I wish I could say it goes without saying, but the truth is that host audio quality is a huge factor in the quality of the presentation. There are some simple steps you can follow and some bad practices you can avoid to ensure that audio goes off without a hitch. A common mistake I see is when one or more of the hosts are on the run, sometimes even doing the webinar using cellphones as a replacement for a microphone. It just sounds horrible! Don’t do it! Instead, consider using a headset, and don’t be moving around; find a small room without background noise. Also, ensure that the distance between the microphone and your mouth is appropriate. Test what the right distance is before starting the webinar. It’s shocking but a ½ inch adjustment can have a dramatic impact on volume, feedback, and echo (another reason to be in a small room).
Another tip: if possible, make sure that the environment that you’re in is free from disturbances. This way, you can avoid pesky interruptions that may confuse or even annoy your audience. And to be sure that your equipment is set up properly Have someone else on your team or within the organization go through a mic check or test with you. Have them give you feedback on the audio and voice quality and see if it needs to be adjusted.
These suggestions apply to webinars of all types and of all lengths. Regarding length, you generally see webinars running from 20 minutes on the short end to upwards of an hour. Especially on the long webinars, you’ll want to be sure you have a quality audio capture system setup and a consistent, reliable connection so that there are no disruptions to your webinar. And while we’re on length, an important guideline to follow is respect for your audience’s time. That means ensuring you’re not running over time to deliver the full presentation. Oftentimes, when we tell stories to answer questions, we can get lost in the nuance, the details, and end up wasting a ton of time providing unnecessary context. Minimize those tangent thoughts. Be diligent about sticking to the start and stop times you set.
The tricky part with that is when you leave a lot of room for Q&A, which you should do. You don’t want to plan to have content for 95% of the allotted time and just leave a tiny window to answer questions. People are curious, and if you did a good job, they’ll be trying to build connections of understanding. Questions are a natural extension of that. The challenge as the host is to manage the time you spend answering any one question so you can give a little extra detail to what will likely be many questions after your presentation. It goes back to being efficient in your delivery.
All right. Let's keep moving forward and let's talk now about the slides themselves and how to build engaging slides that are helpful. A key here is to only have really one idea per slide. You want it to focus on what you're message is and the slides are just meant to help with that. They don't have to convey all the information. That's what you're doing as the presenter, so think of the slides as just augmentation and really you should be spending no more than a minute. You can plan on even 45 seconds for a slide and if it goes much over that, certainly it shouldn't be 2 minutes. If it is, what do you do? Hey, you build out another one, part 2, not a problem, not a big deal.
In terms of layout, it needs to be consistent. That helps your audience because they know where to look, but at the same time, you do need to change it up. You need to have different stimulus in terms of their eyes, what they're looking for, where they're going. You've got to change it up both in terms of the design and the content. Ways to do that include the content itself, like I said, take a vote. We talked about chatting or polling earlier on. Add some multimedia, that can be very engaging, but clearly if you're going to have bullets on there, make sure that people can see them. That's of course again hopefully one of the no-brainer.
What else though can we do? I mentioned that the slides themselves should augment and Michael Hyatt talks a lot about this. I'm a fan of what he has to say. Often the problem I think for people is they think that they're going to have this slide deck sent out afterwards and it's got to convey everything in case someone missed the webinar. I disagree, that's not the case. If they missed this webinar, that's their problem. The slides are meant to help and convey the information in a more interesting manner, but your content really is your delivery and the words that you're delivering during the presentation. If you take away that requirement that it's a stand-alone document, that's how you can have your slides more readable, more interesting because you're not pressured into including everything in the slide.
Now some of these next items are somewhat small in details and people don't think they matter too much, but I beg to differ.
In terms of start time, what we see most often used is 11 a.m. Pacific. Why is that? Well, of course, that works out for both coasts. But if you're looking internationally, then, of course, you have to modify that and potentially have dual webinars, morning and afternoon.
We talked earlier about the importance of a reminder on the day of and also an invitation. Then we talked about always sending a pdf afterwards because not only are you just trying to help people with their notes, but that's a reminder of the whole conversation they heard, and that's important to keep the longevity of your topic going forward.
In terms of the content itself, don't deliver everything right upfront because that takes away the whole importance of sticking on. Salt your content throughout the duration. Keep some things for the end. Don't be afraid to keep your audience with engagement in terms of novel, catchy data and content, because that's what people are interested in hearing.
As the speaker, especially if you're going to be on an hour-long webinar, make sure you've got a glass of water and take a break every now and again to actually have some of that.
Don't be afraid to move. The best way to get engagement is to be physically moving, certainly if it's an hour-long webinar.
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