Do webinars always need to be dull?

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[Taken from Webinar Master, the free, 46-page ebook on online delivery.]

What are webinars, and need they be dull?

I use the word ‘webinar’ to mean a particular type of event – an online presentation where the speaker(s) and audience are connected through computers, linked together over the internet. The presenter almost always has slides to show, and will sometimes also be visible over video. There is usually at least one other person involved – often an MC or host, who introduces the speaker and who may also handle a Q&A. Typically, the audience can use the webinar chat function to communicate with each other and with the speaker; sometimes they can also speak.

There is nothing in this rather wordy description requiring that webinars be dull. Nevertheless, that is their general reputation, and for one very simple reason: most events involve no interaction and no attempt at engagement. The audience is expected to sit, listen and look at slides.

Sometimes, this is not an issue – the subject matter itself is compelling enough. For most, however, it is a recipe for the audience quietly dropping out of the event, or perhaps half-listening while catching up on email.

Unless you have something to say that is utterly compelling, you will need to engage your audience and interact with them to make your webinar a success. Fortunately, that is exactly what this book is about: from using your voice, to structuring your story, to asking and answering questions.

But rather than starting on this slightly negative note, it’s worth reminding ourselves of three real benefits of webinars.

First, they are convenient. Unlike face-to-face meetings, they involve no travel, and unlike telephone conferences the availability of visuals and text chat makes them a rich medium.

Second, if you are speaking on a webinar you can have all your notes, including a script, immediately to hand. In other words, if you are sufficiently prepared, it is a very low-risk event.

Finally – and this is a point I cannot emphasize enough – the text chat offered by webinars provides a unique opportunity. In a face-to-face event you cannot have everyone talking at once, but online anyone who has something useful to contribute can do so, quickly and without interrupting the speaker, just by writing a short message in the text chat area. Everyone can see these contributions, and they are available for reference after the event.

Time and again over several hundred webinars, I have seen audiences add insight, thoughts and resources to a discussion in a way that I cannot imagine happening face-to-face. I do not say this to denigrate in-person conferences or workshops – I have chaired scores of them, and spoken at far more – but rather to highlight an important fact: webinars are not an inferior substitute for a face-to-face meeting. Use what they have to offer and you can create memorable events with great impact.

This is an extract from Webinar Master, a free 44-page guide to great online delivery. Click to download it

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