Tips and Tricks for the High-Wire Act of Running a Live Webinar

Delivering a live webinar to people who aren’t in your immediate family can strike fear into the heart of the most seasoned presenter. It’s lonely, it’s unforgiving, and it’s usually being recorded for ongoing scrutiny by your evil colleagues, your boss, and your customers.

And thanks to technology, it’s almost certain that as a business leader you have been, or will be, front and center (virtually) in the crosshairs of a live webinar. You can run, but you can’t hide.

So here are a few of our hard-won tips and tricks for live webinars. The first one being: even with all the whiz-bang technology, a webinar only comes to life due to the human factor – your engagement with your audience. Get that part right and the rest is almost easy.

Part 1: Prior to the Webinar:

  1. Test everything out well beforehand and connect to the meeting 30-minutes early. Don’t assume everything will work perfectly when you log in for the first time 5-minutes before the webinar starts. And beware: your expertise in WebEx might not be portable to another webcast tool such as Adobe Connect!
  2. Be skeptical of Wi-Fi. Instead, string a network cable across the floor and remove the risk.
  3. Have a 2nd computer running in parallel that shows you the “student view” as you present. What participants are seeing onscreen may be different than what you think.
  4. Show a starting screen 15-minutes before the webinar with 3-4 bullet points describing the rules-of-the-road including muting participant mics, how to login to audio, etc. Leave the starting screen up until you actually begin the webinar.
  5. Practice your timing. It might take longer than you think it will to do the intro, answer questions, present the material, and wrap up.
  6. Organize your presentation to keep the screens, graphics, and PowerPoint slides moving – use more instead of less. Keep the participants visually engaged and stimulated so it’s easier to pay attention. And flip through your presentation slides more often and more quickly than you would during a live presentation.
  7. Plan to get your audience involved. Insert opportunities for audience-interaction into your presentation. Ask questions, use the quiz function in the webinar tool, etc. Live microphones can be tricky, but you can also ask the audience questions and have them answer in the chat-box. And if you do ask a question, it’s OK to have some silence while you patiently wait for them to answer, even though it may feel like a lifetime…
  8. Turn off your ringer, put up a “do not disturb” sign, and lock your door. Or even better, run your webinar from an underground military bunker in rural Colorado…!

Part 2: During the Webinar:

  1. We’ve found that many of the techniques used in live presentations also work for webinars. But like stage acting vs. acting in a movie, you will need to exaggerate your vocal inflections and speaking style to create energy.
  2. Keep your eye on the chat-box so you can respond quickly to questions and maintain the momentum and the flow. Practice so that you are able to do this seamlessly while you are presenting. Or use the buddy system and have a colleague help you decipher incoming chats and when to respond.
  3. Your beaming, grinning face via your web camera is great at the start of the webinar, but after the intro you might want to turn off your camera and let the audience focus on the content.
  4. Stand up as you present. It will bring energy as you speak, and since you’ve turned your camera off you can even wave your arms around wildly to raise your energy level.
  5. As you present, imagine you’re speaking to a roomful of interested people who are smiling and nodding their heads approvingly. And resist the urge to panic when you don’t get instant feedback from the audience as you would in a live class. Better yet, ask a colleague to sit in the room with you to give you an audience to focus on.
  6. No matter what you do or how carefully you plan, something will likely “go wrong”. After all, it’s live theatre! Trust in your capability to deal with whatever weird and unexpected glitches come up. You may remember the heartwarming video of the BBC Correspondent Streaming Live From His Home Office in South Korea…

Do you have other best practices? Let us know – we guarantee we’ll use them!