Does your customer base range across the country or even around the globe? Or maybe you have a highly mobile small business workforce, or employees scattered across multiple geographic regions. Webinar technology—for events, presentations, and training—can help you keep pace with that widening circle of far-flung customers and workers.
Cost-effective and efficient, webinars are the perfect medium for sharing information in the digital realm. But you need to tweak conventional presentation strategies to keep the format engaging and your audience interested. We’ve asked the experts to offer their best webinar tips to help small business owners use webinar technology to maximum effect.
Webinar Tip #1: How to Use Webinars
Webinars offer small businesses a tremendous amount of flexibility, and their usefulness is limited only by your imagination and willingness to create a good experience for your participants. Webinars can save time and increase convenience when—for example—onboarding new hires or providing refresher courses for existing workers.
“Consider the potential webinars have for on-demand training,” says Daniel Waas, marketing director for Citrix's GoToWebinar. “Simply record the repeating sections of your employee training and allow new hires to start onboarding on day one.” Remember: you can offer live sessions in conjunction with online courses, thus giving employees a more complete experience while maximizing available resources.
Small business owners are natural innovators, and that trait lends itself to creating targeted online presentations. Jarek Wasielewski, content manager at ClickMeeting says some of his customers developed original uses for webinars to fit their specific niche. “They offer fitness sessions or divination sessions,” he explains. “In fact, we’re only beginning to discover all the different ways we can put webinars into service.”
You can create standalone webinars or structure them as part of a series, and business owners find they’re a good tool for customer-facing interactions as well as staying engaged with employees.
Webinar Tip #2: Keep the Audience Focused
The content you use in a webinar can closely mirror the content you use with in-person presentations, but it's important to consider the differences between the two venues.
"Some of your attendees may find staying focused during a webinar challenging," says Wasielewski. It’s easy for attendees to become distracted checking email or even to wander away for a cup of coffee in the middle of a webinar. If you want to keep your participants’ attention, you need to take a few extra steps when creating your webinars.
“Showing slides and talking for 60 minutes will not do,” Wasielewski says. “Make your webinar interactive and let your attendees contribute to the event. Incorporate a collaborative whiteboard, a moderated chat, or run polls and surveys.”
Waas adds that telling a story can help keep participants’ engagement levels high. “Visual storytelling can be a very effective way to keep your audience in front of the screen. Use lots of slides with big visuals and few words for a fast-paced story that keeps viewers engaged.”
When planning your webinar, think about the best way to prompt some back-and-forth with attendees, and how to change up your strategy based on the audience and the subject matter. “Polls do a great job of engaging the audience interactively," says Waas. Other techniques for retaining audience attention and interaction include rhetorical questions, pausing for emphasis, and sprinkling question-and-answer sessions throughout the event.
Webinar Tip #3: Quality Over Quantity
If you’re new to webinars, and you're not sure how to structure your webinar, Wasielewski offers this advice. “The first thing to remember is that less is always more.”
An engaging thirty-minute webinar that provides quality content is far better than an hour of mediocre that content no one will remember. When creating a webinar, remember that humans lean toward visual learning. Wasielewski notes that people absorb more information "when it's presented visually rather than through text and voice."
Use infographics and charts to give webinar attendees important data. Images, photographs, and videos make it easy to demonstrate concepts that may otherwise be difficult to translate in a digital format.
An important note about authenticity: when presenting a webinar, be yourself and project your small business brand’s personality. “In a world of bland corporate jargon, being personable and sharing a unique perspective will set you apart,” says Waas.
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A conversational approach will help attendees connect with your brand and help break down digital barriers. But don’t mistake a conversational tone for a lack of preparation. Waas encourages webinar hosts to practice their presentation until it’s perfect. “The best presentations —the ones that seem natural and conversational— don't happen accidentally. They’re well-rehearsed.”
Julie Knudson is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in technology magazines including BizTech, Processor, and For The Record. She has covered technology issues for publications in other industries, from food service to insurance, and she also writes a recurring column in Integrated Systems Contractormagazine.
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