Just Say “No” To Bad Webinars – 5 Rules For Public Speakers To Use

by drjim on February 18, 2014

Speakers need to learn how to master the art of the webinar

Speakers need to learn how to master the art of the webinar
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Back in the day, it seemed like every speech that we gave was the same. We’d show up in a room, the audience would sit quietly in their chairs, and then we’d take the stage and wow them. If our words weren’t working, we’d be able to see it in our audience’s face and we could adjust what we were saying to better match their mood. Well guess what: webinars have arrived and now all of the old rules no longer work for us.

Say Hello To The World Of Webinars

So just exactly what is this thing that we are calling a “webinar”? The arrival of the Internet has allowed just about every member of your potential audience to have access to a high speed Internet connection. This has opened a wide range of new possibilities for how you can get your message out to more people. This means that the importance of public speaking has just become even more important. No longer do people have to travel to a common location to hear you speak, instead they can now sit down at their computer and tune into your webinar.

A webinar consists of you sitting down (or standing in front of a computer and broadcasting your speech out to a group of people who have requested to hear it. There are a number of different ways that this can happen. Generally a webinar consists of your voice and screenshots of your PowerPoint / Keynote slides being delivered to your audience. A variation of this is when video of you is included and your virtual audience can actually see you.

There are pluses and minuses to this new way of giving speeches. On the plus side is the simple fact that you now have the ability to reach a much larger audience (virtually unlimited) and people who might not have been able to travel to hear you can now attend one of your speeches. However, on the minus side, all of the feedback that we get from a live audience is now gone – we have no idea if our audience is paying any attention to what we are saying.

5 Rules For Giving A Webinar That Works

Hopefully we can all agree that the world of webinars is unlike the world of public speaking that we’ve been living in. What we need to do now is to figure out what the new rules for this communication tool are. Here are 5 rules that, if implemented, will make your next webinar work for you and not against you:

  • You Aren’t In Kansas Any More: A webinar is unlike a live presentation – get over it. All of the lessons that you’ve learned about how to read your audience and adjust your presentation on the fly won’t work here. What you are going to have to do is focus on finding ways to connect with your audience though the words that you are saying.
  • It’s All About Your Slides: I sorta hate to have to say this, but when you are giving a webinar your slides will be playing a major role – this is what your audience is going to spend your speech looking at. This is one case where using animation just might be a very good idea!
  • Polling Questions Are Your Friend: One of the biggest challenges that we have when we are delivering a webinar is that we need to wake up our audiences and keep them engaged. In order to make this happen, you can use polling questions to get them to take action and give you input. Don’t overuse this tool. Try using one 10 minutes into your webinar, another one half-way through, and one more towards the end.
  • Batman, You Need Your Robin: A webinar provides you with the ability to have a moderator step in and help you out. The moderator can start the webinar off by telling your audience how to use their webinar tool, the agenda for the webinar and how to ask questions. As you move through the webinar, the moderator can ask strategic questions at the right time and you can even engage in a back-and-forth conversation with them during part of the webinar just to keep things interesting.
  • Practice, Then Practice Again: There are a lot of things that won’t be available for you to use during a webinar such as body language. This means that you need to take the time to practice using what few tools you will have: your voice, your slides, and the overall setup of the webinar. Practice, practice, practice!

What All Of This Means For You

Welcome to the 21st Century. The world of public speaking, just like everything else has moved on. No longer do we have to be standing in front of a real live audience in order to give a speech. Now one of the benefits of public speaking is that we can use the Internet to give our presentations as webinars. What this means is that all of the rules that used to apply to giving a good speech have now changed…

The way that we interact with an audience is different when we are giving a webinar – we can’t see them and they can’t necessarily see us. This means that we need to change the way that we deliver our speech. Our slides are what our audience will be seeing and so they have become much more important. We also need to find ways to stop the presentation and “wake up” our audience in order to get them to once again pay attention to what we are saying by occasionally using polling questions.

The good news is that it is possible to keep your webinar audience glued to your every word just like you can do when you are delivering a speech in person. However, we’ve got to adjust – a webinar requires new techniques. Use these 5 suggestions and you’ll soon be the king / queen of webinars.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: What do you think the perfect length of time for a webinar is?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site www.Toastmasters.org. Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I’m sure that we’d all like to be a strong, confident speaker. The big question that we all face is just exactly how can we go about getting from where we are today to becoming the strong speaker that we’d all like to become? Nope, there’s no magic pill that will make this happen; however, there are a few skills that if we take the time to practice will serve to make us much stronger speakers.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Wendy Wagner-Smith February 18, 2014 at 1:27 pm

Hi Dr. Jim–
What are polling questions?
 Polling Questions Are Your Friend: One of the biggest challenges that we have when we are delivering a webinar is that we need to wake up our audiences and keep them engaged. In order to make this happen, you can use polling questions to get them to take action and give you input. Don’t overuse this tool. Try using one 10 minutes into your webinar, another one half-way through, and one more towards the end.

Reply

drjim February 20, 2014 at 9:37 pm

Wendy: A “polling question” is when you stop your webinar presentation and use tools that are built-in to the webinar tool (like WebEx) to cause a question to appear on everyone’s screen. They then have to answer it and you’ll get real-time stats on what their responses are. If I was talking about inflation, I could use “Will inflation go up this year” as a polling question and everyone would click on “yes” or “no” and I’d be told how many people voted for each possible response.

Reply

Ian February 22, 2014 at 11:18 am

Hi Jim,

Online engagement during a webinar is a fascinating issue. I’ve done a lot of speaking over the years and have a number of tools at my disposal for how to create and sustain engagement when it comes to a traditional speaking environment, but the webinar environment is a whole new experience. I think you are spot on about slides assume a much greater role, and I’ve seen the Batman/Robin Host/Co-host approach used to great effect. I haven’t seen polling interspersed at key points in the presentation though. Interesting idea for maintaining engagement while also gauging what your audience is thinking so you can adjust on the fly if necessary.

Reply

drjim February 27, 2014 at 9:33 pm

Ian: great points. We are all pioneers when it comes to webinars. We know that they are a powerful way to communicate, now all we have to do is to figure out the rules for using them correctly…!

Reply

Ian March 1, 2014 at 10:21 am

The great thing about being a pioneer is that, despite all the hard work of breaking new ground, there’s expansive opportunity for those of us willing to put in the work. ; )

Reply

Dean March 11, 2014 at 6:56 pm

Ideal time ? 20 minutes.

Webinars are inherently less engaging than a live presentation, so keep it TED short. As Carmine Gallo says in his recent book Talk Like TED, if you can’t say it in 18 minutes, you don’t understand it well enough.

20 minutes of broadcast and then get to the Q+As which are even more audience engaging than a poll.

Reply

drjim March 17, 2014 at 9:16 pm

Dean: Great points. A webinar is NOT the same thing as a speech and you make a good point — making it shorter helps to keep your audience’s attention…

Reply

Dean March 17, 2014 at 9:21 pm

Just like a presentation Jim, it’s easy to *say* make it shorter … much tougher to do it. Those who are disciplined enough to make the effort and prune hard reap the rewards.

Reply

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