5 simple tricks to get your webinar audience hanging on to your every word

It happens to you too, doesn’t it? Every time you host a webinar there’s this nagging feeling of doubt. Your mind probes after the echo of each fading word, reading into the menacing silence of the muted audience.

You can’t help but wonder: Is this going well?

Do they like the content? Or have they already left? Or did they drift over to checking emails, news headlines and the weather?

Don’t wallow in self-pity just yet. Get a grip!

Yes, webinars can be scary. And you’ll never know for sure how well one is going. But you have plenty of tools and tricks available to garner a great reception.

In the 300 or so virtual events that my team and I have hosted over the past three years, I’ve certainly learned a few things about webinar engagement. So here are my 5 easy tips for winning over your next webinar audience.

Tip 1: Prepare your webinars and your speaker

An endless number of things can go wrong. If they do, your hard-earned audience will instantly evaporate. Being prepared is how you prevent that from happening. You should:

  • Prepare a best practice guide for your presenters and circulate it well before the webinar.
  • Create a checklist and mark off items as you prepare for each webinar.
  • Check your equipment to make sure the webinar software works on the speaker’s computer. The same goes for the headset/phone, webcam and Internet connection.
  • Verify that your speaker, moderator and any other staff attending have the join and dial-in details handy.
  • Do a dry run of the complete webinar (including slides) a week before the webinar.
  • Make sure that everyone prints out a copy of the slides so that even if there’s a computer failure, the show can go on.
  • As an organiser, log in from another machine so you have a backup
  • Have a co-moderator on the webinar who can man the chat, bridge interruptions and help out with technical difficulties.

Tip 2: Plan for interaction with the audience

The best way to get your audience to engage is to ask them something. To get the engagement ball rolling:

  • Check your presentation for opportunities to include polls.
  • Ask open questions and let listeners respond via chat.
  • Always — seriously, always — include a Q&A at the end.

The Q&A is often the most interesting part of the webinar. Plus, questions can further immerse active listeners and pull those back in that have disengaged.

Tip 3: Use the same tricks that work in person

Many tricks that work in live speeches achieve the same in an online event. Try to:

  • Pause for effect. The sudden silence startles your listeners and pulls them back in.
  • Say a particular sentence louder for emphasis or do the opposite and whisper it.
  • If on video, do something unexpected, like putting your face directly in front of the camera.

Tip 4: Put a carrot at the end

You should incentivise your webinar audience to stay on until the end. Have a prize ready and draw a winner at the end. This works especially well when your speaker is a published author; you can simply hand out a free copy of their latest book.

Tip 5: Measure, analyse, improve

Create a simple standardised exit survey that is included after every webinar you host. It can be as simple as asking one question: How would you rate this webinar? (Excellent, Good, Fair, Poor).

By comparing different webinars you’ll quickly learn which speakers captivate the audience, so you can replace or train poorer performing speakers if needed.

You should monitor the number of registrants to gauge how successful a topic is in bringing in new names. And to see if you need to refresh your lists, always check the percentage of registrants that actually attend the webinar. A regular report on these metrics will promptly tell you how well participants receive your content and speakers.

You’re all set

Now that you have the basics, it’s time to implement these changes so you can stop worrying.

Not sure where to start? I suggest putting the exit survey and reporting in place first. Then you can put more time into prepping for each webinar and scrutinising each one for opportunities to interact with your audience.

With these steps, you should see a far more engaged audience. Continue to improve and you’ll soon have your attendees hooked to your webinar programme.

Have you got any engagement tips that have worked well in your webinars? Please let me know in the comments below.


Insider's Guide to Better Webinars


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About the author

Daniel Waas is Director of Product Marketing for the Communications Cloud here at Citrix. He’s a geek at heart who loves LEGO, sci-fi and the occasional video game if time permits. Despite these severe dating handicaps, he was lucky enough to get married and even luckier to have a son. You can connect with Daniel on Google+, LinkedIn or Twitter. More blog posts by Daniel Waas ››
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