February 24, 2011 Leave a Comment
Recently I was intrigued by the work of an Internet marketer who professes to be an expert in the subject area. I’ve been following some of her work lately and last night I decided to tap into the recording of a call about how to improve your marketing through social media.
He kept promising “breakthrough secret!” that would transform our businesses immediately. I listened. He kept talking about this “breakthrough secret” that he would “reveal during the call!”
He kept hyping.
After 25 minutes, someone rang my doorbell and I had to stop the recording. I was never so thankful to see a courier delivery man in my life. Was there a breakthrough secret? Maybe. But by then, I felt like I’d already wasted enough of my time listening to hype that was going no where. I never went back to the recording.
I’ve seen the same kind of hype in webinars and it drives me nuts. It got me thinking about what makes a virtual presentation truly great. Here are the 10 commandments that will ensure top quality sessions. I’ve left out the “Thou shalt”, but you get the idea.
#1 Have one, two or three clear, precise goals
What’s the purpose of your webinar, webcast, videoconference or e-learning session? How would you finish this sentence? “By the end of this presentation, I want my audience to …” Then, translate that thought into concrete learning objectives for your participants. Here are some examples I’ve used in my own webinars:
- “The goal of today’s session is for you to learn how to market and promote your own webinars.”
- “The objectives today are to help you understand the different types of virtual presentations and determine which one works best for you.”
- “By the end of our session today, you’ll be able to 1) build, design and use Google forms 2) know how to embed them on a website or send them in an e-mail and 3) access the data your respondents have given in a spreadsheet.”
Keep it to a maximum of 3 goals or your participants may get overwhelmed. If you have more than that, break up your content into more than one session.
If you pride yourself on flying by the seat of your pants and having everything “always work out”, then webinars may not be for you. There’s no such thing as over-preparation when it comes to virtual presentations. Here are a few things you’ll want to spend some prep time on:
- Agenda – Do you know what you’ll be doing, when? If you have a co-host, what is he or she doing?
- A script – You won’t actually read from your script, but writing it out will help you to collect your thoughts and sound coherent.
- Technical equipment – Test it all before you actually run your session.
These are just a few examples. Really, you want to have every detail of your webinar prepared ahead of time. It will make you look professional and add to your credibility.
#3 Provide high quality content
There’s a saying in professional speaking that “content is king”. If your presentation is all hype, your audience will tune out. Once that’s happened, you’ll never, ever get them back again. All hype and no content makes a webinar a useless waste of time.Go ahead and be excited about your content and present with energy. Just make sure that there’s substance to your presentation.
#4 Share relevant information
Ask yourself this: Why should your audience care about your content? What’s really in it for them? Your content should teach them something new, provide a means to do something better or lead the way to progress for them in some way. Adult education expert, Stephen Lieb has a great article on the principles of adult learning. One of his main points is that content for adult learners needs to be relevant and practical.
#5 Make it actionable
What do you want your participants to do with the knowledge they’ve learned in your session? What are their next steps? What is their “action takeaway”? A virtual audience is more likely to want to spend time with you if you leave them with concrete actions they can then go away and do themselves. This will also help to reinforce their learning and helps them to grow as individuals and professionals.
Copies of your presentation slides are a nice idea. But providing a “how to” manual, a workbook comprehensive checklists or even a URL to a set of your online bookmarks with even more material and content are much more substantive. All too often, slide handouts get put in the recycling bin. Give people something they’re going to want to keep and refer back to.
#7 Do not commit death by Powerpoint
Instead of thinking about slides, think of preparing visuals that will keep your audience riveted to your presentation and paying attention. Learn best practices for Powerpoint and virtual visual aids. Include live demos and share applications to show participants concepts in real time. Video is a great way to engage the audience, too. Peter Temple (a.k.a. “The Media Maestro”) has a great site on mastering the art of web video.
If you have relevant, actionable content you are more likely to keep your audience’s attention. But you want more than that. You want their focus and their enthusiasm. You want their “learning brain” turned on. In a recent webinar I gave on how to build and design Google forms, I engaged the participants by having them provide the questions we included in the form I was creating via a live demo.
Did I have a set of questions I could have given them? Of course I did. (I followed Rule #2 and had a set fully prepared, if needed.)
It was more interesting for them if they provided the questions. They got to see a form being built right before their eyes that included their own input. The end result was a collaborative input from everyone who participated. More engaging, more fun, more effective.
#9 Have a back-up plan
No matter how well you follow “Rule #2 – Prepare”, things will go wrong. Have a back-up plan for every aspect of your webinar. If you want to to a live demo by sharing an application, for example, plan and test it – and have a set of slides ready to go in case the live demo doesn’t work for some reason.
Sound like a lot of work? It is. And it’s much better than scrambling on presentation day because your idea didn’t work out.
#10 Always, always, always remember: It’s not about you
When I think back to the call I was listening to, one of the main things that struck me (apart from all the empty hype) was the at the person hyping was talking at the audience, not to them or at them. This is what television and media expert Shawne Duperon calls “puking information” on someone. She reminds us about the value of reciprocity and give and take. (See #8 – Engage!)
Don’t waste your audience’s time. Give them relevant information that they can take away and use. Provide them with solid materials that they are likely to keep – and even better, share. Make it worth their while and they’ll be back again next time.
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