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Delivering Engaging Webinars

by Randall Craig on June 6, 2014

Filed in: Blog, Communication, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Presentations

Tagged as: , ,

Have you ever listened to a webinar, and found your mind wandering?  Or perhaps you let the webinar play on while taking care of other more important activities on your computer?  While this is unfortunate, the question is whether that incredibly dull webinar presenter might actually be you.  And that the mind-wandering, computer-keyboard-clicking audience is the group you are unknowingly disengaging.

So how do you deliver killer webinars, where your audience is engaged and you achieve your goals.  Here are five ideas:

1) Content:  A single, focused topic is best.  Use stories to connect emotionally to the audience; this will make it more interesting, and also improve recall.  Skip the prepared speech, and use short-form notes to present more naturally.

2) Voice:  The audience cannot see you, so they can’t interpret your body language.  They will, however, rely on your vocal cues, so give them what they need. Vary your pitch, your volume, your speed, your inflection: the voice is a powerful musical instrument and doesn’t sound good in a monotone.

3) Slides:  There is plenty of advice on the mechanics for making great slides, but here are my guidelines.  Use a simple template that doesn’t distract from the content.  But “break free” of the template from time to time for visual interest, or to make an important point.  Remember that the viewing window may not be “full screen” on the computer, or it may be viewed on a phone or tablet: skip the overly complex diagrams or anything not understandable at a glance.  And don’t forget to change the slides often enough so that the audience isn’t bored looking at the same thing for too long.

4) Interaction:  Use polling to get instant audience feedback at several points of the presentation.  This makes it more interesting for them, but also gives you critical intelligence to focus your presentation on their needs.  Another interaction technique is to encourage questions and back-channel chat.  This can be done either through the webinar software’s interface, or preferably using a #hashtag on Twitter.  If you do run a back-channel, use a colleague to monitor/respond: you need to focus on a great delivery.

5) Rehearsal:  Winging it is both risky for you, and disrespectful to your audience; if it is worth everyone’s time to listen to you, it is worth your time to do your best.  The best rehearsals are the ones where you use the webinar software’s built-in recording feature, then listen to your rehearsal, taking notes.  And then repeat.  Since we are all our own toughest critic, this type of rehearsal is exceptionally powerful.  And humbling.

This week’s action plan:  If you do have a webinar (or presentation) coming up, improve the experience for your audience by using these five techniques.  And if you are interested in observing how I do a webinar, register for one of my upcoming ones (no cost) at  If you can’t wait or don’t wish to register, then here’s a recording of a recent one:

Marketing Insight:  Not everyone likes to read blog posts, white papers, or books.  The success of YouTube (and TV, for that matter) are further evidence of this.  Webinars have a powerful place in a marketer’s arsenal, precisely because it keys into this viewing experience.  The success of a webinar, however, is not guaranteed.  A lousy “performance” by the presenter reflects on the brand directly.  There must be an investment in recruiting the right attendees.  And the webinar itself must be part of an integrated marketing process, with an embedded call-to-action and follow-up.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
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Randall has been advising on Digital Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of eight books, including Digital Transformation for Associations, the Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business, and Social Media for Business. He speaks and advises on Digital Transformation, Digital Trust, and Social Media. More at

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