Sep 12, 2016

9 Simple ways to deliver your first Webinar with confidence


I hosted my first webinar two days back. It was a new experience for me and I had lots of concerns. I have spoken many times before but how will I speak to my computer without seeing any faces. The webinar was an audio only event where I was sharing my screen and presenting with the help of slides.

I had many concerns:
  • How will I engage my audience when I can't even see them?
  • What speed should I speak at for maximum comprehension?
  • How will I ask questions and seek answers?
  • How do I keep a track of time? How do I ensure I do not overshoot?
  • How will I deal with technical snags?
I was supposed to speak for 2 hours 30 minutes and I finished only 5 minutes late that too because the QnA session got extended (the audience wanted to continue). Here is what I learned from my first webinar which will help you deliver your webinar with confidence.

1. ATTEND A WEBINAR BEFORE HOSTING ONE
Attending a webinar as a participant exposes you to the challenges of hosting one yourself. So attend a webinar as a participant and see how it feels to be the listener. Observe the mistakes made by the presenter and also watch out for what you like most. What can you learn from other seasoned hosts.

Since it was my first webinar as a host, I made sure I attended a few webinars before to closely observe how the presenter was talking and how were other participants engaging and responding. I uncovered quite a few insights which I have detailed below. I looked for tips online and found this article useful: 10 Things I Learned from My First Webinar.


2. WAIT
This was one mistake I made when I started the webinar. I put up a slide and immediately asked a question. Seeing no response I said, "Guys, please respond." To which a participant replied through the Chat window, "We are still reading." I knew I was being impatient.

A webinar is very different from a live seminar. In my case, it was an audio only webinar. I could not see the participants. They could not see me but only my slides. This was the way the webinar was planned. In this case, as the host / presenter, you need to wait.

  • Put up your slide and wait. Let your participants digest the content.
  • Ask your question and wait. Give them time to read, think and respond.
  • Do not get anxious.


3. SPEAK SLOWER THAN USUAL
A webinar is prone to some audio disturbance once in a while. Moreover, hearing someone in person is different from hearing them over a laptop. Speaking slightly slower than usual helped me and it will help you too.

I had also asked a friend of mine to sit in the audience and let me know if I was speaking faster or there was any other problem. You need allies to rock your first webinar!.


4. MODULATE YOUR VOICE
Non-verbal communication has a big role to play in any speech and presentation. The way you move your hands and your gestures, they add to the message. If the participants are seeing your slides and hearing you speak, how do you take care of these non-verbal cues.

Voice modulation is your weapon. Use it well. Speaking without modulation bores the audience and puts them to sleep. Since my participants could not see me speak, I had to work extra hard on my modulation. Sometimes I spoke very slowly to emphasize on a point. I gave pauses. Then I spoke fast. To repeat an important point, I went slow once more.


5. ASK LOTS OF QUESTIONS
A webinar without lots of questions is like listening to a YouTube video. The higher the audience engagement the more impact you will generate. The learning will be higher too. I had planted a question on every 3rd slide and used these questions to engage with the audience.

What happens when you ask people first and then share the answer? You engage them very well. The audience is asked to commit to an answer. They are now hooked and want to know if they were right or not. The smarter your audience the more important this technique becomes. It is also important to have a proper QnA session where your participants can ask their questions. I suggest a real-time QnA and not just one session at the end.




6. CALL OUT NAMES OF PARTICIPANTS
Imagine attending a webinar where 100 participants from all over the world are present. Now imagine the presenter (host) asking a tough question. You know the answer and type it in the chat window. The host calls out your name and congratulates you. Do you feel great?

I learned this neat trick from attending other webinars and I used it to the maximum. I called out all the names and read out their questions / remarks. That's why I was able to engage my audience so well in my first webinar. I learnt it from the others :)


7. PRACTICE BEFORE THE WEBINAR
Whether you are preparing a speech, presentation or webinar practice is crucial. How will you cover your webinar within the allotted time? You need to rehearse your talk with a stop watch and ensure you do not cross the allotted time.Without practice, you will end up spending a lot of time early on and will try to rush in the remaining part of your webinar. Trust me, time flies when you are in a webinar.


8. TRACK YOUR TIME
Overshooting is very bad. When you practice your webinar alone, note down the time you need to spend on each section. My talk had 4 parts and I had practiced the webinar 3 times before. I knew I wanted to spend it like this.

Part 1: 15 minutes
Part 2: 60 minutes
Part 3: 45 minutes
Part 4: 30 minutes

I was tracking the time on my smartphone. Every time I started a section I was resetting the stop watch to zero. A few glances once in a while was helping me remain on track.


9. TEST BEFORE YOU BEGIN
Test your technology before you start. Go online 15 minutes before the appointed time and test out your mike, webcam and screen sharing. Talk and seek feedback from a colleague or friend to ensure everything is fine.

  • Audio and video is clear
  • Screen share is working well
You must also inform the participants of what is expected of them. Where the chat functionality is. I was using a service called ZOOM which allowed a participant to 'raise her hand'. I could activate her mike and she could ask a question.

The webinar was a fun experience for me and there was nothing very difficult about it. I spoke about 'Creating Startup Pitches than Investors Love!' to a good bunch of early stage EdTech startups. I am looking forward to my next webinar already.