How to become a great webinar presenter

In the latest ON24 webinar, Mark Bornstein looked at how to choose the right webinar presenter, discussed how to make content more engaging and passed on tips for speakers

For content marketers looking to reach out to an audience and engage them on a specific issue, webinars offer a direct line.

ON24, global leaders in webinar marketing, offers a cloud-based interactive platform to host webinars. And vice president of content marketing, Mark Bornstein, looked at the ways businesses and brands can improve their webinar output.

Get the right presenter

With public speaking frequently ranked at the top of ‘most feared’ lists (alongside heights and snakes), finding the right person to lead a live webinar is a hard task. But at the same time, says Bornstein, great content and interactivity is all for nothing if the presenter is boring.

An expert in the subject is not necessarily the right person to present your webinar. Instead, look for the person within your business who has that innate ability to entertain and connect.

Speaking for up to an hour, potentially on their own, can be intimidating and requires a specific type of person to pull it off.

And if there isn’t someone with that ability in your company, hire someone from outside. In almost every area of business there are experts available for hire – as well as many former newsreaders or actors who could perform the role effectively.

Find the format

One person reeling through a series of slides is unlikely to hold people’s attention for long. Bornstein points out that content marketers putting together webinars need to get out of the mode of thinking that dictates: ‘we present; they listen’.

Instead, experiment with informal speaker formats. Panel discussions, chats over a coffee, one-on-one interviews, live case studies – these can all add interest to proceedings.

This is particularly helpful if a non-expert is presenting the webinar. They can then act as host – moderating and driving the action, allowing the expert guests to relax and be at their best.

Part of building this sense of informality is through interactivity. Pushing out polls, Q&As and encouraging live tweeting all adds to the key factor: turning your webinars from presentations to conversations.

Create the right content

Bornstein’s advice for content is simple: “A great presentation is built around one premise.”

You should be able to sum up the content of your webinar in one sentence – trying to cover too much ground will simply muddy the waters.

And if you’re struggling to think of subjects, crowdsource them. The polls and Q&As you run during the webinar should provide clues as to the kind of topics your audience is interested in, plus pre- and post-webinar surveys can do the same. These work both as methods of engagement, but also as extremely effective data collection.

Slides should include plenty of images, bullet points for key subjects and a consistent design. Integrated video clips are another valuable tool.

A crucial point to remember, according to Bornstein, is that your business shouldn’t pitch until it’s time to pitch. If the webinar has been billed as a conversation on thought leadership, your audience will quickly disappear when it feels it is being pitched to. Keep the salesmanship to a minimum (if it even has to be there at all).

This will gain your audience’s trust and work in your favour.

Tips for speakers

Scripting your presentation is ‘the death of a webinar’. If the speaker is particularly nervous then scripting the opening slide is acceptable – but no more than that first slide or it will sound horribly staged.

Rehearsals in front of colleagues help to alleviate nerves – although butterflies are inevitable – as well as helping to gauge the length of the presentation.

On a practical note, turn off mobile phones and computers, put a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door and have a glass of water at hand.

Scripted jokes and gags will almost certainly fall flat and are to be avoided. Much better is to be natural and as calm as possible. Things will go wrong, but a little humanity goes a long way – roll with the punches and handle any problems with grace.

Overall, a speaker enjoying themself is the best way to guarantee an audience’s engagement and that they will return to your next webinar. As Bornstein says: “If you’re having fun, it will be contagious.”

ON24 hosts regular webinars on the art of creating effective webinar content. You can find more information here.

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