So You Want to Present a National Webinar?

Congratulations! You’ve been asked to present with a group of experts on a webinar that will have people from across the country listening? Here are some helpful hints that I learned from my recent experience.

I was invited by WealthCounsel™ to be a panelist with Lew Dymond, Peter Parenti, and Paul Bernstein to discuss the new tax laws that Congress passed on December 17, 2010. The audience would include attorneys, CPAs, and financial advisors throughout the U.S. The webinars were scheduled for December 28, 2010 and January 3, 2011.

First, I hyperventilated about being included with such esteemed colleagues. Second, we quickly had to learn the new law well enough to present it to a really bright group of listeners. Third, we had to work up presentation materials for WealthCounsel™ to disseminate. Finally, we had to actually present the webinars. Thank heavens, a lot of this was happening over the holidays, because I was having a crash course in public speaking over the internet.

Webinar speaking is different than public speaking. A big lesson for me was how different speaking on a webinar is compared to speaking in front of a live audience. I do a lot of public speaking. I’m comfortable in front of crowds, and really enjoy it. If you are high energy and have a big voice (as I do), your personality has space to dissipate when you are a room with other people. However, all of that perkiness directed down one tiny phone line and across the internet may be a weensy-bit overwhelming to your audience.

This does not mean that you should stop being yourself, however. You were asked to present for a reason. Just keep in mind that your audience cannot see you. Basically, you are having a one-way telephone conversation. Remember the old adage that the person on the other end of the phone with you can tell if you have a smile on your face? This applies ten-fold to presenting a webinar. A cheerful personality is welcome in a web presenter. Be careful not to veer into manic lunacy.

Recognize and complement the speaking styles of your co-presenters. Are you a calm, quiet, logical presenter? Is another panelist higher energy? You may have to pump up your style, and your co-presenter may have to tone it down some. If you don’t try to find a cohesive mean, your audience may get whiplash from the difference.

Use a script. An in-person audience does not want you to read a script to them. And no audience, either in-person, or on the web, wants you to read the slides to them. However, you may use a script when you are presenting a webinar. If you write it properly and practice it effectively, you will sound fresh, yet be thorough without having to memorize.

Learn how to drive the webinar software. You’ve attended a thousand presentations on the web. You know how to sign in, and access the chat function and the Q&A function on the toolbar. Now, though, you are a panelist or organizer; your access to the webinar software is different, and the options on the toolbar are expanded. Make sure you log in using the correct instructions as a panelist. Undock the Q&A from the control panel. Enlarge it so you may read the questions in full. On December 23, 2010, I was asked to help cover the Q&A only on a WealthCounsel™ presentation that had been previously recorded by Lew Dymond and CPA Robert Keebler. While Lew was available to answer questions live, Bob Keebler had a scheduling conflict; I was asked to step in to assist Lew.

I did not know that undocking and enlarging the Q&A was an option. As a result, I could see only one line of one question on my screen. When the Q&A went live, instead of answering questions effectively, I spent several minutes barking, “Uh, Uh, Uh,” like a trained seal while I frantically worked in the background with the presentation organizer to figure out how to access the full text of the questions. It was not my finest moment.

Live questions are an adrenaline rush. Undock the Q&A from the control panel early, and read the questions asked in advance so you may prepare your answers. I realized when I was answering questions after the Bob Keebler/Lew Dymond presentation on 12/23/2010 that I spend an awful lot of time having conversations in my head. I ponder things. I don’t react to them. You cannot do that and answer Q&A live. You have to react. Be prepared to jump in the deep water and swim.

Budget time to answer questions from attendees after the event. You spent time learning the subject matter. You spent time preparing the presentation materials. You spent time on the webinar itself, plus answering the live questions. Your job is not done! Expect attendees to e-mail you questions after the event. Don’t forget to allocate time to answer their questions promptly, thoroughly, and cheerfully.

Have fun! Participating in the webinars was a wonderful experience for me. I can’t wait to do it again. Please shine in your presentation by learning from my mistakes. Recordings of the webinars are available for free using the hyperlinks, above. Please download them and critique my performance.