With marketing departments running quicker (and leaner) than ever, we know that the list of “to-dos” is long and triaged. So why spend the time, resources, and energy to host a webinar?

It’s a good question, and here’s the good answer: Webinars create new business relationships, add value to your brand, and generate significant leads. Not to mention they are highly scalable, have relatively low costs associated, and can easily be recorded, reused, and repurposed. In short, webinars are good for business.

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So, once you’ve decided to take the plunge and host a webinar, the first thing you’ll want to do is choose a subject and a subject matter expert. The success of the webinar is largely contingent on how articulate and trustworthy the presenter is, and how well the presentation addresses genuine audience concerns. Choose a topic that you and your organization are very familiar with, and that your intended audience thinks is important. Usually, topics that are most successful answer common questions, explain how to do something well, or help people improve their professional or personal life. At a loss for a topic? Check out what your competitors are doing, and do it better. Or take a contrarian position. Or browse TED Talks for inspiration.

Caution: Don’t choose subject matter that your organization, or the presenter, is not extremely familiar with. People are smart; they’ll see through a presentation that isn’t well informed, especially if it’s a burning issue to them.

The perfect presenter will give your webinar credibility and build an intellectual connection with your audience, making your company look good by association.

Will that presenter be you? If so, here are some must-dos to build trust and authority, and ultimately guide leads into your sales pipeline.

1. Remember That It’s All About Your Audience – Not You

Out of 40 hours in the week, someone has chosen to spend one of those hours with you. They’ve rearranged their time to make sure that they’re able to attend your webinar, and they gave you their contact information – it’s personal. Don’t forget that. While this may seem like a great opportunity for you to spout off about a subject that you’re a total geek about … don’t neglect the needs and wants of your audience members. They are there to learn what you are teaching, and that may mean slowing down a little bit, or making things elementary enough for those new to the subject matter to understand. The end goal is for your audience to walk away feeling like they truly learned something – which means that you must teach them. At the end of the webinar, no attendee should have to ask themselves “What was in that for me?” Make it worth your audience’s time commitment.

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2. Be Excited and Exciting

If you aren’t totally jazzed about the topic you’re presenting, you better believe your audience won’t be either. Keep this in mind when you’re choosing your topic and developing your content, and when you’re giving your presentation. The best webinars we’ve attended have been ones where the speaker is both excited, and exciting! They know their stuff, and they can’t wait to share it with their captivated audience. Note well: “captivated,” not “captive.” Unlike an in-person event, they can leave at any time, anonymously, and they will bail without guilt if you don’t keep them interested.

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Food for Thought: Would you be presenting this differently if you were at a conference and there was a live audience? The answer should be no. Use hand gestures while you’re talking, even if you’re alone in a room. They will translate audibly as enthusiasm, authority, and gumption. You should think of this presentation as Human to Human, not Computer to Computer.

And remember to smile, just as you would if you were talking to one person. It affects how you sound.

3. Speak with Authority

Now is not the time to be shy. You were chosen to present because you are the best at what you do – now is the time to show that. Speaking with authority adds value to your brand, builds brand awareness, and establishes trust. Speak passionately and powerfully about the subject you’ve chosen and your words will stick with the audience long after the webinar is over.

Do not read your slides. That’s boring, to begin with. And since your audience will be reading your slides for themselves, it lessens the need for them to listen to you and frays your connection with them. Make the text on your slides as spare as possible. Use the notes section if you need cues about what to talk about.

Rehearse your presentation until you know what the essence of each slide is, then in the actual event, you can speak more directly, more conversationally, and share information that is not on the slide. It will help you seem both more authoritative and warmer at the same time.

4. Use Interactive Elements – Don’t be Flat

Depending on the webinar platform you’re using, you’ll be able to interact with your audience in a variety of ways. We strongly encourage that you capitalize on this functionality, and engage with your audience frequently throughout the webinar presentation. This might be built in polls, social media plugins, or as simple as stopping to take questions throughout the presentation. Whatever you choose to do as far as interactive elements go, make sure that you keep in mind that even though your audience isn’t in front of you, this can still be a two-way presentation.

At the very least, make sure you leave at least 10 minutes at the end of the presentation to answer any and all questions that your audience may have. It’s also important to remind people throughout the presentation of how they can ask questions, whether it be email, Twitter hashtags, or a Q&A box within the platform.

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5. Give Them Something to Do

The best way to maximize the impact of your webinar is to make your content actionable. You just spent an hour delivering top notch content (and many hours preparing), don’t let that go to waste. If you’ve followed the steps above successfully, the hottest prospects in your audience should be excited about the subject matter and will likely be ready to take a next action.

Use that momentum to keep them interested in your brand by suggesting they download a specific eBook, complete an assessment, or schedule a demo of your product. The last thing you’ll want to happen is for the audience members to love your webinar, but have to come up with a next step on their own.

In case you missed our blog post on the Ultimate Presenter Checklist for Running (Seemingly) Flawless Webinars, check it out!

Get the full A to Z on how to use webinars to acquire and convert leads with our free eBook, Planning and Executing Webinars That Generate Leads.