It’s a little before midnight and I just got done presenting an educational webinar to a large audience in Australia and New Zealand. As usual when the audience is really interacting and participating, I couldn’t get to every question so here are some answers to questions we didn’t address in the live event.
Q: Would you have a fill-in on hand in case a speaker couldn’t get on?
A: I am a big fan of every type of backup I can think of, but this is one area where I think a backup is (usually) inappropriate. Your speaker is typically identified in your webinar promotion, and when a replacement is announced at the last minute the audience can feel “cheated” or at least apprehensive about getting an emergency backup instead of the “expert” they were promised. You have also run rehearsals with your speaker (right?), and bringing in a replacement at the last minute is likely to create a less confident-sounding and smoothly run event. I would suggest spending more effort on backup failsafes to make sure the scheduled speakers are able to join.
Q: How can you address the concerns of non tech-savvy registrants who may be worried about the technology involved in attending a webinar?
A: Oh yes… They’re out there. The number one thing you can do is to provide a human contact for questions and concerns. That person’s name, email, and telephone number should be listed in the confirmation and reminder emails that go out to registrants. I have assuaged many worried souls who wanted a reassuring “pat on the hand.” The second thing to do is to include a Technical Considerations section at the end of the confirmation email. Tell people what they will need in order to connect, and ideally give them a way to test ahead of time.
Q: How do you deal with polls when you have a small number of attendees?
A: Most web conferencing programs have the option to show poll results as percentage figures rather than absolute numbers. Your audience doesn’t have to know that the 25% response rate on answer #1 only represents 2 people! If you are hiding the fact that you have a smaller than desired attendance, just talk to the percentages in the same way you would if there were more people participating.
Q: How well does a 30-minute webinar fare?
A: One of my clients experimented with 30-minute marketing webinars. They found that with an introduction and closing remarks and time for audience Q&A, it left very little time to present much detail about the promised topic. This has the possibility to be frustrating for your audience, so it is vital that you set expectations. On the other hand, I saw a high tech vendor who promised a five minute webinar as a gimmick to demonstrate their technology and how fast it worked! So as long as your audience understands the amount of content and the specific value they will receive in your shorter session, you should be okay. Thirty minutes may be plenty for a team meeting. or specific announcement.
Q: How do you track where people have heard about your webinar?
A: There are several ways to do this. Some web conferencing products allow the use of a source tracking parameter in the URL for the registration page. This lets you use different versions of the URL and it automatically records the source code with each registrant/attendee. If you don’t have that capability, you might build different landing pages for different promotional channels. Each page looks the same and directs people to the same registration page, but you can use web analytics to track how many visits and click-throughs each page received. And finally, you can always add a field to your registration form asking people to select where they heard about your webinar.
Q: What do you recommend charging for a webinar?
A: I’m going to direct you to this response from my associate, Lee Salz. The Webinar Minute - What Should I Charge For My Webinars-
Q: Besides polls, what are your recommendations on making a webinar more interactive?
A: Use your Q&A or Chat features. Ask for contributions, have your audience suggest answers and solutions, brainstorm with them. Instead of simply reciting facts and giving information, make your delivery more Socratic by asking questions and challenging your audience to get to the right answer.
Q: If you encounter a technical problem, how do you keep audience interest while troubleshooting?
A: This is a highly situational problem and there isn’t a single generic answer except for this one… KEEP TALKING! Let your audience know you are still there while you are working on fixing things. Dead air is deadly. If you have lost audio, use the chat feature to type and tell the audience what is going on. Never interrupt your full session to deal with one person’s technical problem… Leave that to your assistant, moderator, or technical facilitator to resolve in a private chat with the attendee. If the problem is bad enough to make it impossible to continue your event, don’t work on it for more than two minutes. If you can’t figure out how to fix it in two minutes, let people know that you aren’t going to waste their time hoping it gets resolved. Tell them you will reschedule the webinar and automatically re-register them for the new session. You want to avoid behaving like an airline and holding your audience in their seats on the tarmac while you wait and hope that the plane will eventually be able to take off.