How to Conduct a Successful Webinar

Confession: I’ve never hosted a webinar before, but I have attended quite a few, both good and bad. I’d love to host a webinar someday (I just don’t know what topic it would be on – would you really want to attend a webinar about the Russian language?). Until then, I have some tips for effective webinars, all based on my observations.

Deliver what is promised.

If you advertise a webinar as an event to learn to publish a book on Amazon Kindle, don’t spend one hour talking about how to use Microsoft Word. That’s just ridiculous! First of all, as a writer, I know how to use a word processor (and if I didn’t, I would seek out that advice somewhere else) and second of all, I don’t even use Microsoft Word, so that part of the webinar did not even apply to me.

(By the way, that criticism is based on a recent experience I had. I attended a webinar about publishing on Kindle and it was the single worst one I have ever attended.)

Don’t try to aggressively sell your product.

If you have a free webinar that ties in with a paid product, it’s fine to mention the paid product a few times – but that’s enough. If I like the webinar, I’ll consider buying the product. Case in point: the best webinar I ever attended was with two professional translators through Speaking of Translation. The webinar was informative and fantastic and one of the hosts, Corinne McKay, mentioned her book and paid online courses she teaches – but only a few times. The purpose of the webinar was to learn about freelance translation. But since I enjoyed the webinar so much, I bought the book and would definitely consider paying for the online course sometime in the future.

In contrast, I attended a webinar at the end of last year that consisted solely of the two hosts trying to sell their grossly overpriced product. I left halfway through. Luckily they provided a transcript afterwards, so I skimmed through that. I lost nothing by leaving early, as all they did after I left was continue to push their product.

Make sure the advertised time is accurate.

Time zones confuse me sometimes, I admit, but there is no excuse for putting up the wrong time for a webinar. I once showed up at a webinar and waited while nothing happened. Eventually I got an email saying that the time had been incorrect. That’s ridiculous. The websinar was rescheduled. I did not attend.

Keep it short.

Remember that offending Kindle books webinar I talked about earlier? It was supposed to last for an hour. It ended up lasting two hours, fifteen minutes. (I cut my losses and left after about fifty-five minutes.) Webinar hosts would do well to heed Polonius’ advice in Hamlet: “Brevity is the soul of wit.”

Being brief has another advantage: you are more likely to have time at the end for questions, which leads me to my next point…

Have a question and answer session at the end.

It doesn’t have to be long, but having a question and answer session makes you look like you actually care about your audience (and I don’t know about you, but this attendee likes feeling like the host actually cares). Plus, when you teach someone about something (as many webinars are intended to do), it is easy to overlook points that don’t confuse you (since you’re an expert), but do confuse everyone else.

Advice?

Have you hosted a webinar before? Or been an attendee? Let me know if you have any advice!

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