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Yesterday I took part in my first webinar.
I’ve hosted many webinars, but never done the speaking part. I must admit, I’m not a great fan of the format.
However, this reticence when it comes to speaking to lots of mute people whilst rustling through a slide deck is almost certainly a result of nerves about tech and public speaking.
Once all possible hitches are unhitched, or at least made unhitchable before they get a chance to hitch themselves, the experience is, in very real terms, more approachable (this sentence is an example of the way a nervous person can start speaking on a webinar).
What I mean to say is perhaps webinars can be enjoyable if you follow a few steps beforehand and bear in mind one or two points whilst speaking.
Here are some of the things I’ve learned about the tech, and yesterday, very quickly, about the speaking bit.
Understand what testing means
If you’ve ever done a science qualification, or you’re a fan of Sherlock Holmes, you’ll know what it means to eliminate all variables.
Testing means using the same laptop, cables, telephone, Wifii network (or LAN cable), headset, even Windows user, as you are going to use for the live webinar.
Try switching any of those and the pain will quickly start. Worst of all is using a new laptop and having to download Java, Flash, and an Ask plug-in in the three minutes you’ve got until the red light flashes.
That Ask plug-in, by the way, will never go away. If you really want to twist it off the calf of your browser like the leech it is, you’ll have to halt it in processes (ctrl-alt-del) before uninstalling from programs and possibly changing search bar in your browser settings.
VoIP is your enemy
I’ve experienced many a difficulty with sound quality when I’ve tried to get away with just using a headset and not a dog and bone.
This isn’t helped by the fact that Webex and other providers can often provide webinar functionality forgetting to enable all your voice/sound options.
Just because you’ve had a successful webinar over an internet connection doesn’t mean that next time your voice won’t be garbled by the web connection. Of course, listeners often want a phone number, too, if they’re sharing a room with other listeners and don’t want to take part in some sort of webinar silent disco.
Slow down chief
The number one performance tip. You don’t know it but you’re talking too quickly. Yesterday I was talking like a man who had just seen behind a waterfall for a second and it was a breathtaking sight. That’s not great for your listeners.
Take a deep breath, count to three before you start, and perhaps use a short scripted intro to set your pace, before moving into more ad-libbed and free-flowing territory.
Include case studies
Often webinars involve the sharing of stats, figures, etc. These aren’t naturally enlivening. Most people’s brains work better when prompted not by a stat or figure, but by a picture, perhaps a screenshot illustrating a case study.
However interesting you think your webinar is, referring to brands in other sectors, perhaps some examples with a personal touch, stuff that has made the news, this kind of slightly oblique inclusion will liven up your presentation.
Depending on your webinar platform, you might have to remember to do some pretty important things, like hit ‘record’.
If you do have to hit record, and that’s the case in Webex, then you will forget. You will. So put a post-it near enough in the middle of your screen and write ‘hit record you big idiot’ on it.
This will give you a chance.
Script and un-script
Use a script for difficult bits. But don’t overscript. That way monotony lies.
The full run-through
Doing a full run-through the day before a webinar is a good idea. It will help to nail down what you want to say, and although you might fear it will make performance two a little more wooden, it won’t.
In fact, a proper run-through (with someone else on the phone) will produce enough adrenaline to give you a few new ideas to include in the live run.
Michael Jordan used to spend a while getting to know opposing teams’ alien stadia, so that when he went out, he felt at home. It’s the same with your run-through. Imagining the plays, so that when you dunk for real it’s just muscle memory.