I told you about the time my laptop spontaneously rebooted while I was co-hosting a product launch webinar?
Of about the time we registered hundreds of people for the wrong start time for a webinar?
Or when we realized at 2 minutes to start time that our slide deck had the dates from our last promotion instead of the one we were doing that day?
No? Well, I’m not surprised. Nobody likes to talk about the disasters, the tragedies, the missed opportunities.
But the fact is this: if you decide to run a webinar for your book launch, or to build your email list, or for any of the many reasons you might want to do so, I can promise you this:
You don’t have to worry whether things will go wrong—you’ll do much better planning what you’re going to do when they go wrong.
Because they will.
One minute you think, “Wow, this technology is awesome! I’m sitting here barking at my screen, and hundreds of people scattered around the world are listening! I love this!”
The next minute you realize you forgot to “Unmute” yourself, and all that brilliant talk you were doing went nowhere, and your audience is wondering where the hell you are.
Top Tips for Brave Authors Who Want to Run a Webinar… and Survive
I’m not telling stories today, or giving “press this button” instructions.
No, today is for extracting advice for you from the hundreds of webinars we’ve given over the last few years. Hard-won advice. The kind that leaves scars. Read and profit.
1. Create pages well ahead of time—The absolute worst thing to leave to the last minute. Create the pages you’ll need, especially your Registration page, well ahead of time. Whichever webinar platform you’re using should guide you through this process. You’ll need time to promote your event, and you’ll want to test the page thoroughly. And have someone else test it, too.
2. Make sure what your webinar offers is clear and useful—There are many ways to approach creating content for your webinar, but they all have to have one thing in common: they have to appeal to your intended audience, and your audience has to understand that appeal. Besides blog posts, email sequences and social media links, make sure this is spelled out on your Registration page.
3. Have a plan for timing and stick to it—How long is your webinar? Have you timed out your presentation? If you announce that it will be “60 minutes” but at the 60-minute mark you realize you’ve still got 15 slides to go, people are going to start leaving anyway. You programmed them to set aside 60 minutes.
4. Allow time for Q & A—Lots of people come just for the live question and answer sessions many hosts run at the end of the presentation. You planned for that when you planned out your timing and announced how long the event would be, right?
5. Include a download—It’s one thing to get folks to register and attend your webinar, but then it would be nice if they paid attention. A download that helps understand or retain the information in the webinar, or that assists with the tasks you are describing, will help.
6. Always post a replay—Surprisingly, we often get more “views” on the replay video that we post after the live event than there were people in attendance. In some cases, webinars are run with an audience for the main purpose of creating a recording, which will be used in a variety of ways for months to come.
7. Engage your audience throughout—One of the worst mistakes you can make as a presenter is to lose contact with your audience. We humans can sense when this happens, and we’ll lose interest in you, too. Most often it’s because you’re reading your slides or worried about the timing. Remember you’re there to have an experience together. Encourage attendees to ask questions; learn how to run a poll during the presentation; or just chat with people, they will appreciate it.
8. Learn to use your “Mute” button—It took me several webinars to learn this. Acting as Host, I would introduce the presenter. While listening, I’d start to bang away at my keyboard answering questions. Problem is hundreds of people also heard my banging and that makes it hard to hear the speaker. I’ve learned to “Mute” and “Unmute” myself throughout these presentations.
And From the Other Side of the Screen
Although I serve as Host or Presenter on all our webinars, my partner Tracy Atkins runs the behind-the-scenes operation. The real nuts and bolts of preparing and hosting the event.
I reached out to him to find out what his top tips are for authors who want to make the leap and try this very popular form of content delivery. Here’s what he has to say:
9. “Pre-record and then play back complicated presentation segments or tutorials.”—We’ve discovered this recently. For a complicated sequence that relies on internet access, make a recording then just play it full screen at the appropriate time during the live event.
10. “If you’re making an offer at the end of the webinar, do it at a place where that part of the video can be cut and removed later for other uses.”—Planning how you’re going to make full use of the opportunity presented by webinars will take some thought and research.
11. “Offer a transcript of the Q & A session.”—Our webinar provider makes a full report of the event available immediately upon completion. This is a gold mine of information, and also contains all the questions asked and answered. You can copy it and format it for easier reading, it makes a great “bonus” for attendees.
12. “Have a knowledgable person run the Q & A chat during the presentation.”—When you have 400, 600, or 800 people on a live call and a topic of interest or complexity, you’ll have a lot of people using the “Question” chat box. It pays to field as many of these queries as possible while the event is going on. It allows everyone attending to the chat to get clarification, and further fulfills the educational promise of the event.
13. “Have the contact information—including phone numbers—of the webinar provider’s tech support staff ready ahead of time.”—You may need them in a hurry. In fact, the kind of live support you can expect should be important when you choose a webinar provider.
14. “Display the time of the presentation in multiple time zones.”—You’ll be surprised how many support emails you’ll save yourself by providing this information in your email and especially on the Registration page.
15. “Send out calendar reminders.”—This service is likely also supplied by your webinar provider, but it’s up to you to write engaging webinar titles, and to time when the reminders will be sent. A sequence of reminders can put a lot more live attendees in their seats, so it pays to experiment for yourself.
You know, there are so many great reasons for authors to use webinars for education, for marketing, and for monetizing, and the technology has gotten so much easier that anyone interested should give it a try.
Most of the webinar providers have free trials and lots of instructional videos that will guide you the first time through. Here are some resources:
Resources: Webinar Platforms
Gotowebinar—One of the largest providers, and host of most of our webinars.
Webinar Jam—A popular new provider that adds a multi-function interface to the powerful Google Hangouts engine.
Webinar Ninja—Another new provider with a very user-friendly front end, lots of instruction, and the promise of an entirely new proprietary platform coming in the future.
There are also providers oriented more toward corporate clients, like Cisco’s Webex and Adobe’s Connect, but the strong user orientation of the three I’ve mentioned should please most indie authors.
Tracy and I have brought these tips back from the front lines. How about you?
Either as a host or an attendee, what are your top tips for webinar hosts? Let me know in the comments!