What Is A Webinar?
Sounds like an obvious question, right? But let’s take a moment to reflect.
A webinar is a web-based seminar.
It’s a presentation;
- given remotely,
- by an expert,
- via video/audio,
- on a specialist topic,
- to an ‘interested’, invited and distributed audience.
And, taking the seminar part literally, a webinar should be highly interactive. With questions and answers, exploring the depth and breadth of a subject.
Like everything else in life and business, there is a spectrum from good webinars to not so good webinars. The good ones are engaging (even entertaining, and sometimes inspiring) and give the audience what they want and more. They deliver value! The poor ones disengage, and are all too often just an infomercial about the company/product/presenter, with little regard to the audience and a squeezed in ‘5 minutes at the end’ for questions. They deliver little, or no, value!
We’d like to offer you some tips, from our years of experience coaching presenters, to help you make your webinars the good ones!
What Speaker Skills Do We Need For Presenting Webinars?
As a means for showcasing expertise and professional insights, webinars are great ‘events’. At their core, like we’ve stated above, webinars are presentations. And presentations succeed, or fail, largely because of the presenter and their skill set.
So, boosting our presenting skill set and addressing our presentation skills shortcomings will be at the core of improving our webinars.
The business world has massively pivoted to the virtual space recently, and the online presenting, which we all do now, requires a hybrid skill set. The best, most successful online presenting professionals have a toolbox of techniques that cover three core skill sets: online presenting ‘tech-etiquette’; media skills and conference speaking skills.
This is because, during a webinar, we not only need to get to grips with a tech platform, but we are presenting (‘broadcasting’) to camera, just like a TV news reader in the media, and we are speaking like we do at a conference, to a potentially large audience that we aren’t able to see (or if we can, they are just tiny thumbnails on screen, or silhouettes in a conference hall).
So, to help us improve our ability to deliver engaging webinars, it’s very useful for us to draw upon cues from online presenting, media skills and conference speaking.
Our Top Ten Speaker Tips To Present A Business Webinar
With these three skills sets in mind – online presenting ‘tech-etiquette’, media skills and conference speaking skills – our top tips to train yourself as a better webinar presenter are as follows:
1. Talk to the camera
I just watched a webinar and an ‘expert’ was speaking about his business. But he was speaking to his laptop screen! He didn’t look up at all. Didn’t acknowledge the camera. I spent the whole 15 minutes willing him to look up at me through his webcam. And I’m sure I wasn’t alone. It’s a natural human reaction – we want to communicate – to speak, and listen, face-to-face, eye-to-eye. We want and need reciprocated attention. If we don’t get it, we disengage. Simple! So, THE MOST IMPORTANT basic lesson with a webinar presentation is to talk to the camera.
2. Light up your life
It’s no good talking to the camera if your audience has difficulty seeing you. The most common online presenting ‘mistake’ we see is people presenting while sitting in front of a window (possibly because this is a natural working/reading position with the light behind us shining on our desk). However, presenting a webinar we need to think about our audience, not ourselves, so in fact we need the light to shine on us, not our desk. So, swivel around if possible, to face the window, or use a light positioned in front of you (like they do in a TV studio). Light yourself up!
3. Write a narrative
(an hour’s a long time to talk without notes, even for a politician!)
Being live in front of a camera can often be more nerve wracking than speaking in front of a crowd. When we get nervous we have a tendency to forget our message, slip off our agenda, ramble and waffle. Do this on a webinar and you only have a few seconds to ‘get it back’ before your audience drifts off. So, write yourself a prompt sheet for your narrative. One that you can glance at to stay on track. And, one tip, when you do look at it, don’t try to do it without the audience noticing. They will! And it’ll give the impression that you’re unprepared. It sounds counter-intuitive, but make your glance obvious, intentional, and look down, left or right for a moment or two (you can take longer than you think). It’ll help you, and your audience won’t mind at all (they’re used to seeing newsreaders doing this, and if it’s good for them, it’s good enough for us!) And, ironically, it will give the impression that you are concentrating, rather than being unprepared.
4. Keep your slides up a bit longer
Be conscious that it takes time for your audience to read your slide, unless it’s a single word or image. And, even if it is, with variable internet connections some people may have even up to a few seconds time-lag so when you’re moving on to your next slide and introducing it, half your audience could be a slide behind! So, slow down a bit for everyone to catch up. And, make it less onerous for them by not over-burdening them and filling your slides with text! If you want to push the envelope a bit, try using Prezi Video where you can be side by side with your slides!
5. Passively involve your audience
From the start, make your webinar engaging for your audience, so they don’t have to try. If you chat to the people in your audience as if you were talking to colleagues or clients in the same room, your audience will automatically feel more part of your webinar, be more engaged and therefore more likely to ask questions and interact with you! You’re making your webinar feel more like a conversation, even if it isn’t. So, how do you do it? Well, try referring to, or mentioning, your audience. Either as a whole, or to specific individuals. Ask rhetorical questions. Share experiences and relay stories. Get them to imagine a situation. This will involve your audience and make them feel a part of the ‘conversation’. It’ll also relax you and your audience, and the more you make it about them the more engaged they will be.
6. Dial down your speed and dial up your enunciation
With a remote audience, we don’t have the non-verbal cues we do with a face-to-face live audience so it’s a good idea to slow your talking speed down. One of the easiest ways to do this is to dial up your enunciation. And the bonus of speaking clearly, without mumbling, means your audience doesn’t have to work hard to understand your message. Don’t let this vocal deceleration translate into low energy though!
7. Amplify light and shade in your voice
A dry, monotone delivery is not engaging, so vary your vocal range and level. If this isn’t something you do naturally try to match your voice tone with the tone of the content i.e. upbeat for good news, more considered for the serious stuff.
8. Case studies – tell a story and engage
Include at least one case study. The real-life aspect of case studies makes them one of the most powerful communication tools. And, like telling a story, they paint pictures which means they are memorable and highly engaging for everyone.
9. Have fun
Be positive. Enjoy your presenting. Show the audience a good time. It’s the good sort of contagious! And, did you know that research has shown that in videoconferences (e.g. webinars and online presentations) people tend to be more influenced by how likeable they perceive the speaker to be, than the quality of their argument. Turn on the charm!
10. Invest in speaker training!
Until you’ve had specialist online speaker training, you don’t know what you’re missing. Once you’ve had it, you will wonder why you didn’t do it years ago! Not only will you feel better, your audience will love you for it! Check out secondnature, the business presentation skills experts!
Written By Belinda Huckle
Founder and Managing DirectorRead Bio
Belinda is the founder and managing director of secondnature. With a determination to drive a paradigm shift in the delivery of presentation skills training, she is a strong advocate of a more personal and sustainable presentation skills training methodology.
She believes in a training approach that harnesses people’s unique personality to build their own authentic presentation style and personal brand.
Belinda is currently helping to transform the presentation skills of people in organisations such as BBC Worldwide, DHL, ESRI, Heineken, MARS Inc., Moody’s, Pfizer, Roche, Triumph and Walmart – to name just a few.