How to host an outstanding web conference—Part 2

Here are six more tried-and-true secrets for hosting outstanding webinars:

8. Add a story or two to your presentation: a relevant anecdote, with a beginning, a middle and an ending, will always engage people’s interest. Nothing gets and hold’s people’s attention like a story. If you’re not an experienced public speaker, consider enrolling in Toastmasters, a fun and very effective way to boost your skills.

9. Focus on content–approximately 60 percent of your presentation should be quality content. Your content must be unique and different from online articles they could find through internet searches.

10. Don’t skimp on illustrations. Remember, this is a visual presentation. Use professional-quality photographs and graphics. If you use PowerPoint slides, use a large, engaging graphic on each one, and keep the text light—just one main idea per slide, and as a general rule, no more than three lines. Text should be in a large, easy-to-read font.

11. Make it interactive: This is one of the best features of a webinar, and the better webinar service providers offer several features to get your audience involved:

– Live Chat

– Polling

– Q&A

Explain why it will be to the advantage of your audience to participate in polling and in sending in questions—that it will, for example, help you to tailor your presentation to their needs.

Most people—85 percent according to research– like the live chat feature and keep it visible on their screen during web conferencing. But for the 15 percent who hate this, you can let them know they can ‘hide’ the chat window by switching to full-screen mode.

Make it easy for your audience to ask questions and give you feedback—and acknowledge it during the online meeting.

Encourage informal discussion on social media channels such as Twitter. Create a searchable, linked hashtag so that people can locate and share information about your presentation—before, during, or after.

It’s useful to remember that the real point of the webinar is not to fill your audience’s heads with information, but rather to assist them in creating their own knowledge. The more you can get your web conferencing participants to interact with the knowledge you are presenting, the greater their chances of having a satisfying learning experience, which they will thank you for. Of course, to handle this while you’re focusing on delivering a compelling web conference, it’s essential to . . .

12. Get a moderator. You need one to keep an eye on the live chat messages that get posted to the public area, and also to selectively feed you questions, to be answered at key points in the webinar. If your web meeting is large—over 200 participants—ask your web conferencing company for multiple assistants. If you’re not hosting with a conference call company from who you can get immediate support, get a technician too. But even with the best preparations . . .

13. Be prepared for disaster. The magician Doug Henning once decided to approach investors to fund an entertainment development that he and some partners had conceived. To explain it, they developed a detailed computer-driven slide-show. To the amusement of his colleagues, Doug insisted that the PowerPoint presentation be duplicated on a set of cardboard-backed slides in case of equipment failure. They scoffed, but one day at a 9 am presentation, thousands of miles from home office, the electronic equipment did indeed go south. They were very glad to have that back up!

What will you do if your computer fails? Think of having a laptop replacement on hand. What if your speaker gets sick? Have on hand a pre-recorded alternative presentation. Give your clients a freebie to help make it up to them—and of course have another tentative date for your original speaker.

Part 3: End strong to ensure success.

–James Parker Doyle