I just sat through my sixth webinar this month. I would give all of them at least a B+ for content, and two probably deserve an A. That said, they all kind of sucked in a way, leaving us with the obvious question: If they had such great content, how could they not be great?
In each case, there were one or more things that caused what could have been an excellent webinar to be something far less – even though the underlying content was very good.
Here are four things that made this month’s potentially great webinars substandard. Avoid these mistakes if you want to improve the impact of your webinars.
1) Don’t Have a Script
You’re a pro. You’ve done this before and know exactly what you want to say, right? So why bother having a script? Just wing it.
It was clear that at least 2 or 3 of this month’s presenters had no script. They repeated themselves and said the same thing five different ways to make their point.
Yes, I think we got it the first time you said it. Can we move on now?
In a couple of places they got a bit lost and you could almost see their eyes roll up as their brain searched for their next sentence. In the meantime they let loose with the appropriate number of “ummms” and “ahhhhs” to fill dead air space.
One speaker started down a path and then realized she hadn’t teed the next subject up properly. “Oh wait, but first let me go back to… “.
Ouch! I get brain whiplash when you do that. Please don’t do it again (but she did).
And the last faux pas of the month occured when multiple speakers were sharing the webinar stage and there was no plan. “So Jerry – where do you want to start? Do you want to cover the customer profile or should I?”
Geez I don’t know, why don’t you guys figure all that out and call me when you know what you’re doing.
Script your webinar! It will flow. It will be crisp. If your content is good it won’t bore your audience. You will create a more favorable impression. You will appear organized (because you are) and it will be shorter.
2) Speak Forever On A Single Slide
Yes, please do put up one slide and talk at me for 12 minutes straight (as one presenter did this month — 12:20 to be exact, I timed it).
You have my undivided attention- for about 30 seconds, maybe.
The problem with speaking to one slide for a long time is that it ignores an important principle of learning:
According to research by Michigan State University and other sources, about 65% of the population learns by what they see. I am one of them. Give me graphs and pictures. Help me connect the dots with my eyes and I’ll learn. I can not learn by listening to you (only about 30% of the population can).
This means you teach about 30% of your audience about your subject matter by talking to them. To make this jump up to 95% you need to get the visual learner engaged by appealing to his or her sense of sight. Staying on the same slide for 12 minutes doesn’t do it.
Presentations that might work for you in person may not translate well to webinar use. As a visual learner I don’t have you to look at as I would in a face-to-face meeting. That might keep me engaged if you’re a good speaker, but I lose that when you go to a webinar format.
One rule of thumb I follow is: make some type of slide change every 15-30 seconds to help keep people engaged.
(Incidentally, the remaining 5% of the population are kinesthetic learners who need to touch and feel things to learn. We will be needing some massive technological breakthroughs before we can specifically address their learning needs via a webinar. I’ll let you know as soon as they arrive.)
3) Dont’ Use Any Pictures
Cram as many words as possible on a slide. Oh look! It’s almost like a script – why don’t you just read it to me? Great!
One of the presentations I saw this month did just that. It lasted a half hour, and had only 10 slides, almost all of them an eye-chart, and the speaker read them all to us.
My mind wandered so far I had trouble getting home in time for dinner. I couldn’t figure out where the speaker was, what point they were on, and then started to lose track of what they were saying and why I was there. (This “visual learner” thing can be a real curse sometimes).
In addition to the fact that pictures appeal to the visual learner, people process pictures better and faster than written words. How much faster? Humans process images about 60,000 times faster than text. Look for ways to replace text with images to increase understanding and keep your audience engaged especially when you are trying to explain complex relationships or concepts. You’ll dramatically increase your audience’s ability to “get it”.
4) Make it A Commercial
I shouldn’t even have to say this, but you couldn’t tell that from one of the webinars I sat in on last month. While there was some good content in it, way too much of it was a blatant ad.
This is fine if you’ve positioned it that way, or developed me into a prospect for what you’re selling. But PLEASE don’t tell me I’m going to “Learn How to _____” and then give me a sales pitch.
Needless to say, I ditched that one well before it was over and unsubscribed to all future communications.
In addition to avoiding these four potential mistakes, here is one additional idea for your consideration:
Pre-Produce Your Webinar
Except for the initial Q&A session, I recommend that you consider putting your webinars in the can prior to broadcast. This requires that you have a script (see #1 above). Once you’ve got the script down, record the participant(s).
Have someone edit the audio track to pull out the “umms” and dead air. Listen for areas in the audio track that are not smooth. Re-record sentences that people stumbled over and consider a rewrite of points that didn’t end up having the punch you need them to have.
Then plug the new audio back into the original presentation and observe the results.You will be amazed at how much more impressive your overall presentation is.
Using pre-production is especially important when you have guest speakers involved (like a customer) that you haven’t worked closely with before. Even if you believe your guest is an accomplished speaker why chance it? Maybe they’re great in front of a live audience but go into complete monotone mode on the phone.
Pre-production allows you a chance to find that out and fix it before things go sideways. And, trust me, it is a lot less painfull to pre-produce than looking at your boss after a live event and having them say, “Well that was kind of a disaster wasn’t it”? Oweeee.
One final reason I like pre-recorded webinars has to do with giving the best impression possible to as many people as possible. Jim Burns, CEO of Avitage (a Waltham MA firm that runs webinars as one if its many services) shared an interesting metric with me recently. As part of their services his company archives webinars for its clients and tracks subsequent views.
He tells me that on average, an archived webinar will get four to five times more views in the 12 months after its initial release date than it does on the day it was first broadcast. This means if you reached 100 people during the initial event, you will probably get another 400-500 more views once you archive it.
Given that, doesn’t it make sense to do it right? I think it does. You’ll never release a disastrous webinar if you pre-produce, and your webinars will have the maximum impact as an archived event for a long time to come.
What do you think?