Webinars average about an hour in length. The average attention span is 8 seconds. When you deliver a webinar, you are racing against time in two dimensions: the amount of time you have to present, and the amount of time you’ll have your audience’s attention. There is no time to waste with superfluous slides and discussions. Effectively delivering the information you want to get across is your #1 objective as a presenter.
In order to have your audience’s full attention, look into what possible distractions exist in your presenting environment. Excess noise is an obvious one. Conduct your webinar in a quiet space and inform others of your presence so no one will walk in and interrupt. If you are in a home office, take the dog outside, put the baby to bed, and finish running your laundry before running your live webinar.
Test your microphone to make sure there won’t be any feedback when you speak. Visually speaking, when you’re delivering your webinar, don’t have other windows open that aren’t related to your discussion. And not to nag, but clean up your computer desktop. Odds are your audience will see it, and a messy one looks bad and is yet another distraction.
Don’t be married to what’s in your slides
You put a lot of work into your slides, and that’s great. A solid set of slides made with Powerpoint or other presentation software is essential. However, following the slides exactly as planned is not. In fact, it can be detrimental to your presentation to be so rigid. Loosen up. Ultimately, you want to deliver information that your audience can use. So find out early on in the presentation what they are interested in learning. Do a poll or take a moment to get feedback. Their interests, not yours, should guide your webinar. You can add in additional information as appropriate, or move around out of order to cover specific topics. Dare to go out of sequence if it will make your presentation more relevant to your audience.
Weed out slides that don’t deliver key information
It seemed like a good idea at the time. That slide looked good when you made it, but maybe it only looked good next to the other stellar ones around it. When it comes to showing it on its own in the presentation, it stands out in a bad way. Sometimes, information that you want to present gets clouded by unnecessary slides. Not every point you make needs its own slide, especially if you have a long presentation already. Slides that are inserted for “fun,” like those containing quotes and images, are fine as long as they stay on point. Examples of slides that can be weeded out include:
- Short slides that you only plan to show for a few seconds
- Slides that include repeat information
- Slides that contain mostly images and not much content
- Slides that contain large blocks of text (no one will read this!)
- “Flashy” slides that show off your design skills, and not your message
Consider consolidating the information in slides you want to eliminate into other slides. However, don’t let any individual slide get too cluttered. Some content may just have to be let go.
Build a relationship with your audience
Your audience is there for you. You need to be there for your audience. From the first minute of your presentation, you should be fully engaging your webinar attendees. First, get to know them. Welcome each person as they enter the virtual room. Conduct polls to find out more about them, and pay attention to questions that are typed into the chat box. Start off your presentation with an interesting story, factoid or anecdote that will get them hooked on what you have to say. Take questions as they come up to give a natural flow to the discussion and to make sure they’re stay with you.
An audience that is well taken care of will be appreciative. Give them any information they need about the videoconferencing software to get the most from their experience. Make use of application-sharing features that enhance their sense of being right there with you – show them a website in the browser and click through what you want to show them, rather displaying screenshots. Provide your contact information, and follow up within 24 hours with any presentation materials you want to send. And always thank them for their time.
Don’t make a live presentation sound pre-recorded
A webinar that could just as easily have been recorded as delivered live leaves audience members thinking that they could have spent their time on something better. And the truth is, they could. What you want is for them to feel like attending your webinar was a positive, invaluable experience. Pre-recorded webinars that are not originally presented to a live audience are often read from a script, or worse, read directly from the presentation slides. Avoid doing either of these things, as your audience will recognize what you’re doing and tune out, just like they might with a pre-recorded session.
Utilize the tips above to make your webinar as close to the live experience as possible. People attend live webinars in part because they want to have a social experience. Give them that, and the information you want them to take away will sink in that much easier.