Make your webinar sell — 3 traps to avoid

It seems as if there are more webinars on offer than ever. Just about every topic in marketing and fundraising is covered, along with just about every other conceivable subject in business or commerce. There are even all-day “conference” webinars, complete with virtual coffee breaks. And perhaps not surprisingly, there are webinars on giving webinars.

The proliferation is understandable. After all, not much beats a webinar for reaching prospects inexpensively. I’ve been on the receiving end of lots of them, and unfortunately they can often fall short of delivering specific, actionable, useful information. That includes paid webinars as well as free ones. If you’ve attended even some of these events on the webinar circuit, you know it’s true.

What’s also true is that the presenters don’t want people coming away feeling shortchanged for having spent an hour in their busy day. Certainly the audience doesn’t what that either. So, to the folks out there who are putting webinars together, for the sake of all of us who will be watching and listening, please …

· Don’t serve up some vague aphorisms about strategy, planning, and benchmarking, and think that it’s information people can use. If we come to a webinar on marketing or fundraising, we want specifics we can put to use right now, today – not the airy, hand-waving, 10,000-foot perspective. We get enough of that in meetings. Give us tips, techniques, how-tos. That’s what we’d expect in an in-person seminar. Why should a webinar be any different?

· Don’t simply repeat what’s on the slide. It’s the curse of the deadly PowerPoint presentation transferred to our computer screens. If the slide is filled with copy and the webinar presenter is simply going to read what we can see for ourselves on our screens, what do we need a presenter for? No, the wording should be simple bullet-pointed phrases, in most cases. And those phrases should just be thought markers, to provide the presenter with a jumping off point for expanding on the ideas presented and offering more specifics and insight – maybe even an anecdote or a war story. That’s what we want.

· Don’t speak softly or in a monotone. One of the advantages of a webinar is the same as that of attending an in-person conference – hearing someone speak confidently and enthusiastically about a topic. It’s frustrating for people in the audience to have the moderator interrupt the proceedings to say that people are emailing in with the comment that they can’t hear the presenter. It happens all the time. And it’s just as frustrating to sit through a monologue that’s monotone. Instead, we want the presenter’s enthusiasm to come through so we can get excited about the topic too.

What do you think? How can webinars be more useful?

Meantime … obviously not all webinars are poorly done. Many are engaging and useful. Webinars given by Seth Godin and Clay Shirky come to mind. The ones that I attended were so interesting that I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who went back the next day to replay them. And neither of these guys hardly even used slides. They let their passion for their topic bring the event to life. And so it did.

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