Full disclosure: I am not a webinar expert. It is not my core business. But in the past year, I have taken the leap and I'm glad I did.
Along the way, I've learned a lot and also opened up an entirely new revenue stream with no carbon footprint -- so I thought I'd take the next few minutes to share my top ten tips for how you can get into the game without wasting your time, stressing, or taking out yet another loan you cannot afford.
It's not just caffeinated me that's excited about this new frontier. 70 percent of all marketers are convinced that webinars are a great marketing tool, and, according to a 2012 study by the Content Marketing Institute, webinars are the second most effective marketing tool available (other than in-person events).
Webinars, of course, can be used for way more than just marketing. They are also a great way to engage existing customers. A live, visually compelling, interactive presentation allows you to connect with your audience in ways that other media cannot.
Ready? Here goes.
1. Decide if you want to outsource the hosting capabilities or grow it in-house. Yes, there's a consultant for that! In fact, you can outsource just about every aspect of the webinar process. There's no need to do it all yourself. Need an ally? Contact Ken Molay, at Webinar Success. The man is a Webinar Ninja and offers precision tactics to help you get started.
2. If you want to host your own webinar, you'll need to choose your software platform: There are a lot of webinar vendors out there offering a wide variety of features that will make your head spin. The simplest route? GoToWebinar, Webex, and Adobe Connect. We use GoToWebinar and are happy with its ease of use and customer service.
3. Apply best practices for delivering a live presentation: Do not write a script and read it! Bad idea! I know it sounds obvious, but I just attended a webinar yesterday where the presenter was obviously reading a script for 40 minutes straight. It was a mind numbing experience. Don't do it. The alternative? Prepare. Know your stuff. Then be genuinely conversational and deliver your material with confidence.
4. Interact with your audience: The reason people sign up and log in is to participate in something live -- not canned. If you're planning to do a one-way presentation, use a different medium, like a pre-recorded session people can listen to while they file their nails or order pizza. Want to crank up the interactivity? 1) Chat; 2) Polls and; 3) Q&A. Oh, one more thing: Ask participants questions, then let them respond, real time.
5. Consider the "Flipped Model": In recent years, online educators have embraced a format whereby homework is given before class -- not after. Participants are given a chance to learn the material and work with it before the genius presenter struts his of her stuff. Then, when people log on, they are primed. (Hint: Foreplay gets people in the mood).
6. Use a headset. In the world of webinars, audio quality is next to Godliness. Bad audio quality = bad experience. So, use a land line telephone to avoid internet hiccups. Do not, under any circumstances, use a speakerphone. You will sound tinny and distant. Like you're shouting. Or underwater. Or shouting underwater. A good headset is a small investment for a big return.
7. Don't use VOIP: Voice Over Internet Protocol is offered by most webinar providers. It allows your audience to speak through their computer's mic and speakers. CAUTION! Uncheck this box immediately and require people to dial in via telephone.
If participants use VOIP, their voices will feedback from their speakers into their mics and create an infinite echo loop. Webinar meltdown will follow. People will get cranky. You'll lose focus and points. Not a good outcome.
8. Don't assume video is a good idea: The benefits of video are obvious: you get a warm and fuzzy nonverbal connection to the presenter. The potential pitfalls, however, are many -- including choppy picture, set up hassles, and the extra challenge of having to present without the availability of notes.
I have seen incredibly effective webinars that do not use video. All you need to do is flash your photo at the beginning of the session and create some nice slide builds to keep things visually stimulating.
9. Don't be a turnoff. In classic bad first date mode, your date talks about their own life nonstop. If you are using webinars as a promotional tool, do not spend the hour talking about your services. Instead, give participants valuable content -- insights, tools, and skills. That's why they tuned in! Of course, if you're offering your webinar for free, people probably expect a little bit of a sales pitch, but keep it short and sweet.
10. Be entertaining. Tell Stories. Lighten Up: I know you are serious about leveraging your expertise and making a living in your pajamas. Nothing wrong with that. But in your seriousness to establish your new cash cow, please remember that the people you are webinarring to are paying as much attention to how you are presenting as to what you are presenting.
The medium is the message. This means you will need to find ways to connect with people, not just clobber them with everything you know. The simplest way to do this? Sprinkle your delivery with a few light-hearted "teaching stories" -- anecdotes that are infused with meaning, mojo, and memorability.