Now that we're spending more time than ever at home on our computers, it's a great time to brush up on webinar etiquette.
Webinars give brands the chance to connect directly with their audiences. On the flip side, consumers get to increase their knowledge on a topic. It's a win-win when done correctly, but not all webinars go smoothly. I once attended a webinar on email automation tips that was actually a full product demo. Yikes.
Then, you have situations where the presenter is late, or the attendees are having a little too much fun in the chatroom.It doesn't exactly make for the best experience for either side.
So let's find out how presenters and attendees can contribute to more productive webinars.
1. Set the tone.
Every webinar format is different. For example, some are education-based, with the presenter only engaging with the audience for questions. In other cases, the setting is more interactive.
That said, let your audience know what you expect of them early on.
Send a reminder email to your attendees a few days before the webinar and include a section on guidelines. Be sure to answers the following questions:
- Are attendees expected to have their cameras and microphones on or off?
- Is participation encouraged? If so, how?
- Is there any prep work?
You can also remind your attendees of these instructions at the beginning of the webinar, as people are logging on.
2. Present what's expected.
Imagine you order a medium-well steak at a restaurant and instead, you get a piece of chicken. That piece of chicken might be delicious, but it won't matter because that's not what you ordered.
Meeting expectations is very important when attempting to gain trust from your audience. For webinars, there are few things more frustrating than anticipating a presentation on one thing and getting something completely different. Switching gears can cause confusion, and lead to high drop off rates and low engagement.
In addition, each webinar type serves a purpose and caters to a unique audience. For instance, workshop attendees likely don't have the same intentions as the ones attending product demos.
With this in mind, resist the temptation of turning your webinar into a promotional opportunity (or anything else) if it's not on the agenda.
3. Do a practice round.
Technical difficulties are a bummer. They interrupt the flow of the presentation and can be hard to recover from. One way to prevent them is by practicing beforehand.
First, get familiar with the hosting platform you'll be using. Learn where the key features are, such as how to:
- Share your screen.
- Play audio and/or video clips.
- Spotlight attendees and adjust their audio/video settings.
You may consider having a moderator who will assist you during your presentation to monitor the chatroom and help move things along.
Once you feel confident navigating the platform, do a trial run for the presentation from start to finish. Doing so will let you know how much time to dedicate to each section to stay on schedule.
4. Read Q&As out loud.
When you attend a presentation in person, there's typically no guessing game involved when someone asks a question because you can hear it being asked. Online, things work differently.
Depending on the hosting platform you use, you will likely have a Q&A feature that allows attendees to ask questions directly to the host. This means that other attendees won't know who asked a question and what the question was.
As such, presenters should always repeat questions out loud before answering them, so that the audience understands the context of the answer. However, keep the attendee's name anonymous unless the attendee has requested otherwise.
5. Make the webinar accessible.
Webinars can be great sources of information but can lack the accessibility features needed to reach all audiences, including those who are deaf, hard of hearing (HoH), and visually impaired.
Start by reviewing your hosting platforms. Applications like Zoom and Google Hangouts have built-in live captioning and transcription features. You can also send your attendees the presentation slides ahead of time, which makes it easier for non-native speakers to familiarize themselves with the content.
Depending on your budget, you can hire an interpreter to sign your presentation for your deaf and/or HoH audience. If that's not possible, look into video relay service providers that will connect your audience to interpreters during your presentation.
For the presentation itself, use high-contrast colors to make it easier for visually impaired attendees to see your slides.
6. Record the session.
When hosting a webinar, you may only have a percentage of your registrants attend the live session. Due to scheduling conflicts, many people rely on video recordings to review the sessions they missed.
While it's not absolutely necessary, it's a great way to provide value to users who are interested in your brand but are unable to attend live sessions. You can limit access to the recording for a week or two following the live session and add a password to access the footage for added security.
1. Be on time.
Webinars typically follow strict agendas, which means there's very little room to catch up if you've missed a part of the presentation.
To take full advantage of the webinar, be sure to be on time. There is usually a one- to three-minute grace period for attendees to log onto the hosting platform.
To play it safe, join the webinar a few minutes early in case you have trouble logging in. This will give enough time to reach out to the webinar organizer for help. You can also set reminders in the days leading up to the webinar to ensure you're ready when the event starts.
2. Chat to amplify, not distract.
Think of the “Chat” box in a webinar like a classroom. Except, in this case, you can't whisper to the person right next to you. Everything you say is loud enough for everyone in the room to hear and engage with.
With that in mind, your input should only be to amplify what the presenter is saying.
For instance, let's say you're attending a webinar on email marketing automation. The presenter is explaining the benefits of setting up email sequences once a lead takes a specific action. You could chime in the chat to add how effective that practice has been for your brand.
However, it wouldn't be so helpful to introduce a conversation about email click-through rates or dive into your experience using a particular automation platform.
As a rule of thumb, if it's not in line with the presentation, leave it out of the chatroom.
3. Don't interrupt.
As a presenter, interruptions can really throw you off your game. It disrupts your thought process and it can take you a second to get back on track, no matter how seasoned you are.
Un-muting yourself to add your input should only be done if the presenter has opened the floor to it. As a professional courtesy, do not interrupt the presenter unless they explicitly state it is welcome.
Instead, wait for a call-to-action. The presenter might have a dedicated slide for questions and comments, or they might ask out loud if anyone has anything to add.
4. Avoid self-promotion.
Self-promoting during someone else's webinar is like blowing out someone else's birthday candles, it's in poor taste.
If prompted, it's appropriate to mention your brand as it relates to the content of the presentation. What you should avoid is attempting to direct other attendees to your brand through your website and social links or other strategies.
By following a few simple steps, you can help create a more positive webinar experience that everyone enjoys.