Whether transitioning as an experienced speaker from live presentations to virtual environments, or starting out as a new speaker for the first time via webinar delivery, careful thought and preparation should be given to the transition. To help with this jump into virtual delivery, here are six tips to smooth out the transition and prepare you to deliver a stellar presentation from your very first event:
1) Learn the technology: I cannot stress this step enough. A big mistake I observe webinar presenter neophytes make is logging into the webinar platform the week of the event (even the day of the event!) and expecting the technology to magically read minds. Just as you would for a live in-person event, spend some time learning the layout of the virtual ‘venue’ – setting the ‘room’ up the way you’d like and planning your event flow carefully. This time investment is well worth the result of a professionally and seamlessly produced event. First-time webinar presenters will also benefit from dedicating time to learning the technology by an increase in confidence. The last thing a new virtual presenter needs on the day of their first webinar is to be uncomfortable with the technology and therefore distracting the audience while fumbling around to accomplish simple tasks like moving the slides forward, screen sharing or administering a poll. Thoroughly understanding the webinar platform technology will also enable the presenter to take advantage of all the technology has to offer in the way of interactive options. Take the time to log in way in advance of the event to get familiar with the environment. Tip: some platform providers have free training courses or tutorials you can utilize to help get started.
2) Use a producer: Just as a speaker at a live in-person event would have a support team including the event coordinator and an AV tech, a webinar producer is a must as well. At least one other person should be on the webinar to moderate, host and/or produce in order to assist the speaker. This allows the speaker to focus on delivering the content by eliminating distractions from attendees needing technical assistance or from tasks related to webinar platform management. Plan to meet with the producer in advance of the event to review your presentation and plans for interactivity so that the producer knows what to expect and understands how to provide meaningful help throughout the event. As a new virtual presenter you may rely more heavily upon this person during the first few virtual deliveries until you become better at handling the webinar technology while you are presenting content at the same time.
3) Plan ahead: Once you have become familiar with all the tools and features available within your webinar platform, you can now carefully plan out how you’d like your event to go. Do you want to use polls, chat, video, screen share, uploaded content, music, etc? Plan out all of these interactions at specified intervals ahead of time. In order to help organize the flow of the event, here are three organizational hints: 1) use layouts to seamlessly move from one activity to another, 2) use the webinar producer to help administer interactive activities and 3) put placeholders in your slides to indicate, and remind you of, a transition or activity you had planned for that point in the presentation.
4) Practice: This element is crucial for new virtual presenters – even if you’ve presented the same content in other settings. You will want to practice with the same computer, audio equipment and internet access that you will use on the day of the event to make sure everything sounds and looks good. Practicing your delivery style via the new virtual environment will help increase your comfort with not having an actual audience to feed off of. You will also want to flip through all your slides to make sure they look nice in the virtual webinar room and go through the motions of each interactive activity you have planned so they go smoothly and seamlessly on the day of the event.
5) Add interactive features gradually: There are many interactive features and exercises you can add to a webinar presentation. The more interaction from the audience you can garner, the more they will remember the content and be likely to engage with you in the future. However, as a first time webinar presenter it may be best to pick just two or three points of interaction throughout your first webinar delivery, with the help of your producer. Then add other interactive elements as you become more comfortable with webinar presentations. Here are some good choices for your first interactive points during the initial delivery;
- add an open chat pod in your lobby asking attendees to enter their current location
- ask attendees to type their first name in the moderated Q&A pod and acknowledge some of their names out loud
- use a poll
- answer one or two questions that have come in at the half way point in your presentation
- hold a post-presentation Q&A during the last 5-10 minutes of the webinar
You can add more advanced interactive options like multiple chat pod exercises or Twitter participation in future sessions.
6) Review & revamp: Always record your sessions both for your audience and for yourself. Review the recording and look for ways to improve your virtual delivery style, the smoothness of the event delivery, the cadence of activities, slide changes and transitions, and how you can increase interactivity the next time. If this is a session you are going to repeat in the future, the nice thing about Adobe Connect specifically is that your content and layout will stay the same so you can just tweak the room with the improvements you have in mind without starting over from scratch.
Once you get comfortable and rolling with webinar presentations, you will quickly discover the advantages of the reach you now have to deliver your content broadly and with great audience involvement. Good luck!
For more tips on webinar best practices, visit my blog here.