If your company or organization offers webinars as part of its outreach strategy, you already know that a great deal of effort is required to produce these sessions. Whatever your goal—brand awareness, education, lead generation—somebody needs to manage event promotion, coordinate logistics, work with the presenters, and run the live event. So it's probably no surprise that, while focusing on all of these fundamental tasks, you can sometimes overlook some of the little things that can nevertheless have a big impact on how your webinar—and by extension, your brand—is perceived. Here are three simple ways to improve your webinars:
1. Keep Your Slides Brief. This is one of the easiest and most effective ways to improve your webinars. And yet it's one of the most commonly overlooked webinar best practices. Surely, you've attended webinars like this: virtually every slide is loaded with paragraphs of text, scores of bullet points, and complicated charts and graphs. As a result, you feel obligated to read every word of text, which means you can't focus on the most important element of the webinar: what the presenters are actually saying.
A slide deck should support what your speakers are talking about, not serve as the primary focus for your audience. After all, if your slides contain every minute detail of your presentation, why have a webinar at all? Just send your audience the slides and save them the time and hassle. And, in fact, that's where a lot of webinar presenters get into trouble: they create their slides as handouts that can be sent to the audience after the webinar. Your slides aren't handouts. They are supporting materials for your live presentation. If you do want to provide handouts after the webinar, add speaker notes to your presentation slides or create a completely separate handout altogether.
You may want to think of your slides as highway billboards or road signs. Think about it. A sign doesn't contain more information than what a driver can safely absorb without running off the road. In the same way, don't force your webinar attendees to divide their attention between what they're seeing and what they're hearing. If you make a point of using much less text and more eye-catching images that illustrate your points, your audiences will retain more information and the perceived value of your webinars will improve dramatically.
2. Use a Landline Phone. I know what you're thinking: Who still uses a landline phone? Well, perhaps you still do if you work in an office, and if you do you should be making use of Ma Bell (or at least the modern digital equivalent) for all of your webinars. Why shouldn't your presenters use their cell phones? You know why. Because calls can drop and reception can be terrible. And, frankly, your voice just doesn't sound as good on a cell phone as it does over a landline. Of course, a landline isn't always available, and the trend toward wireless everything will only exacerbate the scarcity going forward. But if your presenters do have access to landline phones, they should be using them for as long as they have them.
Can you use a computer microphone instead of a telephone? Sure, and computer audio can be very crisp and clear if the presenter is using a strong, wired internet connection. But remember that computer audio is entirely dependent on the reliability of a presenter's internet connection. Because of this, some webinar organizers prefer the redundancy of telephone audio. Even if you lose your internet connection during a webinar, you won't lose the ability to speak over your telephone.
Ideally, ask your presenters to dial in to the webinar on landline phones that they can use with a headset. The phone's receiver can be used too, but cradling a handset against your ear for 60 minutes can be uncomfortable and inconvenient.
It's also important to note that you should never use a speaker or conference phone during a webinar. The reverberant room noise produced by those devices isn't pleasant to the ear and it's not what you want if you're trying to project a professional image. If you have one speaker who's on a speakerphone and one speaker who's not, the difference can be very noticeable and it's likely the volumes will be inconsistent. And remember, you're recording your webinar; it will live on in perpetuity. Doesn't it make sense to ensure the best quality production? Of course it does, and if you make sure to use a landline phone with a headset or handset and stay away from cell phones and speaker or conference phones, your audience will be able to clearly hear everything you say and they'll perceive you and your organization as professional and competent.
2022 UPDATE: This blog post was originally written in 2018. The fact that landline phones are now virtually nonexistent, combined with the reality that live video has now become a common component of most webinars, relegates the use of landline phones to the ash heap of history. Even if landlines were still commonly available, using one while simultaneously appearing on camera can cause audio/video synchronization issues and result in an audio tone that just doesn't sound right with live video. To ensure the best possible audio quality for your webinar attendees, the updated best practice is for webinar presenters to use a wired USB microphone.
3. Keep Your Promises. On the surface, this sounds like an obvious best practice. But it's amazing how many webinars promise one thing and then deliver something entirely different. Sometimes it's a small difference: the invitation highlights several key audience takeaways but the presenters forget about one or two of them or run out of time before addressing everything. At other times, it's a major breach of trust. Have you ever registered for a webinar that altruistically promised educational content or something else of value only to show up and be greeted by a 60-minute marketing spiel? Not good.
Depending on your goals, one of the primary objectives of a webinar is to enhance your image and connect with your stakeholders, whether they be customers, prospects, donors, volunteers, or internal staff. If your webinars are making false promises, or engaging in bait-and-switch tactics, you'll only end up damaging your credibility and alienating your audiences. Always make sure to promise only what you'll deliver and then deliver on your promises.
Clark Webinar Consulting provides hands-on expertise and support to help businesses, nonprofits, and other organizations conduct and deliver worry-free, professional webinars. Learn more about our full range of webinar services.