What Do Webinar Viewers Want?If all your webinars are laid end-to-end, you’re gonna need a lot of drinking water!

But seriously, you’ve created and delivered hours upon hours of online presentations. Some of them got a lot of people interested in your business. Some of them, not so much. Is there a magic formula for matching the expectations of your audience?

LinkedIn is a great place to find people complaining about the terrible webinars they’ve viewed. I took the liberty of reading some complaints there, because I knew it would be a rich well of ideas for what to deliver in a webinar, and what to avoid.

There were also viewers who lauded webinars they enjoyed, and more importantly, they were willing to share the names of people and organizations that impressed them the most. Dan Zarella and HubSpot are mentioned many times, as are 451 Marketing, another Boston-area firm.

Frankly, these people follow a set of unwritten webinar rules that are easy to glean from the LinkedIn comments. These are the expectations that webinar attendees have when they log in to witness your presentation.

The Rules of Webinars:

Rule # 1: Don’t Pitch

This one is absolute. Webinar viewers will never, ever pay for a pitch, and they’re fairly irritated if a pitch is part of a free webinar. While viewers understand the quid pro quo behind a free webinar, you’re still better off without the pitch. Right off, you will tell them who you are and where you’re from, and why you’re presenting. Then get right to it. Present on some high-concept issue facing your industry and your audience, and offer ideas. Viewers will come find you if the content was worthwhile.

Rule #2: Offer Quality

They say you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, so don’t try. But if your content truly is a bolt of fine-woven imported silk, make sure to present it as a rich tapestry. Even for free, viewers want something that is polished and well-presented. There is no reason to stumble over your notes, display broken graphics and videos, and suffer technical glitches and leave dead air. It doesn’t make the presentation seem any more ‘human’, just bad. Viewers do not give a pass on bad content or production just because a webinar is free.

Rule #3: Be Interesting

Why are you the person making the presentation? Are you the resident content expert? Can you show why your credentials make you the right person for the job? This is critical, especially if the webinar is not free. The presenter should be able to build a rapport, set a positive, engaging webinar ambiance, and make people feel like they are the only ones present. If you’re giving the talk because you have nothing better to do, and you’re planning to read the slides in a bland workaday voice, find someone else. The presenter is the presentation, not the slides. Without a decent voice, the right credibility, or both, you’re going to deliver a terrible webinar.

Rule #4: Follow Up

By ‘Follow Up’ I don’t mean just sending a transactional email with a link to the video. That isn’t good enough anymore. You, the presenter, and not your sales team, should be the face of the followup effort. Everyone expects to get a sales call, which is why this tactic stands out. Make sure to write to everyone, offering a summary of the presentation, the slides, video, any handout documents, and asking for direct feedback. If the group is small enough, you might even call each attendee personally. The follow-up should be done within a day of the event, and probably right away.

Rule #5: Make It Sharable

Viewers want to share great content because it associates them with the latest thinking. If any part of your presentation is online, encourage viewers to send a link to others during the presentation and afterward. A short video summary of the topic is a good idea, because it is easier to appreciate and send to others.

Rule #6: Use Substance

If your webinar topic can be summarized into a two-paragraph email, why is it a webinar? Your presentation should involve a concept that takes a half-hour to present. You should use graphics because you need them. You should use a long series of bullets to break down complex ideas. That doesn’t mean you can’t summarize the topic. In fact, you should. Several times. Repeat to your attendees what they will learn, what they are learning, and what they should have learned.

Rule #7: Go Live

There’s a reason people have signed in to your live event. It’s because people want some live Q&A, and in fact it may be the primary draw. A photo or, better yet, a video of the presenter creates the feeling of being there. Using graphics and shareable content make it better than a conference call. Viewers also want a way to engage and connect through real-time chat boxes and polling boxes. During a live presentation, you should be able to gauge the average experience level of the audience, and the live setting allows you to match it. Viewers want to engage with you in a live setting. If they didn’t, they’d watch your recorded webinar instead.

Rule #8: No Loose Ends

Tie everything up before the webinar ends. If you’ve reminded viewers to ask questions during the presentation, try to answer them. If you’ve promised to cover something in detail, do so. If you’ve advertised the webinar according to certain criteria, make sure to match the expectations you’ve set.

Webinar attendees can be a bit picky about what they want from a webinar. But the concept is not new. Webinars have been around for quite awhile and viewers know exactly what they want and expect. Stick to these rules, and more often than not you will be recognized as someone who delivers high quality webinars full of big ideas. That’s what we’re all looking for.