What does it take to give a great online presentation? That’s something I’ve spent many years thinking about, as I’ve hosted and delivered hundreds of webinars.
Although giving an online presentation or webinar might seem daunting, it’s no more complex than driving a car, and like driving a car, it just takes practice to do it well.
So, based on the experience of 7 years and hundreds of online events, here is one thing to remember and four things to do when delivering a great webinar:
One thing to remember
Remember this: the audience’s only interaction is via their computer screen and speakers. This may be obvious, but precisely for that reason, it is easy to overlook how wide the implications are.
Because each audience member is separate from each other and from you, three lines of non-verbal communication are removed, lines that we take for granted during a physical presentation. The audience cannot communicate with you non-verbally, nor with each other, nor can you communicate non-verbally with them. The result is that online presentations require you to think very clearly about how you will build rapport with your audience, engage their interest and maintain it.
Online, without your body and face to help you, your voice becomes an important tool. It must be clear, varied and well-modulated. Using a set of wordy PowerPoint slides as a script for ad-libbing is a poor approach when you are physically in front of people. Online it is a disaster. To be a success presenting online you need compelling, well-structured content that involves the audience.
There is something else to remember: your audience is almost certainly at their desk, at work, in a busy, noisy environment. They are only a few seconds away from their e-mail. To keep them engaged, you will need to do four things.
Four things to do
1. What you say – decide on the point you want to make and stick to it.
2. Work with the audience – structure your presentation to allow you to build rapport, engage interest and maintain it
3. How you say it – use your voice well
4. Preparation – this is usually the difference between online success and failure
1. What you say
the key point of a successful online session is this: have a point and stick to it. By ‘stick to it’ I mean that every word of the presentation, every question, every analogy, metaphor and piece of information should lead to or reinforce that point. If it doesn’t, throw it out.
Some considerations on content:
• Be useful. Without this, nothing else matters.
• If in doubt, have too much content rather than too little
• The actionable, practical and real is always preferable to the theoretical
• Avoid hyperbole, spin or marketing
• Structure your work well, so that it is clear where you are at any point, and how what you are saying links with previous and past points.
• Tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em; tell ‘em; then tell ‘em what you told ‘em
2. Work with the audience
There are three parts to any presentation, and it is no different online. You need to:
• Build rapport – your first few minutes are essential
• Engage the audience – ask questions. Ask your first, open, question early. Preferably on your second slide.
• Maintain interest – use a variety of questions and visual interest
3. How you say it
• Your words – don’t rely on ad libbing. Make notes to guide you on key points and transitions. Run over them until they are smooth and natural.
• Your voice – listen to talk radio. Find a star you like and emulate them.
• Deliver it your way – warm up, stand up, smile. Practice and try things out until you find what makes your voice work online
When facilitating online, I always de-brief the presenter immediately afterwards, and am struck by how frequently they describe themselves as ‘exhausted’. This is a common reaction to having to deal with several new things simultaneously.
And delivering online is pretty much all new.
How many hours have you spent presenting to live audiences face-to-face? However many or few, it is almost certainly many more hours than you have spent presenting online. During those hours, you have built up a repertoire of methods for everything from dealing with nerves to understanding your audience and pacing delivery. You do not have to learn all these again from scratch when presenting online, but some of them will need to be adapted.
Until you’ve got some online presenting hours under your belt I strongly recommend:
• Several script-building rehearsals where you pace up and down repeating your words until you are happy with the flow of content. This is crucial and something I’d never abandon, no matter how experienced you become.
• A technical rehearsal – where you test the transitions between speakers, introductions, finish, sound and vision on the same equipment you will be using when you go live. Again, I always do one of these no matter how experienced a presenter.
• A dress rehearsal – a complete run through of your talk. Recommended for all events until you are fully confident with the medium.
This blog entry summarises a 17-page guide that I’ve compiled over the past 5 years, entitled How to be a Webinar Master. If you’d like a free copy, just ask and you’ll be mailed your free copy:
And if you’d like to see me put this theory into practice, click to listen to the recording of Moving your webinars from enraging to engaging. The point where I enter is clearly marked on the left. Run time is one hour for the whole thing.