1) The Audience
2) The Content
Without a laser focus on these two areas, a webinar is a pointless effort. Therefore, it always surprises me when I see any of the mistakes I’ve outline below made in a webinar because they all stem from ignoring the content or the audience. Your webinar will have the best chance of success if you don’t;
1. Spend more than 30 seconds on house keeping
Content is king and housekeeping items are not content. The audience showed up to consume the content you offered. Hit them with more than 30 seconds of boring housekeeping items and they are off and rummaging through their inbox for something more interesting.
Webinars are not new – most people know the drill. Move your housekeeping items or FAQs to a note pod and let the audience read it if they need to so you can get to the content fast!
2. Talk about yourself first
Everyone’s favorite topic is themself – not you (sad, but true). If the audience is interested in the speaker bio, they will have already read the bio during the registration process. Similarly, if they were interested in where your company is located and how many employees your company has, they can look that up online. They didn’t sign up for the webinar to hear bios – they want the content you promised. You worked hard to attract a valuable audience to your webinar – the last thing you want to do is squander an opportunity to deliver your message to them.
Consider adding a LinkedIn URL for the speaker(s) and the company URL in lieu of reading off bios so attendees can review the information on their own. Again, content first.
3. Screen share
This unfortunately common practice violates a focus on the audience and the content because it results in a poor content delivery experience and therefore is annoying to the audience. The audience does not want to see your desktop or deal with the latency. For the best quality presentation, upload your content directly into your webinar room to ensure that the audience is on the same page with the speaker and not subjected to a messy desktop or IM messages. With so many interesting things you can do with webinar technology other than screen share, there is really no need for it.
4. Rely solely on PowerPoint
Delivering an immersive content experience is the only reason to deliver content via a webinar. The dynamic and interactive environment makes the experience, and therefore the content, more memorable (thus, why webinars are the 3rd most effective content marketing tactic). If your content can truly be delivered via PowerPoint alone, with perhaps some audio, consider SlideShare or YouTube rather than putting in the time and effort required to produce a webinar.
Get creative with the delivery of your content. Will showing a short video clip add value? A picture? Streaming webcam? How about audience involvement or input on a topic? For more ideas see my previous post.
5. Ignore your audience
This must be the cardinal sin when it comes to webinars mistakes. The entire point of a live webinar is to interact with the audience and allow participation. Webinars offer all kinds of ways for the audience to interact with content. See my previous post for creative ways to use chat for audience interaction. A nice goal is to try not to go more than 7 minutes without acknowledging your audience and allowing them to participate in some way.
6. Allow more than 3 seconds of silence
While three seconds does not sound like a lot, when you take away the physical presence of the speaker, the only thing the audience has is the speaker’s voice. No facial expressions. No body language. Sound connects the audience to the content. This is especially true if you have not planned enough visual stimulation into your content delivery. Any more than three seconds and your audience will start to think their internet connection went down or that something is wrong with the webinar audio. Even during a poll or chat interactive exercise, have the speaker continue speaking – reading the poll question or commenting on the answers. We could argue the exact number of seconds, but I think you get the point.
The Bottom Line: Focus on the audience and the content and your webinar will be a smashing hit!