Web conferences or webinars are a great way to attract new customers, engage with existing ones, or provide training and insights to employees or clients. Making your Web conference engaging can be more challenging than it sounds, however.
The key, experts say, is making the most of your interactions and personalizing the webinar experience. Here are 10 suggestions for making the most of your Web conferences.
Welcome your guests with an interactive "lobby"
Greet your guests by asking them to do something as soon as they log into the Web conference.
"Using a 'lobby' with interactive features where early arrivals can wait is a good way to get the audience involved," said Shelby Britton, senior product marketing manager at Adobe.
Interactive features could include an open chat pod to encourage conversation among attendees, or an interactive trivia quiz, suggested Britton.
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Get first names and build rapport
Let your audience know you are a real person, and not just a recorded voice. If participants include their first names in the interactive lobby, Britton suggested welcoming some of them by name. "It's amazing how much more interaction you will get throughout the webinar if you try this simple technique right at the start," she said.
Cynthia Clay, CEO of NetSpeed Learning Solutions, also likes using chat during webinars.
"Build rapport with your audience by engaging them through specific questions that require responses in chat," she said.
Speak to an individual
One way to really connect with each attendee is to pretend you're having a private conversation.
"Think of your webinar as a conversation with one other person," said Jan Kaneta, webinar coordinator for The Alternative Board, a provider of executive business coaching and peer-to-peer advisory boards.
Kaneta said to do this by using the word "you." For example, say, "How would you address this situation?" instead of ,"Can anyone tell me how they would address this situation?"
Vary your voice and keep your energy levelup
A webinar removes almost all nonverbal communication, said Kaneta. However, this doesn't mean you shouldn't move naturally.
"Stand up and pace while you speak, or make hand and armgestures while talking," she said. "Physical activity translates to a more energetic delivery."
Kaneta said webinar hosts should avoid speaking in a monotone, and be aware of changing tone and speech speed. Varying these factors can refocus your audience on your voice and content, keeping listeners engaged, she said.
Add interactive features gradually
While there are many interactive features available to enhance webinars, don't be tempted to add too many; they may overwhelm and confuse your audience.
Britton said if you're a first-time host, pick just two or three points of interaction throughout your first webinar. "Then add other interactive elements as you become more comfortable with webinar presentations," she said.
Presenting business information visually is a key best practice for Web conferencing.
"Use attention-getting graphics in your slide deck," said Clay. "Two good rules of thumb are "use one key point per slide" and "spend no more than one minute on each slide," she said.
It's also important to make your slides relevant and memorable, said Kaneta. "If you talk about achart or diagram, show it," she said.
Ask questions of your audience
A simple but effect Web conferencing best practice is to simply ask questions.
"Asking questions engages participants, ensures understanding [and] lets adultlearners share their knowledge," said Kaneta, adding that most webinar platforms have polling tools to collect answers and make your webinar more of a conversation.
"You can also have a few 'questions from the audience'prepared ahead of time to help with a more conversational versus lecture feel, or to jumpstart a Q&A session," she said.
Engage participants continuously
A successful Web conference or webinar keeps participants' attention for the entire presentation. Do this by encouraging interaction frequently.
"Studies show that webinar producers and virtual presenters should plan some sort of interaction every five to seven minutes throughout a virtual presentation to keep the audience engaged, attentive and more likely to retain the content," said Britton.
Interaction simply means that your audience performs an action in response to something in your webinar.
This could be anything from using emoticons to polls, chat, Q&A or anything that gets them touching the screen to interact with your webinar platform,"[MD1] Britton said.
Tell a story
Storytelling is a valuable best practice for Web conference hosts who want their attendees to remember a lesson.
"People love stories!" said Clay. "Make your critical points memorable by wrapping them in a story."
Clay suggested that going on camera makes a story really come to life. Whether or not you appear "on screen," she said it's important to personalize the stories you use.
"Don't just spout theories," said Clay. Instead, show your audience cases and examples, and encourage them to use these examples to practice problem solving. "Help them apply your techniques to real-world problems that they experience," said Clay. "Help them demonstrate the value of your methods."
The best "best practice" is practice
Perhaps the most critical best practice when hosting an engaging and entertaining webinar is practice.
"Practice your presentation at least once with the webinar tool you'll beusing, and practice it enough so you can comfortably use bullet-point-style notes rather than a scripted presentation," said Kaneta. Doing so will help you speak more naturally throughout your webinar.
Lastly, don't forget the purpose of your Web conference. Remember to include a well-planned summary and call-to-action at the close of your presentation.
Originally published on Business News Daily.
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