Webinars: 8 Best Practices Everyone Needs to Start Doing Now

I recently sent a long email to a well-known expert in the wellness industry in response to his webinar I attended. Just  like everyone else, I love attending webinars to learn new things. But man, the bar for webinar standards is set so incredibly low, and everyone just puts up with it. How is it that we’re in 2016 and I still see the same mistakes ALL THE TIME?! Sometimes people even want MONEY for their poorly-executed webinar course. Yikes. Out of sheer boredom and frustration in sitting through the umpteenth bad webinar, I left the event early and jotted down 8 ways everyone can improve their webinars immediately. (And then sent it to him.)

Webinars Are an Opportunity to TEACH

Teaching is incredibly powerful to gain followers and upsell. It’s one of the best ways to get people to know, like, and trust you. Being a talking head for an hour is not teaching. And trust me, the universe has had enough of boring, one way, market-y webinars. Approach the design of your webinar content as if you are going to teach a mini course. You want your participants to be able to implement one or two new learnings as soon as your webinar ends that will show them you know what the heck you’re talking about…and will inspire them to hire you or purchase your online course.

Share Client Success Stories

We all want to feel that our struggle is real. That’s why it’s always exciting and empowering to hear case studies and see how others have come out ahead after using your product or services. Just telling me that your cutting edge 3-step magical, unicorn, wonder technique works is the perfect recipe to make me roll my eyes and (not) stifle a yawn. Make the stories as relatable as possible with images, graphic stats, and client quotes. If possible, get one of your success stories to do a live interview with you!

Create a Vibrant Slide Deck

Holy canoli, people, get that deck out of early 2000! Your participants have to sit there for an hour and stare at your slides while you yakety-yak. You wanna know why people multi-task? This is one reason why. Create a  vibrant color scheme (preferably based on your branding), add more slides with full images and graphics, nix any bullet points, and under no circumstances should you be using clip art. Ever. Once you’ve spent the time creating this deck, you can easily re-purpose the template for other webinars. Head on over to Slideshare for inspiration!

Keep Your Slide Deck Moving

When you deliver a presentation in person, it’s very dynamic. Everyone is looking at you; your slides are the back-up dancers. This changes drastically in a webinar environment. Looking at one slide for too long is another reason people check out or multitask. You must keep it moving! For example, instead of creating one slide with bullet points, place each point (without the bullet) on its own slide. Add full-size images to tell / click-through your story. Include transitions. Give it structure. Your slide deck will be much, much bigger but that doesn’t matter. What matters is holding the interest of your audience.

You MUST Have Regular Interaction

Add engagement every 15-20 minutes. Studies have shown that our lovely hippocampus can only hold so much information before it must be processed and pushed into long-term memory. The maximum amount is about 20 minutes of information. All the hippocampus needs is a few minutes of processing to push that data into long-term memory and it’s ready again for more. So the rule of thumb is to chunk content into around 15 minutes of information and then add a processing or simple engagement activity: Q & A, brief role play, webcam discussion between 2-3 participants, self-reflection activity, writing exercise, group problem-solving (I’ve got tons more ideas…). Trust me, your participants will be over the moon to have that kind of interaction with you. They will feel more connected to you, which is what you ultimately want from a modality that far too often makes people feel disconnected and “out in the void.”

Engage in Live Q&A

More and more I’m seeing canned Q & A. So cheesy. And it makes me think the presenter couldn’t give a flying banana about me – hello! a potential customer! – but just wants to send me through the sales funnel. What a turn-off. Let’s all promise to start caring again, shall we? It’s fine to have a few canned questions on hand to get things started or if you hear crickets. If you don’t have webinar staff to help, do what you can live and then capture the questions and comments to respond to them in personal follow-up emails or respond in your next newsletter. I realize that you will get the same questions over and over, but I find that I always get several new nuggets from my participants. In addition, the WHOLE point of doing live events is to give your prospects an opportunity to interact with you (and each other!) – it’s part of the customer romance!

Invest in a Good Webinar Vendor

Another bad habit I’m seeing is presenters delivering their webinars using poor quality webinar software. It looks unprofessional, and I’m not going to cough up money to buy your online course / product wondering if it’s going to be just as cheap. I get it, we’re all on a tight budget. So either budget for good software, hire a webinar producer who can host it for you, or use a subscription like GoToWebinar or GoToTraining that you can easily turn on or off as needed. (I have to include a disclaimer here that I’m a Citrix Online partner and that if you go to my website and click on the GoToWebinar or GoToTraining link and purchase, I get a kick-back, but truly it’s because I helped launch those products and I still love them to this day as a small business owner.)

Whatever webinar tool you use, look for interactive features like uploading documents, sharing video / webcam, custom registration forms, a feedback survey, live chat, draw tools, and features that allow participants to interact with you and each other in real time.

Webinar Surveys Are Valuable

Um, what happened to surveys? Who decided it would now be the norm to ditch those after your webinar? Once again, show your participants that you care. Include a brief survey with key questions that will help you understand what your target audience is looking to accomplish. Give them a voice to provide feedback. Will everyone respond? No, of course not. I usually give everyone the heads up before we end that I’d love to hear any comments. My survey response rate is excellent at about 40% (webinar professionals: yep, you read that right). So what are good questions to ask? Well, you need to decide what information will be helpful. One of my favorite questions is “What will you do differently now that you know about these tools?” or “How will you implement what you’ve learned in this webinar?” Three to five solid questions are all you need. If possible, avoid simple “yes” and “no” and opt for open-ended questions. I also ask if I can use their feedback in my promotional materials using their first name and last initial. This is a great way to add testimonials to your registration landing page next time around!

And there you have it. Eight simple things you can implement immediately that will make a profound difference in your webinars. Remember, a presentation is not about you. It’s about your audience and what they can learn from you.

Good luck!

Corena Bahr is a webinar consultant and producer determined to end the average webinar snoozefest. Through her consulting company, YourWebinarGuru, she teaches how to transform one-way marketing webinars into two-way interactive learning experiences that deliver value, build relationships and add income.