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Webinars: How to Engage Them, not Enrage Them (or worse yet, Bore Them)


Death by webinar. Wea��ve all been there. Here are nine methods to engage your viewers, so you dona��t lose them.A� You can become a very skilled webinar ‘artist’ just by integrating some of these methods into your ‘repertoire’.

1. Engage them early and often. One way is to use polls. Not only will polls engage your viewers, the answers will give lots of information for articles and blogs. Be sure to tell your audience at the beginning that youa��re going to use pollsa��and why.

An example of a poll:

When Ia��m doing business planning webinars, I ask managers:

“What percent of managers do you believe have a business plan?”

Then, I have multiple possible answers. After Ia��ve polled, I share with everyone, and I a�?translatea�� or interpret the answers. This is a pool I use toward the beginning of the webinar. Then, I can make the point on why planning is important. I may ask, a�?Why dona��t managers plan?a�?

Point: Be sure your polls have a rhyme and reason, and that they form a bridge from where to are to where you want to go. Doing a poll just to do a poll does not engage.

How many polls?

In 45 minutes, use 3-5 polls. Thata��s plenty. Any more, and youa��ll be too busy polling to get much more done.I also am careful to space my polls. For example, if I have a poll after slide 3, and I have a total of 30 slides, Ia��ll try to have another poll at about slide 7-9.

How long should you hold your polls open? Make your audience do the poll fast. Otherwise, you’ll have lots of dead air. You can see the percent of people who have completed the poll. When you get to about 80%, tell people you are closing the poll. Then, publish the results and comment.

2. Allow and encourage participants to ask questions in writing. When Ia��m doing a webinar for the National Association of Realtors, I hold questions until the end. I end at 45 minutes after the hour, and take questions. At the beginning of the webinar, I explain how questions will be handled (at the end of the presentation). I ask participants to write their questions as they think of them. As I can, I look at questions during the presentation. If therea��s one that can/should be answered during the presentation, I handle it them. Otherwise, I handle them all at the end.

3. Allow audience to raise hands. Youa��ll see the indicator that a hand is raised. You can allow or not allow this feature.

4. Allow audience to ask questions verbally. You can also mute or unmute audiencea��s phonesa��or allow them to do so. Warning about unmuting: Some people have music on a�?holda�� on their phones. If they are unmated, and they put you on hold, all of your audience will hear the musica��and you cana��t stop it! So, I dona��t allow unmuting with audiences of any size.

5. Allow the a�?chata�� feature. You can set this feature so the audience can chat with each other, or with you. I find it very difficult to carry on a chat when Ia��m doing the webinar! But, if you have a moderator, that moderator can field the a�?private chata�� and/or questions.

6. Use the whiteboard that is included with some applications (see DimDim, for instance). A�With some programs, you can actually have the participants take over the whiteboard. I havena��t done that, but ita��s possible. Studies show that creating something in front of your viewer is more attention-catching than showing the completed picture.

7. Use your computera��s webcam for your introduction. And, you can also then use your whiteboard.

8. Share your desktop with more than PowerPoint, including Internet or a video.

9. Ask audiences to tweet or IM their messages to a central location. My friend Jonathan Nicholas, recommends You can put the tweets on your screen, too.

Wow! Sounds like you’ll be really busy. But, don’t get overwhelmed. Just do one or two of these things in a 45 minute webinar and you’ll be one of the top webinar presenters.

Next blog: Presentation tips.

Want some right now? Check out Knock Their Socks Off: Tips to Make your Best Presentation Ever.

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