Webinars have been around for a while now, but with the onset of the pandemic they really proved to be a super useful means of conducting meetings, conferences, seminars etc. All of a sudden many of us became actors in the lights, camera, action scene.
We have all seen examples of webinars from poorly executed ones to professionals. The goal, of course, is to be as professional as possible. How can we achieve that? Let’s look at a few useful tips which can be instrumental in successfully hosting a webinar.
Number 1: Hardware
First of all, you will need a computer, laptop, Chromebook or iPad with a great camera and microphone, and excellent, stable broadband connection. This may seem obvious, but if you have an older computer, the speed and storage your operations require may not be sufficient. If you plan on hosting webinars multiple times, or you are switching over to online work, it may be worthwhile to invest into a newer model. Again, this is not a must, check how quickly programs and docs load, how fast your internet is, and should do a test run before you start your actual webinar.
Number 2: Software
There are some free applications that are perfectly suitable for hosting webinars. The preferred and most well-known ones are Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Skype, and Zoom (be aware that Zoom has a 20 minute time limit in the free version.) All these have the possibility to use a whiteboard, share the screen and/or documents, files, and images, or even use breakout rooms, polls and questionnaires.
This is important as you will want to keep your audience engaged with visual aids. Depending on where you are located, there might be other, country specific programmes or applications you might use, for example WeChat in China. Testing is also key here. Try all the functions, so your presentation would work seamlessly and professionally.
Number 3: Background and Setting
Most webinar hosts know to choose a quiet, calm, undisturbed spot for their webinar. A space they are comfortable with and feel confident at. This is absolutely essential. Any disturbance or noise is unacceptable and leaves a bad impression in the audience. Some people choose a neutral background or if a green screen is enabled on their computer, then one of the preset backgrounds offered by the application they use. If you are representing a company or your own business it is a good idea to display your logo in the background or at least the name and website of your business.
Number 4: Consider Your Audience
People’s attention span in the virtual world tends to be a fraction of what it would be otherwise. It is also rather difficult to build any sort of connection, to get feedback from social cues, or read your audience. In addition, your audience will have a more difficult time remembering the content you are sharing with them. How can you overcome some of these obstacles?
Make sure you address the audience often, call out to them, ask for participation, use breakout rooms if needed, charts, bullet points, and visual aids. Repeat the main points or have your audience say them back to you. Use humor if appropriate, or anecdotes to illustrate a point. Be animated, intonate and articulate, use gestures and facial expressions to make a lasting impression.
Number 5: Impressions – Appearance
As we all know, first impressions do matter. Of course, the very first impression will be based on the first three points, and making sure there are no technical glitches. However, the appearance of the presenter is equally important. Numerous studies have been conducted in marketing which tell us that attractive people sell easier, and though not all of us can boast perfect facial features, we can all make an effort.
When figuring out what to wear to a video interview, selecting the right color and style of clothing for the theme of the webinar and the background, as well as applying the right make-up will all help in looking professional. The biggest impression, of course, will be made by being knowledgeable in the subject matter you are presenting on.
Number 6: Practice Makes Perfect
Communication is an art form. Non-verbal communication is just as much part of it as verbal communication. Practicing in front of the mirror or recording yourself and analyzing your performance is a good idea. There might be certain things you want to be conscious of, or even correct. If you are using notes other than a presentation on the screen, place these strategically, so your eyes would not wander from the camera to the notes and back.
Some people prefer not seeing themselves while presenting, and others expressly want to see how they are doing. No matter which category you fall into, practice makes perfect, so make sure not to neglect this very important step.
Number 7: Timing
As mentioned above, people’s attention spans are shorter in the online space than at a physical, actual conference or meeting. It might sound surprising that people start losing interest after a shocking ten minutes in virtual space. This does not mean that you have to wrap everything up in ten minutes, but I would definitely not go over 40 minutes.
Your presentation has to be expert, engaging, interesting and concise. It is better to have a sequel than overload your audience with information and have them lose interest. If a sequel is not possible, you have to be a master planner with your time and content. Focus on the most important message you want to convey, and do it in good time.
Number 8: Follow-up
In order to make sure your audience really gets what you communicate to them, you can set some time apart at the end of your webinar and ask some participants to recap the most important points. It is also important that your audience would feel that they really understand what was communicated, so allow some time for questions as well. You can follow up with a questionnaire or poll after the webinar, as well.
Let them evaluate your performance and give you some feedback. This information is very healthy and will be very useful for you before you set out on your next webinar.
Finally, a word of encouragement. No one starts out at an expert level. Practice, attention to detail, listening to sound advice and valuable feedback will be to your advantage. Even if your performance is less than perfect at the beginning, do not give up. It is important to learn the skills as they are all things employers look for in successful candidates for a potential employee.
There is nothing wrong with admitting that you need improvement. Maybe you are not there yet, but you are working on it. If you believe that what you are doing is genuinely helping people and adds value to their life one way or another, then keep going, don’t give up!