July 15, 2020

10 Ways to Avoid Hosting a Boring Webinar

We’ve all been disappointed by the promise of an inspiring webinar that in actuality turns out to be a lackluster experience. Whether it’s due to a low energy presenter, poor audio quality, or uninspired content, boring webinars have tried our patience and often wasted our time. To help elevate the overall presentation of your next webinar and keep attendees engaged in your content, we’ve asked media and communications trainer Grant Ainsley to share his expert tips and advice. With over 12 years of experience as one of Canada’s top media trainers, Grant has worked with CEOs, politicians, and other leaders to help them become better communicators.

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  1. Deliver your webinar standing up



    Grant has experienced his share of webinar letdowns. “I see this happen so often where someone speaks on stage in front of an audience, and they have this tremendous energy and are so exciting to listen to and watch. Those same people go and do a virtual presentation and their energy level goes way down; they adopt a serious demeanor, and all of a sudden, it becomes boring.” Grant’s advice when delivering a webinar is to stand up and put yourself in the frame of mind that you are presenting on stage in front of an audience.

    “Standing up will make you feel like you’re doing more of a presentation and also allows you to be animated and project your voice and energy.”

  2. Be the star of your webinar & tell stories



    Many people pack their slide deck full of material then spend the whole webinar reading from their slides. Grant says this is a common mistake and a quick way to lose the interest of your audience. “Your slide deck should not be the star of the presentation – you are. Don’t rely on the slides to tell your story for you.” Grant adds that successful on-stage presenters tell a lot of stories as a way of delivering their content, but this approach unfortunately seems to disappear in webinars. “Stories get people to pay attention. Rarely are we disappointed when we hear a story.”

  3. Raise the camera to your eye level



    One of the biggest technical mistakes you can make as a webinar presenter is not raising the camera to your eye level. This ensures that you are able to look right into the camera as you present. Grant tells us, “Without a proper set up, you can end up looking down into the camera, resulting in an unflattering and unprofessional angle.” He recommends using a stack of books or boxes to prop up the camera to ensure your eyes are aligned with the camera lens. This is especially important if you choose to stand up to deliver your webinar.

  4. Ask attendees to keep their cameras on



    Attendees are more engaged when they have their cameras on during a webinar. Grant explains, “If attendees have their cameras off, it’s easier for them to ‘check-out’ from the webinar and do something else while the audio just plays in the background.” As a presenter, you want to be able to connect with your audience and see how they are reacting to what you’re saying. “Seeing people nodding their heads or smiling gives you a lot of feedback and helps you gauge their interest.”

  5. Invest in an external microphone and camera



    Although your laptop comes equipped with a microphone and camera, it’s very difficult to get great audio or video quality with these built-in features. Grant tells us, “Poor audio quality is a big complaint from webinar attendees. An external microphone positioned right in front of you on your desk will provide superior audio quality over the microphone capabilities on your laptop.” Grant also notes that, "a clip-on mic can help if you are standing during the presentation, or you can use a boom mic just above your head and out of the camera’s view." Similarly, an external camera or webcam will help you improve the quality of your video by increasing its clarity and focus, giving your webinar a more professional look. 

  6. Record and critique your practice sessions



    Do several run-throughs of your webinar and record the practice sessions. Grant notes that although it’s difficult to watch yourself on camera, seeing how you look and listening to how you sound allows you to identify areas for improvement and also determine what you’re doing well. “When you deliver a webinar, the audience only sees you in a small box. Movements or gestures you make during an on-stage presentation may look distracting in a smaller setting or may even move you out of camera frame.”

  7. Stick to your timing



    Start your webinar on time. A punctual start lets you begin your presentation at your peak energy level and also shows your attendees that you respect their time by delivering value right away. Grant suggests doing a soft start during the initial two minutes when people are checking into the webinar. “Begin setting up what you’re going to be talking about during the first two minutes of the webinar, then start your presentation at the 3-minute mark.” Specify the firm start time in your marketing materials. Keep your energy level up and maintain a good pace by asking attendees to hold their questions to the end of the presentation. “Taking questions during a presentation can cause a speaker to lose their momentum and energy level. Let the audience know you’ve saved time at the end of the webinar to answer any questions,” Grant explains.

  8. Share engaging content



    When it comes to content for a webinar, less is more. Use images to help illustrate your story. Grant cautions against using stock images. “Include actual photos taken of something that will attract the interest of your audience and add to your story.” Short videos are a solid way to increase audience engagement, and also provide you with a bit of a break from presenting. Grant says, “A 30 second video clip can give you a chance to see how you’re doing on timing, check comments in the chat box, or quickly go over material you still have to cover.” Grant recommends using polls or surveys as engagement tools only if they add value to your presentation or help you gauge the interest or experience level of your audience.

  9. Use a professional slide deck template



    Although your slide deck plays a supporting role in your webinar, it still needs to be visually appealing to your audience. Grant suggests purchasing professional slide deck templates. “A professionally designed slide deck raises the game of your presentation and portrays a polished look.” The chosen design should be consistent with your brand and include your company name or logo.

  10. Select an appropriate backdrop



    Choose a backdrop that compliments you and helps you shine as the star of the webinar. Avoid backgrounds that are too busy or have too much light, such as in front of a window. Grant advises, “Choose a location that offers soft light and some background interest.” Positioning a plant or small artwork pieces behind you can add some charm and keep distractions to a minimum. If you want to include some branding in your backdrop, keep it subtle.

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Click here to find out more about Grant Ainsley and his media and communications training workshops.