4 Tips for Hosting an Engaging Webinar
I am pleased to introduce our guest blogger, Tiffani Frey. Tiffani Frey is a serial entrepreneur and marketing strategist with over 20 years in the trenches. When not chin deep in creating content for websites, blogs and email campaigns, and managing over 75 annual trade shows, she can be found hosting webinars, directing video shoots and composing music. An award-winning artist and equestrienne, Tiffani avidly pursues her passions which include painting, showing American Saddlebred horses in national competitions, reading, gardening, cooking and playing Halo. You can reach Tiffani through her blog at craftcreativemarketing.com.
How many webinars have you slept through?
OK, maybe not slept exactly… but admit it. You check your email, answer your phone, and work on projects while listening with half an ear as the presenter drones on. By the end, you don’t even remember why you signed up.
So if you’re bored during webinars… don’t you think maybe your customers and prospects might be bored, too?
That’s not a rip on you, your content, or your products. It’s just reality. In-person presentations have one thing webinars do not: accountability. Most people won’t be rude to your face. But put them behind a computer screen ten states away, and they’ll take phone calls and work on the report they forgot to do yesterday. Or they might nap.
Don’t put people to sleep. It’s just not good for business.
But how can you keep them awake?
No… not merely awake. Awake is not nearly good enough. You want them engaged. Interested. How about even… gasp!… participating?
I got thrown into the webinar fire as a producer and presenter about 18 months ago, and since then (100+ webinars later!) I’ve managed to find some great ways to get attendees involved. In fact, our webinar participation rating went from 54% to over 80% after we started using some of these techniques.
Tip One: Make it Personal
There are a lot of great webinar platforms out there. The one I use most often, GoToWebinar, has an automated email system, which saves a lot of time and helps ensure a high attendance rate. Also note that many marketing automation providers integrate with webinar platforms, making sending emails seamless.
However, when I’m the one presenting, I often download the list of registrants about an hour before the webinar and send a personal email from my account. Yes, this means they get two reminders (but is that a bad thing?).
Here is an example of what I send:
Greetings! We’re now an hour away from liftoff, and I’m busy setting the stage for a great webinar. I hope you’re as excited as I am to talk about [topic].
To help you get the most out of my presentation, I’ve attached a worksheet for you to use as I go through the slides. I suggest you print it out and have a pen ready. You’ll be glad a month from now that you have notes to refer back to!
I’ll see you online in an hour!
Tip Two: Wait… Worksheet?
Yes, my email above mentioned a worksheet, and this is my second tip.
Many times, attendees will ask for a copy of the PowerPoint so they can take notes. I know when I attend a live presentation, I like having one. But I hate handing them out ahead of time for webinars. (Does that make me a hypocrite?) Unlike a live presentation, you can’t withhold the content until they arrive.
I feel like I’m giving away my content while giving attendees the option not to attend. If they get the slides, why bother showing up? Besides, I consider the slides a sort of intellectual property. No – I don’t put every word I say on them – but my most important ideas are there. So why should I give them away and risk my attendance rate dropping?
This is where the worksheet comes in handy! You kill two birds with one stone: the “keeping your content private until the webinar” bird, and the “keep your attendees engaged” bird.
I like to use a variety of question types: fill in the blank, matching, multiple choice, even drawing/diagramming. I’ll create one question for each of my most important points, and when I put my talking points together, I make sure to highlight the areas where they align with a question on the worksheet. That way, I can be sure to emphasize what I’m saying so the audience can answer the question.
I also try to make sure that these important points are only partially shown on the slides. This forces people to pay attention to what I’m saying. And don’t be afraid to repeat yourself on these points. People appreciate it when you call out what they’re supposed to be learning.
Tip Three: Answer Questions Immediately
Your audience is going to have questions for you. A common presentation technique is to save the Q&A until the end. I personally don’t like to do that. It creates a “lecture” environment, and that sends us right back to Napville, population 1.
Instead, give participants a means to ask questions while you’re talking, and answer them right away. I like using something like a private chat function in my webinars. This lets me read the questions as they come in, and I can make the answers a natural part of my spiel. Or, if the question is premature, I can simply say that it’s a great question and I’ll cover it in a few minutes.
So what do you do with the questions that head off in a direction you don’t want to go in? Read the question out loud (don’t ignore anyone!), thank them for their question, and say that you’ll answer it offline. You can even say why… it’s not a topic you’re covering today, or it will take too long to cover right now. The other attendees will appreciate you staying on topic, and the questioner will appreciate that you’ll help them personally.
Hint: Use people’s names when you’re talking to them. It adds to the intimate quality of your webinar.
Tip Four: Ask Questions (With a Bonus)
Attendees aren’t the only ones who should be asking questions! You need to ask them questions, too.
If your webinar platform has a poll or raise-your-hand feature, use it! I recommend some kind of interaction every 4-5 slides. Not only will it keep your audience engaged, but you can get a lot of valuable feedback, it can help guide your presentation if you’re nimble enough, and (here’s the bonus part) you can use it to qualify leads if your platform saves their answers.
Oooh I saw your eyebrows perk up at that one. Yes – qualify leads! You can even do this on a non-sales presentation. Here’s how.
At the end, after you’ve given your helpful, how-to, non-sales presentation, you launch one last poll question:
My first step to begin fixing whatever problem this webinar helped me with will be:
- Answer A
- Answer B
- Answer C
- I don’t know – I still need help
Ah ha! Those who pick #4 are leads! Because of course, as a B2B marketer your webinar should be on a topic that your product can help attendees with, even though your presentation wasn’t about your products.
So there you have it. I hope I didn’t put you to sleep.
Do you have any great tricks to share that have helped keep your webinar attendees engaged?