I presented a webinar on Wednesday to an audience primarily from the UK (although I acknowledge and thank our additional viewers in other areas). We had great interaction and participation, and with the large audience, inevitably we ran out of time before we ran out of questions. Citrix was kind enough to provide me with the question log and I’ll try to make my way through the ones we missed.
Q: How do I deal with nerves when presenting?
A: The short answer is practice. The more you do something, the less intimidating it is. If you have given your presentation out loud, word for word, enough times to feel comfortable with what you are saying and how you are saying it, the addition of a live audience is much less traumatic on a webinar than in a live room setting. You can’t see them, so the recitation can feel just like your practice sessions. Know that you will always be more aware of vocal tremors and nervousness than your audience is. If you have good information, presented clearly, your audience will be remarkably receptive no matter what your voice sounds like. And finally, you can use your nervousness and adrenaline to kick up your energy a notch. Speak a little bit louder, punch up your delivery. Don’t go the other direction and suppress your speaking voice when you are nervous. That just frustrates the audience and reduces interaction.
Q: Any thoughts on your audience using Twitter hashtags? Is it a distraction or a tool to engage your audience more intimately?
A: I find it too hard as a presenter to monitor both an in-conference chat feed and an external Twitter feed. But it can be very useful to have an assistant tasked with real-time monitoring of a Twitter tag during your event. I have heard anecdotal evidence of webinars growing their audiences during the event when enthusiastic attendees tweet their approval. I sometimes use a Twitter hashtag after an event to keep the conversation going in a public forum. Here’s an article I wrote with some additional insights: http://bit.ly/hmWmVY
Q: When should you stop and ask for questions during your webinar?
A: There are any number of ways to structure your interaction with the audience, and what is appropriate changes for different types of presentation and audience sizes. In a large public webinar that is primarily instructional, I usually try to get through my entire content before going to a free-form Q&A session. But I do a LOT of audience acknowledgement along the way, making sure to reference selected comments by name as they come in, and asking for typed responses or inputs. Sometimes I will slip in a quick question when it can be answered succinctly and it helps clarify a point or leads into my next topic. But I don’t want to suddenly lose control as a presenter with a well-planned presentation flow. In a smaller group setting or a classroom training presentation, I want to encourage more questions as we go along so I can ensure comprehension and gear my content towards the specific interests of my targeted listeners.
Q: How do you manage a listener who gets too interruptive during your presentation or takes you off track?
A: In a one-to-one sales presentation, you answer their questions. In a larger group presentation, you indicate that you want to make sure you cover all the worthwhile and useful information you have prepared for everyone and that you will be happy to focus on that person’s individual concerns and priorities later (either in the same conference after your main presentation or in a separate private discussion).
Q: I tend to giggle. Is this a disruptive habit?
A: If you are presenting burial options to next of kin, I would say yes. Being delighted with the usefulness and interesting nature of your content is fine. Your laughter can help put an audience at ease and communicate enthusiasm and positive energy. But if giggling is your continuous response to nervous energy, it is most likely going to distract your audience as inappropriate. Ask a trusted colleague to sit in on a presentation. Don’t ask them about your giggling ahead of time… Just ask them to provide feedback on what they liked or didn’t like about your presentation style. Assure them that you will listen with an open-mind and want a truthful response to help you improve. Then take their comments seriously. If you are giggling too much, they will tell you.
Q: If you have to keep presenting the same thing, how do you manage to keep it “fresh” sounding?
A: To a large extent, you are an entertainer putting on a show. Imagine those actors on the West End who perform the same lines night after night. You need to consciously add the enthusiasm and energy back to your presentation so that it has the same vibrancy as the first time you thought of it. Your audience is there because they DON’T know all those things that are second nature to you. They are looking forward to getting value from you. Remind yourself of what they are going to get out of it. Remind yourself of how cool this stuff was the first time you heard about it. Then help them find that same enthusiasm and benefit through your vocal cues and energy. This is something to rehearse in your private practice sessions. It’s not just about what you say, it’s how you say it!
Q: How do you deal with situations when someone asks you a question live and you don’t know the answer?
A: “I want to go back and check the details so I know I’m giving you the correct facts. Please type in your email address and I’ll send you a response after the seminar.” Then make sure to do it! Block out time on your calendar immediately after your session for research and response to unanswered questions.
Q: Any tricks if you have an audience who are not really interacting or sending in questions?
A: Seed questions are your friend. Always have a few prepared questions to start off the Q&A section if your audience is slow. Pretend they are from the audience or have the moderator ask them as personal interests. See this article for more on the subject: http://bit.ly/9YRafx
Q: When presenting in person, I like to move around and be quite visually demonstrative. Is this a major problem for delivering a webinar?
A: If you are narrating slides without live video of yourself, it’s only a problem to make sure you keep your volume consistent. With a good quality headset, you can stand up and pace in front of your computer, wave your arms, and do whatever you normally do to feel comfortable and keep good energy flowing. But if you have video, it’s another story. You can’t do all that movement in front of a standard computer webcam. The framing is too tight and focus too close for all that arm waving to work. A professional videographer can capture you in a stage setting (typically a hybrid local/remote event) and catch you roaming the stage in a full-frame shot, but this can make you look very tiny and indistinct when viewed in a small window in a web conference platform. You need to check the details of your setup and see if it looks right.
Q: How do you manage pauses when you are getting responses from the chat box?
Q: Do you need to have passages where the pace slows down so people can relax their concentration for a minute? Intensive listening is hard work!
A: These questions go together because one answers the other. Yes, you must give people short breaks from the relentless dumping of information on them. Little interactions act as natural pauses in the data-dump and give people a chance to catch their mental breath. When asking for a contribution from the audience, I sometimes tell them I will take a sip of water while they consider their response. Then the pause is explained and natural. Or I tell them I will be quiet for a moment while they read something or decide on their answer. But I am never silent for more than five seconds. And that’s pushing it. Your other tricks during those pause moments are to emphasize why their participation is valuable and what they are going to get out of it, or to re-emphasize the key point you are making. If you have a poll that really takes a while to get responses, it’s a great time to answer an audience question or two.
Thank you again to everyone who participated, and I hope to see you at future educational sessions about webinars! You can always see my upcoming speaking engagements at www.effectivewebinars.com. I’m going to have some fun new topics in the new year.