If you’ve been presenting for any length of time, odds are you’ve experienced minor and major glitches…and had to deal with them on the spot. In January 2014, news was buzzing about Michael Bay’s nervous (?) exit after a teleprompter glitch during a Samsung Consumer Electronics presentation. It’s unfortunate that his boo-boo was so very public, and even sadder, that his reaction was the butt of many rude jokes and jabs. But it did prompt some pretty good discussion and blog articles about what we can learn from it (so thanks Mr. Bay!).
Lisa Braithwaite, a Public Speaking Coach, wrote about the incident and included this specific comment: “I’ve just got one tip for you, which precludes all the others: Prepare for your technology to fail.” I fully agree with her, and it’s even more important in a webinar training where, when things go wrong, attendees don’t necessarily have a visual of what’s happening.
I don’t want to freak anyone out that webinars are riddled with problems. Top-rated software providers are glitch-free most of the time. But it’s technology and stuff happens, right? It’s just better to be prepared for the rare one-offs.
Here’s what I would add to Lisa’s comments specific to handling interruptions during a webinar.
Have Contact Numbers on Hand
Make sure to have the contact numbers of your webinar staff. Also, bookmark or have the contact information handy for technical support of the software product.
Have a Co-Manager in the Webinar
For big events, it’s good to have a co-manager who has the same in-session rights as you do; for example, in GoToWebinar and GoToTraining, you can invite someone as, or promote someone to, co-organizer and that person has the same top admin rights while the webinar is running. I’ve had a presenter’s electricity go out during her presentation, but because I was a co-organizer, I could keep the webinar running until she could hop back on (it was about 2 minutes…which can seem like forever when you’re live).
Have a Back-up Plan
So what will you do if things don’t work? Decide before the live webinar what you will do if:
- Audio goes down
- Your internet goes down
- A software program doesn’t work
For major glitches disrupting the entire audience, the best thing is to be honest and direct with them. Keep in mind how you will communicate to the audience. Depending on what the problem is, you could:
- Use the chat
- Simply interrupt the training/presentation and explain point blank what is happening.
- Tell the audience to take five and stretch or take a bio break.
- If something is weird with VoIP, switch to the telephone…preferably a land line. Note that cell phones are horrible for webinar presentations.
- Pull up Notepad or Word and type “We are experiencing technical difficulties. Please bear with us while we resolve it.” Or
- Have a hidden slide handy of a calming image (like the beach) with “Please take five! We are experiencing technical difficulties.” that you can quickly pull up if necessary.
- Worst case scenario: If you have to end the webinar because a serious problem cannot be resolved, communicate to attendees what is happening. As soon as possible, notify all participants in an email explaining what happened, your apologies, and when the webinar will be re-scheduled.
Have you ever been on a plane with severe turbulence and you look at the flight attendants for reassurance that you’re not all plummeting to your deaths? Okay, so maybe technical disruptions during a webinar don’t feel life-threatening, but you’re participants will look to you for reassurance just the same: Is this webinar happening? Do I need to dial back in? Can anyone see my chat? If you’ve had a blooper, take a deep breath, and get right back on track. A quick, straight-forward apology is all you need…and then move on. Avoid repeated apologies, and nervous “Gosh I don’t know why that happened.” It will help learners refocus. When you remain calm and collected, they will do the same. “Peanuts?” (just kidding)
Practice Makes Perfect
As you already know, practicing is a huge part of your webinar success. I’ve outlined tips for running a practice session here. I would say the most important thing is to test your audio device (headset) and optimize your computer – and keep all cell phones turned off or away from the computer – they are responsible for most static problems.
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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.