What is the key role in a webinar?

Although my ebook Webinar Master is about great online delivery, a successful webinar needs more than just a good presentation.

I reckon there are six key roles to any webinar. The most important may not be the one you expect.

Here are the six roles. It is possible, even usual, for one person to fill more than one of these, even to do all of the first five:

1. Presenter – creates and delivers the content
2. Host – facilitates the event, does introductions, Q&A, watches chat
3. Producer – chooses topic and presenter, schedules rehearsals, may edit content
4. Marketer – ensures sufficient delegates turn up, and with the correct expectations
5. Administrator – deals with technical issues
6. Attendee – needs clear expectations and an understanding of webinar etiquette

For most webinars, I believe that unless you have a small group (say, up to 30 people) or are an extremely adept presenter, you will gain enormous benefit from having both a presenter and a host.

What does a host do? That will be the subject for a later, more detailed, blog, but the key parts of the role are:

In advance:

  • Ensures the speaker has everything they need technically
  • Helps the speaker feel comfortable and focused
  • Guides the speaker in adjusting their content to the audience
  • Builds the right level of interactivity into the presentation

During the presentation:

  • Ensures the speaker is fully prepared to start
  • Introduces and sets the speaker up for success
  • Manages the chat, compiles key observations and questions
  • Manages the Q&A
  • Wraps up the session

After the presentation:

  • Checks in with the speaker

Is all that stuff in advance really necessary? Yes. Trust me. It is absolutely essential.

A speaker’s impact on the audience depends on a great deal. Their content must be adjusted for a particular audience. Pacing, interaction and likely questions must be considered. The speaker must know the idiosyncrasies of a particular webinar technology and group culture. But one thing will help them above all else.

The speaker must believe they will succeed.

I do a lot of talking, both online and face-to-face. Anyone who doesn’t get nervous before speaking is a fool. I feel the nerves and relish them, knowing they will give an extra edge to my performance – provided that I am fully prepared.

The host’s job is to make sure that the speaker is fully prepared, even if they have never spoken online before, and that any nerves are not conveyed to the audience through the speaker’s voice.

This is where hosting online is so much more complex than hosting a face-to-face event, because the way a speaker comes across to an audience is almost entirely conveyed by their voice.

The voice is a sensitive instrument, and a very revealing one. It is the equivalent, online, of everything you see as a speaker steps up to the stage to begin a physical event. Your voice is your clothing, your walk, your expression and your body language.

If the speaker is nervous or unsure, the voice reflects that. It comes across immediately and unsettles the audience. If the speaker is sharp, on point and enthusiastic, then the audience sits forward, eager for more.

Getting the speaker to that state is the job of the host. It’s essential not only that the speaker is actually ready for the event, but also that they feel they are ready for the event and that they portray that via their voice.

As a host, your role is to give your speaker the well-founded confidence to do a great job. It’s probably the most overlooked and underrated role in webinars. I’ll be blogging about it far more in the future.


This post is based on an extract from my ebook Webinar Master. Click to buy the book

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