on the chance to connect and interact with your audience. Online polls and surveys offer an excellent way to stimulate dialogue and collaboration. You can also ask questions directly as needed.
Strive to acknowledge your attendees in some way at least every 10 minutes by strategically dispersing interaction opportunities consistently throughout your demonstration.
Also, nothing says you have to wait until the end of the demonstration to host an official Q&A session. Breaking up your Q&A segments allows listeners a chance to ask questions while the content is still fresh in their minds. As a result, you instantly keep guests tuned in and mentally engaged throughout the session.
Additionally, focusing too much on yourself can hinder crowd participation in a major way. Taking too long to outline your professional bio, prolonging details about your company and elongating professional accomplishments not only throws out a slightly self-absorb vibe, it also makes your guests feel like you don’t value their time. Go into your conference assuming that everyone attending has already looked up everything they want to know about you (because they have), keep your intro short and get right into hosting your engaging webinar as quickly as possible. You can always include links throughout your presentation so guests can check out relevant details about you after the session has ended.
Tip #4: Practice Your Delivery
Online trainings and workshops often require just a little extra rehearsal on your end. From a technology perspective, you have two vital components to master before you go live: your slide deck and your webinar software. Hosts of engaging webinars should work to master both in advance of the conference to avoid any glitches that may distract listeners.
You will also need to practice your presentation style before the big day. Consider your speaking strengths and weaknesses to develop the best delivery possible. For example, nervous speakers tend to rush through the lecture too quickly. If you find yourself getting anxious, take a breath and try to transform your nerves into excitement about the topic.
Also, don’t underestimate the value of moving while hosting engaging webinars. While it may seem counterintuitive to move around when you’re the only one in a room, it can offer invaluable benefits, both to you and your listeners. Movement can quickly minimize your nerves; it can also keep your energy levels up, allowing you to maintain momentum and stay dynamic.
Finally, when rehearsing engaging webinars, remember that in-person presentations often allow for an occasional “dramatic pause.” However, when you aren’t sharing space with your listeners, a dramatic pause can quickly transform into dead air. When practicing the delivery of engaging webinars, keep in mind that your guests can’t read your mannerisms and gestures; everyone logged-in is completely dependent on your voice alone. An interruption longer than just a few seconds can prove enough of a distraction for them to question the quality of your connection and move onto to something else on their action item list.
Tip #5: Create A Call To Action
Keep the conversation going long after the webinar ends by creating calls-to-action for your audience. Before signing off, direct the crowd on the next steps you’d like them to take. Make your directives clear and concise – attendees should know exactly what to do and how to do it. At the conclusion of your web conference, share a custom URL that will walk them through the process, or provide a phone number they can call for follow up.
Indecision and procrastination can prove major obstacles in call-to-action success. Creating a sense of urgency can motivate listeners (no one wants to miss an invaluable opportunity). Put a deadline on when listeners can reap the benefits of your additional information. Or, offer a discount on additional materials and products for a limited time. A compelling call to action can strengthen the session’s overall impact and may prompt users to share your information with others for the ultimate webinar return on investment.
At BigMarker we understand the importance of hosting engaging webinars, that’s why we offer modern webinar software with features specifically designed to build, measure, and increase attendee activity during your webinars. Start your 7 day free trial today to begin leveraging our powerful webinar technology or send us a message if you’re interesting in learning more.