Now more than ever, companies around the world have to rely on virtual communication methods. Luckily, we have apps such as Microsoft Teams, Slack and Zoom that are making it easier to lead a remote team. However, due to the coronavirus outbreak, we now also have to come up with new ways to keep clients and other stakeholders up-to-date and engaged.
When you have a lot to say, a simple blog post might not cover it. Moreover, if you need to communicate the same message to a wider audience, why not hold a webinar instead of sending the same email over and over again? Although putting a webinar together will require some level of organisation, it can save time (and nerves) in the long run.
Below, we have gathered some essential tips for you on how to organise a successful webinar. Some of these are just common sense, yet often overlooked.
Before the webinar
Hosting the event in a virtual environment means that you can skip the usual preparations that are often needed for live events such as ordering food & drinks and seating arrangements. However, some of the fundamentals stay the same. So don’t underestimate the need for practising your presentation or checking everything is ready for the “event” before you go live. Nothing says unprofessional like starting the presentation 10 minutes late because you can’t figure out how to turn the sound on.
Plan your webinar
Like with any content, you need to know who your audience is and how they will benefit from what you have to say. If you’re talking to your clients, take some time to find out if they are currently facing a specific problem or what’s relevant in their industry right now. For example, we recently organised a webinar on the business implications of the COVID-19, you can read the recap of that webinar here.
When you know what topic will draw a crowd, you need to decide the physical location of the webinar. Yes, you heard it right. Although the viewers can take part from anywhere, you as a presenter should pay special attention to the place where you are planning to speak. Pick a spot that is as quiet as possible to minimise the distractions and background noise. If you have to present from home, make sure your family knows when you’re “on air”. Although your wandering toddler might elicit a few laughs here and there, it may chip away at your credibility as an expert speaker on the topic. And last, but certainly not least – make sure you have a reliable wi-fi connection.
Create your content
Know what the topic should be? Great. It’s time to do the slides. Since you are not face-to-face with your audience, pay extra attention to the visual side of your presentation. Don’t clutter your slides with too much content – especially too much text can make it more difficult to follow your presentation. Instead, take advantage of some free beautiful imagery that is available on sites such as Unsplash or Pixabay. And remember to use a big enough font size – anyone joining the webinar with their mobile will thank you.
Promote your webinar
People’s calendars tend to fill up quickly, so start promoting your webinar early enough but continue until the last minute. Use emails, reminders and the power of social media to keep your upcoming webinar in your target audience’s mind. Remember, webinar titles needn’t be boring! Creating a catchy title can help in attracting the crowd and boosting the number of registrations. However, while you play with your creativity, do make sure you also list out all the basics in the webinar description such as the date, time, duration as well as the themes covered.
Do a trial run
Webinars are seldom a solo effort and there might be several speakers involved. Like it’s important to practise your own part, it’s just as important to ensure you work well together as a team. Before the big day, get everyone together to do a dry run where you make sure all the equipment works, the slides are in order and the handover between the speakers is smooth. Not everyone grew up tethered to technology so make sure that everyone knows the basics such as turning on the video and sound and muting oneself.
During the webinar
Just as you wouldn’t want to be late for face-to-face meetings, you shouldn’t be late for webinars – especially your own. Plus, being there a few minutes before the scheduled start time gives you the opportunity to greet all the early birds and make the final checks on the audio and video. And here’s the important part: close all your apps, especially messaging apps, and plug your laptop into a power socket. Have a glass of water nearby and you’re ready to start.
Engage the audience
With a live audience, all eyes are naturally fixed on the presenter. With that feature missing, it’s good practice to have a photo of yourself and other speakers near the beginning so viewers can visualise you talking to them during the webinar. Always start the webinar by thanking the viewers for attending and let them know how and when they can ask questions as well as whether the webinar is recorded. It is guaranteed that you will get asked these questions anyway, so it’s better to address them early on.
Perhaps the biggest challenge with webinars is how to keep the viewers engaged throughout the presentation. Just because they showed up doesn’t mean they will stay. And let’s face it. No matter how interesting your topic, watching one slide after another can get boring. To decrease the drop-off rate, try to include some interactive elements in your webinars such as polls, Q&A sections or short quizzes. Make your audience feel like they are part of the program.
Have a back-up plan
Sometimes things don’t work out the way we planned. It might not be your fault, but you want to have a plan B to fall back on in case your laptop freezes or your wi-fi is having a bad day. Simple things like sending slides to someone else can put your mind at ease and ensures that the show can go on even if the things go wrong on your end. It’s always good to organise “ a spotter” for the webinar – someone who is viewing the presentation from an attendee’s perspective and can alert you if something doesn’t look right.
After the webinar
After the webinar, you should send a follow-up email to all of the attendees as soon as possible – especially if you have promised to share a link to the webinar recording. This is also a good time to answer any questions that did not get answered during the allotted time as well as thank your viewers for attending.
If you’re new to organising webinars, you should also gather feedback and lessons learned after each webinar. What went well? Was there room for improvement in a particular area? Write notes down as soon as possible after the webinar has ended.
While webinars still take some organising, they are cost-effective, not to mention a safe way, to keep your stakeholders engaged and informed during COVID-19. Don’t be intimidated if you’re not used to holding events via live video – you will learn the ropes along the way.