The concept of delivering a presentation to a broad array of people without having to get everyone in the same room, has merit. Actually it’s fantastic. There are many situations where you have a great presentation that you want (or need) to share with people who are geographically dispersed, but the value of the presentation isn’t enough to justify having everyone travel (with all the associated costs, time and impact on the environment).

Some of the best presentations I’ve ever seen have been virtual, and conversely some of the very worst presentations I’ve seen have also been virtual. I guess if your going to create a crappy presentation, it’s less painful to do it without having to buy the coffee and doughnuts.

IMG 0859But that’s the point, there really is no excuse for creating a terrible presentation.

A virtual event requires just as much effort to design, invite and run as a physical event. You need to market it to the right people, you need to coordinate the speakers, create the presentation and choreograph the whole experience.

Actually since there are no doughnuts being provided with a virtual event, the element of bribery through food (or free pen or USB gizmo) has been removed and so the importance of the actual content is actually increased.

It’s not enough to get people to sign up for a virtual event, they must attend, being present and engaged through the whole show. And since you cannot see them physically you need to be even more engaging to ensure that they haven’t just opened the presentation window on their laptop and walked off for a coffee.

Here’s the process I like to follow, when planning and executing a webinar.

  1. Decide on the reason for the presentation, and ensure that it truly makes sense. Don’t just decide to run a series once a month and leave it to the assigned person to come up with a topic. There must be a truly valuable reason for the presentation.
  2. Think very carefully who the intended audience is. And build a detailed list of who you plan to invite.
  3. Think very carefully about who the speaker(s) will be, are they excellent orators? Do they suffer from stutters, fill in words (errrrmmm), do they tend to start loud and then become a whisper within five minutes? Do they know how to tell a story?
  4. What is the invite process going to be, and how long ahead of the event are you going to invite them? Depending on the topic, there may be a perfect day to run it, and depending on the planned audience, some peoples’ time can book up very quickly, while others may forget they signed up for an event if it’s too far in advance.
  5. How are you going to remind people of the start date and time. Email? Entry in their calendar? Call them the day before?
  6. Do you have a really easy signup process?
  7. Sometimes pre-recoding can make everything better. It gives you the ability to review and edit the presentation before presenting it to an audience, but it can limit interaction. Sometimes it’s worth pre-recording the first half of a presentation and then going live seamlessly, this allows for Q&A and dynamic content.
  8. If you can ask questions during the presentation, that can be answered with an online form, and presented close to end as group-think, this can help keep people engaged.
  9. And follow-up is critical. If someone spends the time to attend a presentation, you must say thank you and give them the chance to provide feedback. But never assume that just because someone attended they are open to a sales call. Webinars are about learning and not pressure selling. Give the audience a way to engage easily and the ones that truly want a follow-up call with let you know. Push the issue and you will just alienate your audience.
  10. What is your process for providing a recorded playback option for those who were unable to attend live?

Yes Webinars can be a lower cost option, but they are not an easy option, and should not be used to artificially bump up the marketing lead numbers. If you put in the effort to build something valuable and target it perfectly, then you can deliver amazing results.

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