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Short Leaps to Better Webinars #1

A big game hunter in India was walking back to the village when she rounded a corner and suddenly found herself staring directly into the eyes of a magnificent tiger. Fearing for her life she quickly raised her gun and fired, missing the big cat by inches. It sprang toward her. She ducked and felt the hairs on it’s belly graze the top of her head as it passed over her. The big cat landed 10 feet behind her and then turned and ran off into the woods beyond. Fortunately, they both would live unscathed to hunt another day.

The following morning the hunter decided she had better work on her shooting skills and set about testing her aim at a target on the outskirts of the town. As she prepared for her third shot she heard a rustling in the long grass to her right. Looking in that direction she saw the tiger from the previous day. He was practicing taking shorter leaps.

In many cases achieving better results is not about big changes you have to make, but rather mastering the short leaps that add up to continuous improvement.

Webinars are Everywhere
You have no doubt noticed how rapidly webinars are becoming a marketing vehicle of choice for companies large and small. Once reserved for special events or large corporate online training, the webinar has become the go to tool for online marketers hoping to engage and expand their audience. The good news is the technology is getting better and more accessible. The bad news is we are not just seeing more webinars, we are seeing many more atrocious webinars. Most often not because the technology crates challenges, but rather the presenter drops the ball. What can you do to avoid contributing to the carnage?

Take Short Leaps
In this series on delivering better webinars, we are going to focus on some of the short leaps you can take to ensure your webinars shine. We’ll roll these ideas out over a series of posts. Each post will be designed to deliver some quick and easy actions you can take make your webinar presentations stand out from the crowd.Future posts will look in more detail at technology considerations and how effectively plan a well crafted presentation. But for now, we’ll assume you’ve already taken the leap and pulled together the basics to start delivering webinars.

LEAP # 1 - MANAGE AND MEET EXPECTATIONS

One challenge that too many presenters overlook is managing expectations. This is actually low hanging fruit on the path to better webinars. When your audience knows exactly what to expect and you deliver it, your webinar immediately moves into the top tier. Let’s look at two initial strategies.

Learning Objectives
Most webinars have a learning objective. The goal is to have the audience come out of the webinar with knowledge they didn’t have going in. Ideally that knowledge is also actionable, meaning they can do something constructive with it.

The first rule of good learning design is to have and share clear objectives. Be sure to do that with your webinar. In your promotions don’t just provide a list of topics. Instead, explain those topics in terms of outcomes. According to the respected learning objective design guru Robert Mager:

“An objective describes an intended result of instruction, rather than the process of instruction itself”

So tell your audience what they should expect to be able to do differently after your webinar. For example, if you were promoting a webinar about using Facebook for business, don’t just list that you will cover ‘Creating Fan Pages’. Instead say, “The webinar will provide you with a step by step process you can implement to build your first Facebook Fan Page in just 20 minutes”.

The Length of Your Webinar
This is one area that is very often abused by webinar creators. It’s a pretty safe bet that have you attended more than one webinar that ran well over the allotted time? In fact, it is so common that you probably favorably recall the few that ended when they said they would.

The causes of webinar overrun are:

  • Attempting to cover too much content in too little time. A cardinal rule of online learning is to keep the list down to one, or at most a small handful of topics. Your audience will be better served when you cover a few points in detail with takeaways they can implement
  • Poorly planned presentations – relying on bullet points to stimulate talking points so it is impossible to accurately predict how long each topic will take to deliver
  • Failure to rehearse. If you have never delivered the presentation before you cannot know how long it really takes. The best presentations have almost always been rehearsed
  • Failure to manage audience interaction. It is far too easy to get off track responding to questions in the chat window

The solutions are relatively simple:

  • Keep your content short and sweet. Delivering actionable learning on just a few areas will be far more valuable than a hasty overview of everything related to your topic. Remember, one goal of the webinar is engaging the customer and building a relationship. When your webinars are transformational and you provide a reason for the customer to come back for more, you will build a stronger relationship based on trust and authority.
  • Don’t wing your presentations until you have done them so many times you could give the webinar in your sleep. Write out everything you will cover. Your webinar script should completely fill in the gaps between the bullets that may be on your PowerPoint presentation.
  • Rehearse your full presentation with a small pilot audience. Know how long takes to deliver. Gather feedback so you also know where the presentation lacks clarity and where it hits home runs with your audience. It’s hard to do great live presentations. That’s why most television shows, even the ‘live’ talk shows, have been pre-recorded since the technology to do so became available. Do yourself a favor and don’t require that you be the world’s best live performer. In fact, there is a lot to be said for developing pre-recorded webinars, but that is a topic for another day.
  • Manage audience interaction in two ways. Build a time for it into the structure of the webinar. Communicate when and how you will respond to comments or questions. Then stick to the plan. The second way to manage audience response is to have an associate monitor and respond to comments. They can take care of the housekeeping tasks so you, and your audience, do not have to spend time on them. They can also efficiently relay questions to you when you reach that point in your webinar.

Lastly – don’t assume there is any reason why your webinar should be structured around a one hour timeslot. If you can address your topic in less time DO IT! You can stand out from the crowd and have a much more satisfied audience if you design your webinar to run for the minimum time required to cover the topic effectively. Then communicate that length to your audience and stick to it.

So there you have it. The first two of many strategies we will share to help you deliver best in the world webinars. We’ll be back in the days and weeks to come with more action oriented short leaps to better webinar presentations.

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