We’ve all been there. You sign on to attend a webinar that you hope will give you some awesome insights into your business. You grab a drink and a snack and prepare to have some knowledge dropped on you… Only the webinar starts late. And the host can’t get his slides to work. And about halfway through the session, the guest’s audio starts to make her sound like a cyborg. In short? It’s awkward as hell, and you’re not catching anything that’s being said, anyway, so you just click on over to Facebook while you “listen.” Before you realize it, the hosts are asking if there are any questions and you can’t think of a single one—but you know exactly what your old college roommate has been up to all weekend.
It’s Murphy’s Law: anything that can go wrong will go wrong. This has never been more true than when trying to pull off a webinar chock-full of genuinely useful information for your audience. Even if you’ve planned ahead and painstakingly promoted your webinar, you can’t help out your audience (or collect any warm leads for your business) if your session is a total flop.
If you want to keep your audience engaged and come across cool as a cucumber during your next session, consider these four tips to you avoid hosting an awkward webinar.
1. Hire an Extra Set of Hands
There are a surprisingly large number of moving pieces and parts during a live webinar: the co-hosts are presenting helpful information, there are slides to share, sometimes polls to administer to the audience, questions to collect, gold nuggets of advice to be dispersed on social media, audience technical issues to troubleshoot…
Need I say more? You simply can’t cover everything on your own without something falling through the cracks. To avoid hosting an awkward webinar, remember: a little help goes a long way.
A virtual assistant can manage everything that happens behind the scenes, allowing you to focus on hosting a fun, engaging, and helpful webinar. Your audience member Maggie from Delaware can’t hear the audio, but she’s the only one? Let your VA chat with her to figure it out. Questions are coming in from listeners on Twitter, in the private chat window, and in the questions section of Go-to-Webinar? Ask your VA to compile everything and feed them to you one at a time so you can answer them accordingly.
Decide which tasks you can comfortably cover and still be able to focus on the topic at-hand, then delegate anything that doesn’t fall within those parameters. For you that might mean getting a single task off your hands, or it may be a more comprehensive level of assistance. Either way, your VA can help!
2. Host a Dry Run Webinar
If you want to avoid facing a host of technology issues, word flubs, awkward intros, and more, you need to start with a little practice.
Two or three days before your live webinar, host a dry run with your co-host or panel of guests, and invite along any help you plan to have on hand day-of. We recommend blocking out a full hour for the run, so you can actually go over the details of the webinar. Flip through the slides, check your audio and video set-up (as well as your internet connection), and make note of everyone’s roles during the webinar. Will your virtual assistant be in charge of collecting questions from the audience? Who is introducing your guests? Make a plan, write it down, and stick to it.
Knowing exactly what is supposed to happen during your session will keep you calm and collected while you deliver your presentation. And when something inevitably does go wrong, you can rest assured knowing exactly who on your team is handling it and how.
3. Use a Second Screen
Where do all the moving pieces and parts live during a webinar? On your computer screen, which could very easily only be 13 inches wide. This, Dear Reader, is a recipe for disaster.
Most webinar hosting services come with features that can help you avoid any awkwardness during your live run, from analytics to let you know how tuned in your audience members are to service markers that signal if your audio is coming through clearly. But you can’t access these features and take advantage of them if they are hidden behind your browser, which is hidden behind the slides, which are at least partially hidden behind your notes, which is hovering precariously close to the your chat window with your co-host.
Get the extra screen (or, if you’ve hired an assistant to manage your webinar, get one for your assistant). With a little room to spread out, it’ll be easy to keep the good vibes of your presentation flowing while still watching your analytics and stats in real time.
Bonus: you’ll feel like an action movie hero in some epic debriefing scene when you deftly navigate between screens, sifting through your webinar information with the swipe of a mouse.
4. Lighten up!
Finally, try to lighten up!
Say you’re delivering 15 minutes of your presentation all about how a certain kind of software promotes productivity in the workplace (a bit of a snoozefest if we’re being honest), and your analytics show that 75% of your participants have clicked away from their webinar screens. They are losing interest—and fast. Draw them back in with a joke, or a good story, or some witty banter with your co-host.
It can feel a little, well, awkward delivering jokes and charming witticisms to random listeners in cyberspace—but you have to trust that they are tuned in and (hopefully) chuckling behind their screens.
The goal of any webinar is to provide useful information to your audience, and you can’t do that if you’ve bored them all to sleep or if you’ve had so many technology glitches that your audience lost all faith in your authority. But with a little planning, a little help, and the right tools, you can easily pull off a stellar webinar that surprises and delights your audience—and keeps them coming back to your business for more.